5G Takes Shape

Carl Weinschenk
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2017 and Beyond: How Digital Innovation Will Impact the World

The race to 5G has been heating up for some time. That’s to be expected since there is so much hype and money at the end of the rainbow.

Two of the big early issues are the timing and the earlier form 5G will take. RCR Wireless reports on the intertwined topics, which came up at this week at the 5G North America event in Dallas.

Carriers and their ecosystems are rushing things simply because the group that “gets there” first will have a decided marketplace advantage. AT&T and Verizon, who are vying for predominance, agreed that the fixed broadband service is the sensible first level of deployment. The thinking is that stationary 5G can be a key in handling the great demand for video streaming services.


The carriers and the ecosystems they represent are not as harmonious on the question of timing. In short, the organization ushering the standards through, The Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), has marked mid 2018 as the target for the first iteration of 5G standards. Verizon is fine with that timeline, while AT&T is pushing to “get some form of 5G standards on the books by the end of 2017,” the story says.

So the earliest iterations of 5G may be a bit dull. Light Reading’s Dan Jones, who also reported from the conference, provides some very good context. The bottom line is that the early versions and use cases of 5G won’t be the glitzy, cable-modem-in-your-pocket applications that make news.

They are glitzy, however, to carrier CFOs. Fixed broadband uses are seen as a way to avoid ripping up roadways to deploy new fiber. Jones also suggested that the emphasis on fixed is a way to tell subscribers that 5G really is being done – while skipping the hard part, mobilizing, for at least a while.

Jones sums it up nicely:

So the next time someone tells you that 5G will deliver the next industrial revolution, you might want to remind them, baby steps, first, kid, baby steps...

Verizon and AT&T are not the only ecosystems working toward 5G. In Australia, Optus and Huawei said that they have run a trial in which data was transmitted at 35 Gigabits per second (Gbps) operating at 73GHz millimeter wavelength. ZDNet is working with Nokia on 5G under a memorandum of understanding that the two companies signed last month.

5G is coming. That’s definite. What is not set is just about everything else: When, in what capacity it will serve when it arrives, and the ecosystem of carriers and vendors that will win the race. It is most likely that those questions will have partial answers. In the bigger picture, the great potential of 5G is to finally make wireless and wired transmissions equivalent. This promise has not dimmed.

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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