The G in 5G means it’s another generation of wireless technology. And it will be awesome. We get more speed, boost the economy, infrastructure, jobs, VR, telemedicine, driverless cars and more. Everyone wants 5G, but widespread roll-out will take longer than we think.
Let’s cut through the hype surrounding 5G
#1: 5G devices
5G devices will need 4G to make initial connections before trading up to 5G when it’s available. All 5G superphones will still need to use 4G. But right now, there’s not a single 5G-ready smartphone on the market and when they do come to market in 2019, no widespread 5G network will be available.
#2: 5G will replace Wi-Fi
This is complete nonsense. In 2019, Wi-Fi will account for more than 50% of the total IP traffic from both mobile and WiFi devices. WiFi understands dense deployments. The 5G future is dense. Wi-Fi will be around for a long time.
#3: Roll Out, But Not Yet
Two of the biggest countries, China and the US, will start commercialising 5G not earlier than 2020, so hold your horses. They are still writing the regulation manual. The FCC laid the groundwork for 2020 and China will be slow to adapt the process because of the governmental authorities who control the roll out. The UK networks had an auction in April 2018 and some small pilots like the O2 arena are being tested, but we will not see widespread 5G coverage in the UK until 2022, even then.
#4: Money Challenge
This is another reason to create hype about 5G but hold back on investments. Network operators have already spent billions building 4G networks and until they have fully milked them, 5G represents another unwanted cost. They do know it will be expensive and they need to ensure the service will be profitable. Consumers expect better coverage and more data for lower prices. Operators don’t have the slightest interest in meeting this consumer wish list.
There is a lot of activity around 5G standards. Tests are ongoing, and phones are in the making. One challenge with higher frequency signals is that they don’t travel as far as lower frequencies, so multiple input and output antennas (MIMOs) will need to be used to boost and multiply signals anywhere 5G is offered. The shift to 5G is that new wavelengths require completely new kinds of receivers. Tests are being done and experiments with 16 antennae to make sure that at least a few of them pick up a 5G signal. So depending on the environment, operators will not always have the ability to place enough antennae in all locations because of cost.
#6: Who Will Benefit from 5G?
The first to benefit will be the next wave of technological advancements such as autonomous vehicles, smart factories, smart cities, virtual and augmented reality, edge computing, and health-care-specific IoT. The fact is that 5G is massively fast and will offer tremendous potential and business, but it won’t run fast to you and definitely not in 2019.
In the meantime, enjoy 4G if you have a signal!