One of the things I learned more after being at the MWC in LA, where the focus of the discussions was 5G and IOT, is that there are still ways to go before we reach a 5G system that is actually going to be as useful and widespread as LTE. You have Sprint touting how their midband 2.5 Ghz spectrum band 41 (medium wave) is better than the competition because it is actually able to cover a further distance and work in buildings. But when I put their speeds to the test they were not the speeds we were envisioning when we were thinking about 5G. When testing on a demo phone I was able to reach peak speeds of 228 (Mbps) down, and while impressive, a far cry from the 1000 down that we were expecting. And though Verizon may be able to reach closer to those peak speeds using millimeter wave (high band spectrum) technology, they quickly drop off with distance, buildings, and people. As millimeter-wave cannot pass through concrete or people.
This leaves us in a quagmire yet it is in a way familiar. We saw a similar battle play out about 8 years ago with LTE as we saw the push for being first to get LTE coverage across the country. And though this may seem familiar the challenges look to be different as we have to find ways to safely get this technology to provide the coverage that an LTE can cover. And right now the solution of putting “boxes” on every corner seems both expensive and obtrusive. And I feel that making that move will prove both costly to the customer in more ways than one.
With so many companies laying their future on (well) a future technology, the train literally has left the station. Companies are building devices and products around a technology that is still in the middle of being rolled out. Promises are being made, devices sold, and ideals are shown, all dependant on making this thing happen. And with so much pressure on the line asking for time to stop and take a second to process is outside of the question. The future is here right now, and we can not stand around and wait. Heck, even the President is calling for the quick push for 5G, so what are you standing around for?
As excited as I am about 5G, I came away feeling like there are still a lot of questions not yet answered for a technology we are trying to push forward with now. Questions like what will be the standard, medium band or high band millimeter-wave?
Will we be able to make sure the end-user will be able to maintain sustainable true 5G speeds of 1000 down?
With carriers looking into network slicing and edge of the network, what’s to keep them from using this from taking advantage of net neutrality being appealed (companies not wanting to play ball with said carriers will be subjected to a slice that may not be as high quality as a company willing to play ball)?
And how will we be able to maintain user privacy?
There are still questions that I personally asked and was not given answers to. Yet we are pressing forward with 5G. And even when the question is asked again the answer is usually along the line of “look at that cool phone over there”, or “look at what we can do”. Just another distraction to change the narrative.
Similar to each of you out there, I look forward to this 5G technology on the horizon. The possibilities do excite me, but I also have questions. I want to make sure we as the end user are not forced to pay for mistakes made by billion-dollar corporations as a result of being first. And I am definitely not wanting a world where a neighborhood park is full of nodes and remotes masquerading as nature. Only to learn decades from now they resulted in a neighborhood of average citizens whose children are suffering malignant tumors and having to deal with corporations and politicians covering it up.
We all are waiting for 5G to be here, I just hope that when it does get here we do not find ourselves feeling like the costs were too much to bear with very little return in the process. I know all of the cool things we will be able to do, and the possibilities that can change the economic structure and open doors in a way like LTE did in changing the economic landscape. Creating industries and companies and allowing for literally any and everyone to be able to turn a dream into a reality. But for every success story that has been a result of LTE and the evolution of technology, there are bodies left behind in building out this technology. Families forever changed as a result of the many tower accidents in the rush to build out LTE. I just hope we do not repeat similar mistakes in rushing to build out 5G.