Why you’ll have to wait at least until 2020 for 5G

By now, you’ve probably heard of how NGN – Next Generation Network – (marketed as 5G) will soon become the backbone of connected everything in the near future

Despite the endless ‘5G’ buzz from Wireless Carriers to network vendors and everyone in between; wide scale commercial 5G deployments aren’t expected until at least 2020

Fragmentation… the one key challenge to address

Multitude of Carriers have rapidly been promoting their forthcoming 5G network today whilst key industry bodies are still hard at work to standardize definitions, prevent fragmentation & promote interoperability

Lack of standardized protocols means fragmentation would become a key barrier to overcome for 5G to truly become the omni-present network of the future

Verizon, AT&T, NTT DoCoMo & SK Telecom have all begun announcing some form of pre-commercial trials & even limited launches throughout 2018 – 2019 based upon ‘various 5G standards’

In fact, unlike current & previous generation networks (2G, 3G, 4G); which were based ‘purely’ on licensed cellular spectrum; Carriers & network vendors are actively exploring any & all available connectivity protocols (including combination of licensed & un-licensed spectrum) in a bid to fulfill the ‘5G’ guidelines set by bodies such as ITU & 3GPP

5G different protocols
NGN/5G – multi-protocol connectivity

This itself could lead to fragmentation as each Carrier may own/invest in ‘different sets’ of network assets for a myriad of reasons (CAPEX/OPEX, spectrum availability, etc.)

fragmented global 5G network would only lead to a fragmented connected ecosystem… from smartphones & M2M modules through to QoS, roaming (national / international)critical public services (national alert system, extreme weather warnings, etc.) and everything else in between

But Carriers, network vendors & other value chain players are acutely aware and are working tirelessly to address the issue via various means at their disposal  (think: joint collaboration on technology research, etc.)

Significance of 2020

Amongst many industry bodies; two of the biggest ones working round the clock to help lay out standardized 5G definitions, prevent fragmentation & promote interoperability are the International Telecommunications Union ITU (UN body) and Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)

In fact around Mobile World Congress 2017, ITU set out 13 technical requirements for the next generation wireless network that further promotes standardization & interoperability

These requirements cover peak data rate, connection density, user experienced data rates, energy efficiency and network reliability amongst others


A number of 5G value chain players have thrown their support behind ITU’s program called “IMT for 2020 and beyond”; which lays the foundation for 5G research activities… meaning those ‘5G-engaged’ entities are required to submit their suggestions by 2020

3GPP too is working on a ‘5G Specification’ that it intends on submitting to the ITU by October 2020

According to GSM Association (GSMA), commercial 5G networks will begin wide-scale deployments by the start of the next decade and by 2025 it estimates that 1/3rd of the world’s population will have access to this next generation network

So whilst we’ll witness 5G trials & limited launches over the next few years from various Carriers; wide scale commercial release of ‘true 5G’ devices & services would begin occurring around the 2020 timeframe

NGN/5G connectivity promises wealth of benefits to our connected future; but we’ll have to wait just a tad longer before it becomes a (wide scale) commercial reality for everyday consumers

The next segment will aim to explore key commercial applications of NGN/5G networks in more detailincluding early adoption use cases (complex enterprise connectivity, industry 4.0 applications, fixed wireless broadband, et al.)

Stay tuned!