Why 5G wireless won’t be widely available until at least 2020

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 wireless buzz generated by the wider telecom ecosystem value chain players (carriers, smartphone OEMs, retailers, et al.); wide scale commercial network deployments aren’t going to happen until at least 2020

5G wireless… technology fragmentation remains a key challenge

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

Lack of standardized protocols (& adoption thereof) means fragmentation become a key barrier to overcome for 5G wireless to truly become the omni-present network of the future

Telco carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, NTT DoCoMo & SK Telecom have already begun announcing some form of pre-commercial trials & even limited launches throughout 2018 – 2019 based upon myriad of 5G wireless network standards

In fact; unlike current & previous generation networks (2G, 3G, 4G); which were based ‘purely’ on licensed cellular spectrum; telco 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

Connected Corners

NGN/5G wireless network protocols – a combination of licensed & un-licensed spectrum

This most likely would lead to 5G wireless fragmentation as each telco carrier may own/invest/leverage different sets of wireless network assets for a myriad of reasons (CAPEX/OPEX, spectrum availability, etc.)

It goes without saying that fragmented network protocols would only lead to a fragmented 5G 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 telco carriers, network vendors & other 5G wireless value chain players are already aware of this and are working tirelessly to address the issue via various means at their disposal (think: joint collaboration on technology research, etc.)

5G wireless and significance of 2020 milestone

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

ITU NGN/5G wireless guidelines

A number of 5G wireless 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 and 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 telco carriers; wide scale commercial release of ‘true 5G’ devices & services would begin occurring around the 2020 timeframe

NGN/5G wireless 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

Forthcoming segment will aim to explore some of the key commercial applications of NGN/5G networks in more detail; including early adoption use cases (complex enterprise connectivity, industry 4.0 applications, fixed wireless broadband, et al.)

Stay tuned!