Insight: The Hype and Reality of 5G

Posted by Mae Kowalke on Monday, March 09, 2015 with No comments

Mobile World Congress 2015 was filled with futuristic visions of 5G, noted Light Reading blogger Michelle Donegan. The emphasis was on how 5G will improve people's lives by, for example, saving time and reducing energy consumption. 

For operators and vendors, 5G is also filled with possibilities, an opportunityas Donegan quoted Gunther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, sayingto reinvent the telecom sector with specialized network services. 

Indeed, carriers in particular have a very ambitious timeframe in mind for rolling out 5G in the real world, said The Register writer Richard Chirgwin: detailed requirement by end of 2015, an initial system design by 2017, trials in 2018, and commercial offerings by 2020.  

Is that realistic, though?

Even just nailing down the required standards anytime soon might prove a challenge. After all, as Light Reading editorial operators director Sarah Thomas pointed out, we are still in the early stages of 5G development, with use cases and pre-standards groups proliferating. 

Many groups want to have a say in how the next generation network will be developed, she noted, including GSM Association (GSMA), Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN), 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), 5G-PPP, and 4G Americas, among others. So many groups working on standards is a good thing this early in the process, but it just might take longer than the carriers are hoping for agreement to be reached on what's required for the 5G ecosystem. 

Regardless of when standards truly come together, there is a growing consensus among carriers and vendors that 5G will include a new air interface, said Mike Dano, an editor at Fierce Wireless. For now, 5G remains a vague concept, but when standards emerge, its form and applications will inevitably solidify. 

If a new air interface is indeed involved, Dano said, that would put 5G into a similar category as previous network upgrades like LTE, WCDMA, GSM, and CDMA. 

Back to present from future predictions, The Register posited that 5G remains, for the time being, merely the dream of an all-IP, gigabit network structure. In the much shorter term (1-2 years, instead of 5+), the work to be done is mostly around deploying new platforms that take things one step closer to the eventual 5G future. 

What do you think: how far away is 5G from commercial availability, and what will it take to get there?
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