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Are You Ready for 5G? Just Hold Your Horses

Mar 2, 2017

Would you like to download data 10 to 100 times faster than your current measly 4G system? Of course you would. Who wouldn’t?

Testing, Testing

Well, we’re a small step closer to that reality with Verizon’s announcement that it will test 5G in 11 cities across the U.S. in the first half of 2017. AT&T is also conducting 5G tests in both the lab and field this year. The companies are working with equipment providers including Ericsson, Samsung, Nokia, Intel and Qualcomm during the test period. 

Why the Rush?

There are a few reasons: (1) It will help handle the extra traffic resulting from increasing video downloads and live event streaming. (2) Increasing speed is necessary for running the Internet of Things (IoT). This would include everything from “smart” appliances to self-driving cars. (3) It will give the developer(s) an inside track in establishing a global standard for 5G use, which the industry will surely want. (4) Even though data use is increasing, it is becoming increasingly challenging to find new customers in a mature smartphone market. This is evidenced by the carriers engaging recent data plan wars.

U.S. Wireless Market Share
Verizon 32%
AT&T 35%
Sprint 14%
T-Mobile 17%
U.S. Cellular 1%
Other  1%
Source: Statista

Not So Fast

However, 5G service isn’t expected to be available for the masses until 2020. In fact, the aforementioned tests don’t even include mobile devices. Instead, 5G radios on cell towers will transmit to wireless modems at test homes and businesses. 5G development will also depend on the carriers and equipment manufacturers making significant investments in infrastructure. One indication of this commitment is Verizon’s announced acquisition of XO Communications’ fiber-optic business.

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