5G WIFI Developments

5 different view of when 5G WiFi arrives

WhatIs tells us that “5G is the coming  fifth-generation wireless broadband technology based on the IEEE802.11ac standard.” 5G will provide better speeds, latency response and density of coverage than the current 4G. 5G operates with a 5Ghz signal and is set to offer speeds of up to 1 Gb/s for tens of connections or tens of Mb/s for tens of thousands of connections. This outperforms 4G/LTE WiFi by a factor of 4 or 5 times However there is skepticism about 5G..

NYTimes has an article today which calls into question the 5G technical rationale for the AT&T and Time Warner merger. The essential argument is that  the technology is a) still in the process of being refined both in standards definitions and final technology implementation and b)subject to very high costs and distribution limits. Bottom line, the NYTimes argues that AT&T’s vision of 5G coming on stream in 5 years around 2021 is too ambitious.

But the spectrum of 5G expectations from the major carriers and equipment providers is also  really quite diverse. At the recent Barcelona World Mobile Congress two major WiFi equipment providers also had different 5G views.

Ericsson's President & CEO Hans Vestberg points during a news conference at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain February 22, 2016. REUTERS/Albert Gea
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Ericsson’s President & CEO Hans Vestberg points during a news conference at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain February 22, 2016. REUTERS/Albert Gea

Ericsson saw the arrival of 5g occurring in 2020 with about 150million subscribers on board by that time [over 1B users are 4G capable now]. In contrast, WiFi equipment rival Nokia, forecast 5G equipment orders starting in 2017 with the IOT-Internet of Things driving sales. Both WiFi vendors saw 2020 being a breakout year for 5G WiFi. Chinese WiFi supplier Huawei also see a bright picture for 5G.Recent tests with Vodafone in England have proven out 5G connections at 20Gb/sec, 100 times 4G rates. Huawei also see demand coming in IoT such as smart automobiles and B2B interconnections.French WiFi provider Orange  with Ericsson and Optus in Australia with Nokia have already started tests of 5G services.

5G Technology Drivers

Although capacity for doing TV and video streaming to mobile phones and tablets is a basic driving need; there are other 5G operational capabilities important to WiFi suppliers. Better spectral efficiency  improves the density of connections possible from one 5G station. In urban markets this is vital. Although the  current 100x improvements in 5G transmission speed will flatten out with similar improvements in 4G technology, the overall speed improvement of 5x will help meet video and TV demand.

But of keen interest to IoT- Internet of Thing suppliers is the reduce latency to 1msec. This provides IoT sensor-to-controller connections that are vitally swift needed in in real-time feedback and control operations. In addition the density of 5G allow for redundant back-up channels  to meet reliability and backup requirements in  critical control systems. Finally, 5G signalling effiencies again contribute to channel density.

But on the downside, three important factors could set 5G plans awry. First, the technology and operational standards are complex and not set with 2017-2019 being cast as closing dates. This will increase the risk for early 5G adopters/innovators. Second, the capital costs of of 5G equipment is formidable as the NYTimes has pointed out. But Verizon is arguing that during the 5G start-up phase, fixed point services to  businesses and  home residences will provide ample return on capital without the help of mobile usershaving to come on 5G.. Third and ,more threatening is the recent spate of hack attacks based on the IoT vulnerability inflicted by the Mirai botnet system. The whole problem is that with denser 5G enabled IoT Networks, vulnerability for all Internet users goes up disproportionately because IoT connections have proven to have minimal operational  hack attack firewalls and controls. The irony is the very success of 5G leads to greater cyber vulnerability.

In sum, 5G  has  a wide spectrum of technology features which will shape how it unfolds in the market over the next 5 years.


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