5G Set for 2020: Just Around the Corner

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

Five Barriers for Enterprise Mobility

The companies that make money when new things are developed and introduced are setting their eyes ever more keenly on 5G.

RCR Wireless reports that SK Telecom, a carrier in South Korea, has built a “system” to support development of millimeter-wave technology that will be a major element of 5G. The system, which was built in cooperation with Samsung at SK’s research and development facility, will enable work to be done on advanced data transmission speeds; testing, verifying and improving transmission performance between base stations and handsets; and in the use of millimeter technology in urban settings.

Another firm proactively working toward 5G is Ericsson. Earlier this year, according to The Daily Mail, the company began testing a mobile testbed  in Stockholm and Plano, Texas. Since the device is a testbed, it was big: Not just early cell phone big, but big enough to require a cart to move it around.

The sight of an engineer toting a cart around town may be a bit funny. The prospects are anything but, however. The testbed can reach speeds of 2 Gigabit per second (Gbps), which is 10 times faster than the 200 Megabits per second (Mbps) offered by LTE.

One of the possible visions for 5G is as a unifier. It would become, according to Android Authority’s Gary Sims, the de facto standard for all wireless communications.

That sounds enticing, but Sims has his doubts:

If the 5G standard supports cellar and Wi-Fi and rolls them up into a single standard, that could have its benefits. However, there are a couple of problems. The first is that different radio frequencies require different approaches. There is a big difference (in terms of the physics) between 5GHz Wi-Fi and 800MHz cellular. Is it really possible to build a system that can handle both effectively? Or will it be a mishmash of technology held together by gaffer tape?


Sims, who says 5G may make a cameo appearance at the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games in 2018, also suggests that low-power/low-speed networks may be left behind if an attempt was made to turn the grand vision into a reality. The bigger picture, however, is that even considering using 5G in this way illustrates how ambitious the technology is.

The early (or, arguably, not so early) vendor and carrier activity is not limited to research and development. There also will be efforts to gain favorable position with regulators. For instance, Fierce WirelessTech reports that Nokia Networks is pushing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to use certain bits of spectrum in addition to the millimeter realm to support 5G. There will be much more jostling as 5G grows closer.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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