Looking Ahead: The Promise and Reality of 5G
As we continue to look ahead at the technological developments that we’re most excited about, we turn to 5G, the 5th-generation wireless communication system that has generated a tremendous volume of optimistic hype. In this article, we examine some of these promises, and how likely they are to become a reality.
The myriad benefits 5G is expected to provide all derive from two core promises: capacity and ubiquity.
As shown in the chart below, the improvement in network capacity over 4G is not merely incremental:
Data via business.sprint.com/5G
For example, 7.2GB in just minutes is enough bandwidth for a mobile device to stream 4K video instantly while simultaneously accessing all email and photos, a feature previously limited by many wireless providers. More excitingly, this speed will enable accelerated development of the Internet of Things (IoT), real-time robotics, augmented reality, and many more applications we can neither see nor imagine today.
In addition to capacity, 5G will be everywhere. 5G evangelists foresee a ubiquity of coverage that would provide a legitimate alternative to traditional wired service (even the next generation of fiber-to-the-home). Instead, FTTx advancements will be deployed to support additional antennas and micro-cells that create more endpoints closer to users. Ubiquitous 5G service will further enhance opportunities for IoT that will power driverless cars and other applications that require low latency and/or high bandwidth.
We fully expect most of the promises listed above to become reality… eventually. The biggest question mark hanging over 5G is its deployment timeline. While some service providers have launched proprietary 5G networks in select test markets, and standards-based 5G networks are expected to go live in 2019, the business cases behind them are still being defined. The technology will change and evolve with the demand for the services it will support, e.g., IoT/IIoT, augmented reality, and other more speculative developments.
When it does happen, the impact is still expected to be profound. In the words of a senior AT&T executive: “In five years, I believe we will wonder how we lived without it.”
Check back for our next post in this series that examines some of the network architecture that will support this life-changing technology.