5G Is Definitely “In Progress”, but Still Not Ready for Prime Time Rural Deployment
As the technology becomes more commercially viable, the next generation of mobile broadband, 5G, is in the news more and more often.
Last week, for example, the telecommunications company Qualcomm made a stir when CEO Steven Mollenkopf compared the introduction of 5G to the introduction of electricity. The company just introduced the Snapdragon 835 chip, which, it says, is powerful enough to support 5G protocols.
Qualcomm isn’t by any means the only company pushing their 5G products forward, despite the fact that there is, currently, no commercial 5G standard. Intel, for example, also introduced a 5G modem last week and AT&T has, purportedly, already installed 5G-inspired network technology in ten U.S. cities. While these innovations are exciting, calling them “5G” may be jumping the gun just a little bit.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nation agency tasked with coordinate broadband internet and wireless technologies, typically sets international standards on each generation of mobile broadband. The ITU will not determine a worldwide 5G standard until 2020. Once the ITU sets a standard, telecoms can begin mass-producing actual 5G networks.
Nevertheless, next year (especially) will be an exciting one for 5G. Four years ago, Chinese telecom Huawei and Russian telecom MegaFon announced their plans to introduce the world’s first 5G network at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. This puts Huawei-MegaFon innovation two years ahead of regulators’ 2020 deadline.
Huawei, the largest telecommunications equipment maker in the world, has been a bullish investor in – and developer of – 5G technology. At the end of last year, for example, they conducted 5G network trials where speeds topped 35 Mbit/s.
Last year, South Korean telecom KT announced that it will introduce a 5G network at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. KT completed a successful test of the 5G backhaul platform at Phoenix Park Ski World, PyeongChang. The platform, KT revealed, transmits waves over the unutilized short-range E-band spectrum between 70 and 80 GHz. KT is also planning to commercialize 5G in 2019, a year before the ITU sets the official standard.
Despite momentum growing on 5G projects in the U.S. and abroad, 5G will remain out of reach for rural dwellers for, likely, at least another half-decade. So far, developers, like Huawei and KT, are focusing on urban markets almost exclusively. This is because, first, it’s far easier to deploy mobile broadband in urban centers and, second, one of the biggest advantages of 5G is its high capacity.
Essentially, 5G is a wireless network that can support the device density of the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT – the network of internet-connected devices like smartphones, cars, watches, houses, and laptops – has placed huge strains on mobile broadband networks in cities, where there can easily be hundreds of thousands of active devices in just a few square acres.
As a rural customer, beware of 5G sales talk over the next few years. Remember that, before 2020, the term “5G” is unregulated. When KT starts selling its networks in 2019, for example, they won’t adhere to any independent criteria. There will also, likely, be a delay after 2020 in implementing 5G networks in rural areas. If someone tries to sell you 5G before 2022, then, be sure to ask lots of questions!
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