The dawn of 5G is truly upon us. All four major U.S. wireless carriers have launched 5G, with coverage areas rapidly expanding. While much of the focus around 5G revolves around faster mobile broadband speeds, that’s only one part of a much bigger 5G picture.
Faster speeds will indeed occur, and dramatically so in some cases. Major national mobile carriers are seeing initial 5G speeds of hundreds of megabits per second and in some cases, even gigabit speeds on their millimeter wave spectrum based 5G networks. T-Mobile has launched nationwide 5G on lower band 700 MHz spectrum, with slower 5G speeds than that, at about 20% faster speeds than 4G LTE. The much higher speed millimeter wave 5G sacrifices coverage and range for that higher speed, making sparse coverage withing a 5G market a current reality.
As for the other carriers beyond T-Mobile, Verizon intends to be in 30 markets with 5G by the end of 2019. AT&T just launched lower band 5G on 850 MHz spectrum in multiple markets, and utilizes millimeter wave in about 23 other markets. Sprint last reported on 5G progress in October 2019, citing coverage to 16 million people in 9 markets.
5G ‘s overall impact will be much more than just about faster speed. Benefits include much lower latency and much greater capacity. This means many more devices can be connected to the network, and the network can facilitate much quicker response times. 5G will fuel faster adoption of IoT, particularly with industry and enterprise sectors.
We are talking a massive uptick in devices and sensors connected to the network, with everything from streetlights to parking spaces to even cows and livestock connected to the network. Indeed, 5G will truly bring the concept of the internet of things (IoT) to life, enabling billions of connections across the globe.
These new 5G networks also will accelerate automation and, in combination with artificial intelligence, 5G has the potential to make the world look very different five years from now. Example applications could include autonomous drones, automated factories and fulfillment warehouses, and applications that eliminate the need for drivers to search for an open parking space.
The arrival of 5G in rural markets will be somewhat slower to come. There is some progress though. A few smaller, rural focused wireless carriers announced migration plans for 5G this year including Inland Cellular, Carolina West Wireless, and C Spire.
Additionally, a partnership between Parallel Wireless and the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), announced earlier this year aims to offer 5G migration strategies for smaller rural wireless carriers. CCA is a trade group representing smaller regional wireless companies.
ETI is well positioned to help clients thrive in a 5G world. We can help carriers implement a 5G strategy including leveraging network automation and management for the explosion of devices on the network. Connect with us to help you think through and develop your 5G strategy.