The Progress Toward 5G in 2017


For several years, experts have predicted that 5G would be commercially available in 2020. In light of the recent technological advancements in orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing, it seems that 5G is expected in the much nearer future. 5G will likely have limited commercial availability in 2017. At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this month, 5G has been the primary topic of interest and the race is on to see which company and which country will be the first to offer it to the public.

Trials and Milestones

This month, Verizon and Nokia started field tests of their 5G networks in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. They are examining the latency of the network as well as the overall speed. They are utilizing the 73 GHz and 28 GHz bands that are expected to allow multiple Gbps speeds with approximate 1ms latency. Some version of Verizon’s 5G network is expected to be available commercially available by 2017, and is likely to be faster than Google Fiber.

Korean SK Telecom, also in partnership with Nokia, claims that it can attain speeds of 20 Gbps and will be demonstrating speeds up to 25 Gbps in Sweden later this month. The University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Center (5GIC) holds the record for achieving the fastest download time of 1Tbps.

T-Mobile is expected to start field trials of their 5G network later this year, and AT&T may attempt to use its DirecTV acquisition as leverage over those threatening to switch to Verizon and its rapidly developing 5G network. When acquiring DirecTV, regulators required AT&T to improve high-speed Internet penetration and focus heavily on expansion in rural areas. While working to expand their network, AT&T is attempting to bundle its broadband Internet, TV, and fixed-line phone services to offset these very high network expansion costs and retain customers.

Importance of 5G

For many, the vision for the IoT of the near future includes virtual surgeries and self-driving cars. To allow this, 5G must offer extremely minimal latency. For self-driving cars, the 4G network requires approximately 50 to 80 ms of response time. 5G would cut this to only one millisecond, making the car’s response time better than a human’s and increasing its feasibility as a useable technology.

The CTO of Ericsson, Ulf Ewaldsson, has laid out the six ways in which he believes that 5G will be most helpful. He sees “sensors everywhere, broadband and media everywhere, smart vehicles and transport, infrastructure monitoring and control, critical control of remote devices, and interactions between humans and the ‘Internet of Things.’” He also believes that the cloud will be critical in slicing traffic in order to allocate the resources necessary and appropriate for each task. Huawei and Deutsche Telecom demonstrated the power of slicing at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this month.

Partnerships to Foster 5G

At the Mobile World Congress this week, a multitude of companies joined the Verizon 5G Technology Forum in the quest to make 5G commercially available by 2017. NTT DoCoMo and Huawei are also competing to make 5G available in China and began field tests in 2015. China is heavily invested in making this technology readily available and South Korea aims to have it available to the public by the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Though the exact specifications of 5G technology has not yet been established, the European Union already has an agreement with China, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil to set the standards and definitions for 5G in the near future. The UK’s Ofcom plans to support the release of 5G in the UK and recently had meetings with BT, Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia, Orange, Vodafone, Nokia and Ericsson to determine a plan for deployment. Additionally, the 5GPPP may receive approximately $772 million from the EU (in addition to the 3 billion Euros already contributed) to the effort to implement 5G worldwide as quickly and effectively as possible.

Over the past several years, Cisco and Ericsson have been rumored to be on the verge of a merger. Instead, they have now announced their partnership in providing “routing, data centers, networking, cloud, mobility, management and control, and global services capabilities.” In addition to the mobile 5G networks, Cisco, Ericsson and Intel have announced their partnership to work toward creating a 5G wireless router for homes and businesses that will specialize in machine-to-machine communication.

A cable company in the Dominican Republic has already signed on as a customer of this router, and the partnership between Cisco and Ericsson is expected to generate an additional $1 billion in revenue for each company by 2018. They will also be working on a joint SDN/NFV network and have developed the 5G Test Network in Finland. This network was built as an open innovation ecosystem (with no software or developer specifications or limitations) that combines four testbeds to encourage the field-testing of 5G technologies.

Facebook has also inserted itself in the race toward 5G, aiming to deliver an open-source 5G network to consumers worldwide through its program called Free Basics. Facebook’s Free Basics is associated with its open source Telecom Infra Project (through which it has already partnered with Intel and Nokia). Google may also consider a similar project in the near future. Additionally, as 5G connection capacity approaches, cell phone producers such as Samsung are planning to release their newest models with 5G capabilities.

Perhaps the estimates of 5G being globally commercially widespread by 2020 are accurate, but 5G will very likely be available in most major cities by 2017. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile in the U.S. and Huawei and many others worldwide will begin or continue field trials this year and partnerships between the likes of Cisco, Ericsson and Intel will help create the technology and devices that will utilize 5G.

As the IoT expands, 5G will be vital to reliably integrating the numerous sensors that it will employ as well as delivering and making choices based on the information from those sensors and devices. 5G has the capability to drastically modify the world in which we live, and carriers worldwide are rushing to offer the fastest and most reliable 5G imaginable.

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