Myths About 5G – TeraGo’s Take on Things
Written by: Irv Witte
The excitement surrounding 5G is mounting for individuals and businesses. This new generation of wireless network will provide more than just faster internet connections, cooler smartphones, self-driving vehicles and mobile usage. It will change the way machines, objects and devices interconnect. And it will deliver new levels of performance and efficiency, empowering new user experiences and connecting new industries. There are great expectations for 5G. But is it just another overhyped technology story? My take on some of the myths of 5G:
1. 5G is just another overhyped technology story.
The Reality: 5G is about much more than just faster speeds, cooler smartphones and the promise of self driving vehicles, and the Internet of Things.
- 10 years a go few would have ever imagined being able to binge watch unlimited Netflix episodes on smartphones, tablets, computers & TV’s – and yet today it is considered boring old news.
- 5G technology helps enable many new capabilities which combine faster Computer Chips, Big Data, AI, Increased Speeds & Lower Latency that were previously not even remotely viable i.e. self parking cars moving towards autonomous vehicles, supply chain connected warehouse robots pulling parts off-shelves.
- While there is lots of over hype, the reality is that 5G will over time open up many new opportunity areas and enable a wide range of new services.
2. 5G is all about mobile usage.
The Reality: 5G covers both Mobile & Fixed Location uses.
- The latest generation of Smartphones (e.g. Galaxy G20) support 5G as well as LTE, providing faster speeds. There has been much press coverage around mobile applications like “self driving cars”, which has captivated the 5G blog sphere. The reality is that 5G also provides enhanced capabilities for fixed location applications.
- 5G has already been deployed to provide “High Speed Internet Access” in Residential areas of 26+ major US cites by Verizon as an alternative to Cable, DSL, fibre optic links to the home.
- TeraGo is one of the first in Canada to begin field testing 5G Fixed Wireless capabilities (using mmWave Spectrum), to provide business customers with Internet Access options beyond fibre & DSL.
3. 5G will require a complete “forklift upgrade” of existing networks.
The Reality: 5G will be overlaid on top of existing 4G mobile & fixed networks.
- Previous generations of wireless technology (1G, 2G, 3G and 4G) all required the swap out of previous generation of network radio equipment when using a particular “band” of spectrum. 5G is different in that individual spectrum “bands” can be shared with 4G, vs having to throw away the existing 4G equipment.
- Adding 5G is somewhat like adding an HOV lane to an existing freeway, vs needing to build a completely new toll road.
- Much of the underlying network infrastructure like cell towers, fibre optic links to the towers can be reused vs having to rip everything down to start. For mmWave (High frequency) deployment additional small cell sites can be overlaid to further densify coverage.
4. Canada lags behind the rest of the world in 5G.
The Reality: Most Canadian wireless networks are state of the art technology wise, but the rollout of 5G is hindered by the timing of some spectrum bands being broadly available vs other markets.
- An example of this is mmWave spectrum, where in the USA Verizon and AT&T both purchased mmWave spectrum holdings and have already begun 5G deployment. T-Mobile will soon follow suit.
- By way of contrast only TeraGo has significant mmWave holdings in the largest Canadian cities and is currently conducting 5G trials leveraging state of the art 5G technology. Other wireless service providers, including the “Big 3”, do not currently have any significant mmWave spectrum holdings so their participation will be delayed until additional spectrum has been auctioned.
- The Canadian market is too small scale to entice major infrastructure vendors to build “Canada Only” solutions. A fast follow deployment of proven solutions is the most economically viable approach. Canada is home to many innovative technology players who are leveraging a large pool of talent in areas like Big Data, AI and should not be discounted.
5. 5G is still a few years out. No need to get fussed about the long-term impacts.
The Reality: 5G will drive structural changes / a blurring of the lines between network, IT, cloud computing and managed services.
- The legacy definition of network boundaries, where to put computing resources (Edge computing), big data analytics will all be impacted as 5G technology continues to mature & evolve.
- Businesses need to focus on desired outcomes, solving their customer needs, and rethinking status quo assumptions to avoid getting out flanked by more nimble competitors.
- End customer expectations are evolving toward a make it “painless and easy to use” mindset. Forward looking planning efforts can help reduce long terms costs, improve efficiencies and make enhanced services a reality. Thinking through 5G longer term impacts is worth considering.
6. 5G combines speed, low latency, new applications, AI everywhere. That will change everything.
The Reality: 5G covers many different solution capabilities. No one single device (or 5G enabled solution) will combine all of the features and capabilities.
- Expecting a smartphone to have a 3rd party “self drive” app to drive your car down the highway is not realistic. Nor is expecting an ultra low cost 5G vehicle tracking device to benefit from low network latency or provide in vehicle video entertainment. Remote surgical applications won’t function well in rural areas with poor network coverage or intermittent connections.
- Economies of scale will ultimately make 5G innovations a reality, but there is no magic one size fits all solution that combines everything.
- A better approach is to narrow the focus on a particular problem area and explore how 5G technology might help address a specific need or desired business outcome.
7. 5G will connect everything wirelessly and will replace fibre.
The Reality: 5G wireless connections offer a seamless “last mile” connection. The data traffic still has to be ‘backhauled” to the Internet or corporate network.
- Much like how WiFi inside a home is effectively useless without a high speed internet connection, 5G is no different. 5G networks interconnect a wide range of devices and applications.
- There are some emerging 5G applications, such as vehicle to vehicle communication to help avoid highway accidents, that are “somewhat autonomous” but the vast majority require ever increasing volumes of data to be backhauled.
- The “inside” portion of a 5G network requires a sophisticated array of fibre optic connections and intelligent routing capabilities to make successful 5G deployments a reality.
8. 5G public clouds will eventually manage everything.
The Reality: 5G networks require a very sophisticated array of network elements and real-time control capabilities to consistently deliver world class services, greatly complicating any attempt to utilize public cloud solutions.
- Public cloud services from global scale providers provide economies of scale that can greatly reduce computing and storage costs for many corporate applications. The trade-offs required to utilize public cloud solutions to run a 5G network are considerably more complex.
- Operating a world class network requires a degree of integration, real-time control of disbursed network elements and specialized control functions that does not easily lend themselves to “public cloud outsourcing”.
- There are a number of companies developing new capabilities for things like “open sourced RAN capabilities” to compete with “integrated solutions” from established network technology providers. Regardless of how the competitive battle plays out, the need to “control the inside of a 5G network” will may it difficult to overlay this into public cloud environments.
4G LTE will continue to anchor the 5G mobile experience (via multi-connectivity) for a while. While the impact of 5G will be much greater than previous network generations, deep collaboration with many different industries will be vital for 5G to live up to all the hype.
Irv was engaged to develop and launch TeraGo’s 5G Strategy & MMWave Fixed Wireless Development Program. He has over 20 years of progressive leadership experience in the Wireless Communications sector, and is passionate about launching new products, services and innovative brands.
He was also recently involved in the Rogers Communications 600 MHz auction and in Network Product Management. Irv oversaw the successful launch of the Chatr wireless brand, as Vice President & General Manager. Irv has extensive experience in the B2B market, having served as Vice President of Rogers Wireless Business Marketing.
Irv holds a degree in Engineering, with a minor in Computer Science, from McGill University.