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5G Coming of Age
Sudeepto Roy | Klish Way

Earlier in 2019, several Sandpiper articles including a DMFTalk discussed the “Dawning of the Age of 5G.” As a reminder, ‘G’ stands for cellular generation, with the latest one being the fifth. 5G advances cellular communications in three major ways, namely, ultrafast speeds, extremely responsive networks and the ability to connect an immense number of wireless devices.

5G services first launched in April 2019 in the US and South Korea and have quickly spread, including in China, Japan, Canada, Australia, Taiwan, UK, Germany, and elsewhere in Europe and Asia. Other big markets such as India and Indonesia are anticipating launches in 2021. Per early studies, 5G networks provide a real-world speed increase of 5 to 20 times over 4G LTE, with the latter supported at the higher-frequency millimeter wave bands.

In the US, Verizon, ATT and T-Mobile (who merged with Sprint this year), have rolled out 5G in major markets, and there is the possibility of a fourth operator, Dish Network, entering the market. In San Diego, 5G coverage remains spotty but is steadily improving. The pandemic has slowed down the pace of network deployment particularly in the US and Europe. However, with its government policy support, China leads in nation-wide 5G coverage.

The worldwide handset story is quite different. 5G-capable devices have launched, well ahead of network availability, with about 20 million devices sold in 2019, and roughly ten times as many to be sold in 2020. Forecasts indicate a billion subscribers by 2023 and 2.7 billion by 2025. At present, in the US all premium Android devices, notably, from Samsung, LG, Motorola, Google, OnePlus, and others support 5G. By holiday 2020, all other major manufacturers are to offer 5G capability.

However, the most exciting news in the 5G world arrived earlier in July when, 3GPP, the governing body for international cellular standards, issued the next release of the 5G standard, known as Release 16. This second major advance in 5G technology brings numerous innovations for the mobile broadband, automotive and industrial internet-of-things industries. Some of these innovations improve traffic safety through enhanced vehicle-to-everything communications, make industrial communications ultra-reliable, and expand 5G into unlicensed spectrum for a broader range of 5G services.

While we ponder the many implications of working and schooling from home, propelled by 5G speeds, the future holds many promising advances in healthcare, remote education, virtual reality, gaming, entertainment, and other fields.



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