After a bumpy start, 5G is slowly taking off. Some experts think the next-generation mobile technology will reach new heights by the end of 2020.
Last year, AT&T and Verizon launched 5G networks in a handful of urban areas, and released only a few phones compatible with the standard. These companies now say they will release no fewer than fifteen 5G-compatible smartphones in 2020, and that their 5G networks will be available across the U.S. before long.
“We should see 5G in all metropolitan areas in the United States, as well as in China, Korea, Japan, and Europe towards the end of 2020,” Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon told Yahoo Finance during an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Speeds, however, will be only slightly faster than 4G, and 5G networks will be hard to access outside major cities. That’s because 5G depends on high band spectrum, which is easily obstructed over long distances by walls and other obstacles. In order for these networks to connect and create the ultra-high speeds promised of 5G, a complex ecosystem of cell sites will need to be installed across continents, and that will take time.
T-Mobile is trying a different approach. The company said it reached a 5G nationwide network by using lower frequency airwaves, which can crisscross broad regions and more easily penetrate obstacles. However, there’s a catch: the low-band spectrum network delivers an average of just 20% boost in download speed over 4G LTE, a sliver of what a high-frequency 5G network would deliver.
In the global sprint to build 5G networks, Huawei Technologies Co., Nokia, and Ericsson are neck and neck. The Chinese-subsidized Huawei Technologies Co., which has been churning out 5G enabled smartphones and wireless systems across the globe, currently has a 28% stake in the global market, and is continuing to expand. The U.K., for instance, recently agreed to let Huawei develop 35% percent of its 5G infrastructure.
How 5G Can Change Lives
The benefits of 5G are expected to go far beyond faster downloads. The technology has the potential to revolutionize education and medicine. In education, it could create opportunities for virtual reality (VR)-supported distance learning. In the medical field, 5G could give doctors the ability to peer into a patient’s body using ultra-high resolution imaging without having to cut into them.
Veterans in California may soon reap the benefits of 5G-enabled medicine. The Veterans Affairs (VA) Department recently announced plans to make its Palo Alto health care facility its first 5G-enabled hospital. During a recent speech in Washington D.C., U.S. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie touted the possibilities for 5G-supported VR to help veterans deal with post-traumatic stress as well as the potential for 5G-enabled exoskeletons to help vets with spinal injuries regain use of their legs.
“It will also be a breakthrough for surgeons in the operating room,” Wilkie said. “Imagine a doctor being able to see layers beneath the skin before the first incision is ever made. The [Food and Drug Administration] was never able to approve these sorts of practices and surgery because 4G technology simply could not carry that much information. But we are on the cutting edge and moving forward in ways that just a few years ago were unimaginable.”
Preparing for the Growth of 5G
Are you interested in learning about the roadmap to implementing 5G? Register for the live complimentary IEEE course program webinar, “Discover Techniques and the End-to-End System of 5G Networks,” presented by Olivier Haioun, 5G, 4G & SRAN Learning Manager at Nokia, and Dorothy Stanley, Head of Standards Strategy at Aruba.
Date: 4 March 2020
Time: 12pm ET
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