CommScope is a US$10 billion company headquartered in North Carolina and has a huge presence in providing passive infrastructure for both wireless and fixed line telcos. Phil Sorsky is in no doubt that the 5G starting gun has been fired and the race to dominate global markets is underway. However, as he points out, currently the implementation of 5G is relatively subdued and slow, basically because a clear-cut use case for 5G has yet to emerge from all the noise, the smoke and the mirrors.
One of the initial drivers for 5G is the relief of traffic congestion in metropolitan centres and, in due course, when 5G handsets become ubiquitously available, the deployment of 5G infrastructure will accelerate, "whether the operators like it or not" (as Phil Sorsky puts it) and therefore they will be compelled to continue to roll-out 5G by a combination of marketing pressures and fears that their competitors will throw more money at the technology, and perhaps take a financial hit in the short term to ensure that they will be in the right place at the right time when the real users benefits and telco rewards are realised over the next four or five years.
Phil Sorsky believes that most CSPs are in some sort of a state of readiness for 5G, not least because the wireless capability of 5G still requires the benefits that come from also having a fibre footprint. The simple fact of the matter is that without fibre there is no 5G and although it now undoubtedly is a 'wireless world' that world actually still needs wires to function. The evidence is that all operators, be they combined fixed/wireless companies or wireless only, are beefing-up their backbone networks to enable them to handle the immense data flows that 5G will generate - especially when video is taken into account.
Phil Sorsky points out that one of the main obstacles to the roll-out of 5G is the cost of antennas in general and active antennas in particular. CommScope has a powerful story to tell in this regard. Generally speaking OEMs are keen to push the benefits of CSPs going down the active antenna route and active antennas do have an important role to play in 5G but they are expensive, heavy, cumbersome and difficult to put in place and maintain and consume a lot of power.
Active antenna technology is particularly appropriate to deploy outside, in the open air, in very busy city centre locations but passive antennas can do the job just as well in urban areas that are not quite so busy and can permit 5G performance at a fraction of the cost of active antennas - and that's where CommScope comes in.
It should also be borne in mind that most data traffic is generated indoors and CommScope has solutions available that are both single- and multi-operator-enabled permitting many operators simultaneously to be connected into the same internal footprint but at a vast reduction on the cost of traditional distributed antenna systems.
Filmed at: Great Telco Debate, London, December 2019