There are parallels with 5G mobile networks. But whilst Tufnel was happy with going ‘1’ better, 5G offers an improvement on network speeds of up to 2o times faster (4G LTE has a peak speed of 1GB per second, 5G is able to achieve speeds of 20GB per second).
3G gave us java games, ringtones and unplayable video clips, 4G gave us the mobile internet. 5G enables a new level of wireless connectivity, the IoT and faster video and gaming via things like augmented reality platforms.
Will 2019 be the year that it becomes mainstream? We asked a range of tech companies to respond.
Here’s what they said…
The incoming year will see a real increase in 5G commercial rollouts. Most visibly, we will see consumer-focused launches which meet increased capacity demands (for high-quality video and gaming, for example) in the mass market.
At the same time, we will see some key commercial projects accompanied by further in-depth trials and experimentation on industrial and enterprise campuses such as shipping ports and manufacturing plants, and large-scale venues like stadiums, for 5G applications and service developments.
The first service, and the 5G use that will dominate 2019, will be enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB). It can be seen as a transitional phase where users notice a huge improvement in uses they already have – downloading video or online gaming. Building on that, we will start to see services that make use of the key characteristics of 5G like low latency and massive compute capabilities – so look out for augmented reality applications.
The hot focus is 5G and what it offers consumers, businesses and operators. Networks will continue to be built, cities and houses will get smarter, and moving data faster through the network will continue to grow.
While this is a great development for our industry, don’t forget Wi-Fi. It’s here now and will remain a significant part of the way users connect before, during and likely after 5G networks are realized. As connectivity for mobile users increasingly relies on the interplay between Wi-Fi and cellular networks, it requires a smooth, seamless bonding of the two networks to eliminate dead zones where the mobile device hangs onto weak or unresponsive Wi-Fi, resulting in no connectivity. Dead zones have long been an issue, but just now getting recognized as a problem. Operators need a solution that doesn’t require adding servers to their network – a cost, control and customer experience issue.
5G also is set to speed up the development of connected cities, homes and businesses. But similar to the mobile device, Wi-Fi can help ensure that the user experience is not impacted by areas of poor network conditions due to capacity, coverage, spectrum or any other issue that plagues mobile technologies.
And, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ve still got a way to go before 5G is ubiquitous. Wi-Fi is here now and will be a strong partner with 5G. Plus, Wi-Fi will only get better with advances in Wi-Fi 6.
In 2019, we will see an increasing number of carriers committing to deploying virtualized network infrastructure to support 5G applications and services. Without virtualization, it will be ‘virtually’ impossible to deliver 5G. This is because 5G requires virtualization both at the network core, and critically at the network edge.
Puns aside, the days of building networks to support a single use case, such as mobile voice and data, or home broadband, are behind us. If 5G is to become a reality, then the networks of the future will need to be smart and automated, with the ability to switch between different functions to support a range of use cases.
Adam Leach, Director of Emerging Technology, Nominet
2019 is set to be a key juncture for 5G in the UK, with new radio spectrum coming to market that will form the backbone of 5G for many users. Amid the excitement among early adopters, I hope that we see a different approach to spectrum allocation than we’ve seen with previous generations of mobile connectivity.
With 3G and 4G, auctioning off chunks of the mobile spectrum on an exclusive basis proved inefficient. With 4G today, only 48% of the mobile spectrum is ever able to be utilised at one time – the same model and approach should be avoided with 5G if we want it to deliver on its promise to be the foundation for a new generation of connected devices and autonomous cars, factories and farms.
While the current model gives mobile operators fenced ownership, a sharing model supported by a database would allow providers access to the full breadth of the spectrum, allowing full network utilization and much-improved capacity. I look forward to being part of these discussions as the year progresses.
Infobip polled more than 300 mobile network operator leaders globally at last year’s GSMA WAS#8 event: they concluded that 5G will be a gamechanger over the next two years.
It is natural that people will have developed some weariness around the launch of the next generation. They know it will be a bit faster: think it’s effectively another step up on the dial. While 5G will indeed offer extremely fast data speeds, 5G is a much broader set of technologies creating the conditions for a wide and growing set of revolutionary new services.
This includes connecting many thousands more devices to any given base station, using parts of the technology called Massive MIMO and millimeter wave. The most anticipated beneficiary is the Internet of Things (IoT). With 5G, the barrier of wide-scale, low-latency radio coverage will hypothetically be lifted, and we can expect IoT applications to grow significantly in popularity and scope.
Professor William Webb, CEO of Weightless SIG, IEEE senior member
2019 will see lots of 5G trials and claims of “5G firsts” but there will be no significant handset availability and very few, if any, mobile subscribers. There might be some fixed wireless subscribers in the US, but that initiative will move less quickly than hoped.
We will see Google’s Fi offering (which links Wi-Fi and cellular) expanded to multiple handsets and start to become available in various forms from various companies (not necessarily Google) in selected countries.
Fibre deployment will take off at pace with a bit of a “gold rush” of deployment, which is great for consumers but will leave a complex landscape that will subsequently need consolidation.
Angus Ward, CEO Digital Platform Solution, BearingPoint
In 2019, the foundations of 5G’s failure will be laid – indeed, the work has already started. We expect 5G to be a huge success from a technological perspective, but a dismal failure from a revenue perspective.
The ‘build it and they will come’ narrative is already in full force – as it was with 4G and 3G before it. While 5G will indeed certainly deliver the technology needed to many new use cases, the vast majority of operators are not set up to deliver on them commercially. The best case for many is that a new wave of enterprise OTTs base compelling new enterprise and IoT services on 5G connectivity, with the operators taking their 5% cut.
As we head into 2019, 5G is fundamentally a fifth-generation technology built on a second-generation business model. 5G may be an enabler, but it needs something to enable – and that’s sorely lacking today.
We have found, through partnering with Qualcomm for a research project, that in general consumers are looking to simplify their connectivity. So, hoping to cut down on individual Wi-Fi hotspot logins, for example.
On top of this, they are looking forward to overall improvements in connection quality – faster downloads, higher quality streaming etc. Though most people will not have experience of it yet, there is also excitement for big improvements to existing technologies like VR gaming, and brand new experiences like augmented reality in sporting stadiums.
Some of the mobile brands have already announced 5G flagship handsets, or at least 5G versions of handsets for the market in early 2019. However, we will also see devices designed to make use of the main early use case for 5G – portable Mi-Fi hotspots and router units for in-home fixed wireless connectivity.