When is 5G coming?
That’s the question our customers have been asking us more frequently. While trials are already underway, it’s projected that in late 2019 or 2020, the first rollout of real 5G is expected to arrive.
However, beginning in 2018, AT&T and Verizon have touted about their 5G services to the masses which kicks up more dust in the confusion of what is 5G or 5G-ish.
So let’s answer those burning questions right away.
Is Verizon’s or AT&T’s 5G services in 2018 real or marketing hype?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as clear-cut.
The good news: it’s not like the fake 4G vs real 4G debacle when 3G on steroids was passed off as 4G.
The bad news: the global 5G standard as set by the 3GPP—an international organization composed of the world’s leading telecom service providers, hardware manufacturers, and other conglomerates— has yet to finalize the 5G standard.
However, milestones along the way (3GPP Release 15 & 16) have established general baselines which carriers like Verizon and AT&T are using as a benchmark to build to their own proprietary 5G services. These services are frameworks that will lead USA to the global 5G specification set by the 3GPP.
So the answer is 5G-ish, sorta-5G, pre-5G—more precisely, the first phase of 5G but not the real 5G that comes out in 2019/2020.
So what’s the difference between 5G and 5G-ish?
Think of 5G deployment much like building a house:
- Site preparation
- Doors & windows
- Counters & cabinets
- Finishing touches (Whew!)
All those steps lead to a completed house, so technically each step is a “house.”
5G-ish is more like those early steps, laying down the technological foundations. For example, Verizon’s 5G Home claims to have peak speeds of 1 Gbps while the global 5G standard is expected to have speeds ranging from 1 to 20 Gbps depending on location, frequency band, and usage.
Verizon 5G Home’s best speed barely meets the minimum requirement of 5G’s proposed speed range. The company expects real-world speeds at 300 Mbps down. While it’s much lower than 1 Gbps, it still rivals most fiber-to-home internet cable speeds, which will encourage more customers to join the cord-cutting movement.
Early adopters of Verizon’s 5G Home don’t have to worry about incompatible or outdated equipment when the global 5G standard comes in 2019 or 2020. The company will update all the equipment free of charge for the first year to meet specification when the time comes.
When will 5G-compatible cell phones be ready?
2019 without a doubt.
Qualcomm, a leading telecom designer of mobile chipsets, has already released a 5G modem that 36 global carriers and smartphone makers have tested in 2018.
Expect early adoption from Android devices in 2019. Apple has a history of waiting on mainstream adoption, so the first 5G-compatible iPhone won’t be available until at least 2020 or 2021.
As for growing pains, the first generation of 5G phones will most likely be carrier-locked because of the variety of different frequencies each carrier is using to deliver 5G. Current hardware has limitations to support them all. However, 5G carrier-unlocked phones will happen after the technology is available.
What are 5G’s frequency bands?
|AT&T||Fixed wireless||28/39 Ghz|
|Verizon||Fixed wireless||28 Ghz|
|T-Mobile||Fixed wireless||28/39 Ghz|
The 5G category is split between two use cases: fixed wireless for home and mobile for roaming.
5G fixed wireless uses millimeter wave (mmWave) above 24 GHz. mmWave bands are great at transmitting large amounts of data; however, they are limited by line-of-sight transmission, so the slightest blockage can disrupt service. Therefore, it’s the best candidate for fixed wireless but not mobile.
The FCC has already approved 28 GHz, 37 GHZ, and 39 GHz for licensed bands with 64 to 71 GHz for unlicensed bands.
5G mobile uses sub-6 GHz bands which are currently being used by all 2G, 3G, and 4G cellular services today. This allows for broad 5G coverage leveraging technology already invested in existing LTE deployments.
What will happen to 4G LTE?
4G LTE is not going anywhere anytime soon.
While 5G comes to major urban markets in the early part of the 2020s, full nationwide buildout to rural areas won’t most likely happen until 2030.
In fact, 4G LTE is still being built out and won’t peak until 2028. Improvements like LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro support data rates up to 3 Gbps which is 5G-like speeds. Many carriers have stated the importance of 4G LTE coverage until 5G fully matures, which some predict to be 2035 to 2040.
So yes, 4G LTE will be around for at least another decade or two.
Any other questions? Drop us a line on the comments below.
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