For the last several years, we have been inundated with headlines about the looming 5G era. Now, it’s almost 2020—and 5G is indeed growing, right where experts predicted it would be.
“As market after market switches on 5G, we are at a truly momentous point in time,” Ericsson stated in its 2019 Mobility Report. “No previous generation of mobile technology has had the potential to drive economic growth to the extent that 5G promises. It goes beyond connecting people to fully realizing the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
By the end of 2019, it’s predicted that there will be 10 million 5G subscriptions—a figure that could swell to 1.9 billion by 2024. LTE, it should be noted, is set to peak by 2022, with around 5.3 billion subscriptions. However, don’t expect 5G to replace LTE any time soon. Rather, the two technologies will work side by side. At first, 5G should only support advanced use cases.
Carriers, however, need to start evolving to support 5G growth. This is a topic that Jeff Kagan recently explored in a post.
“5G will usher in a new age to the wireless industry,” Kagan explained. “There are several different levels or sectors where 5G will play a transformative role over the next decade. Carriers are one of those levels. Today, we are at the point in the shift between 4G and 5G where wireless carriers must evolve in order to continue their historic growth wave.
As Kagan explained, it’s not like carriers have a choice.
“If they transform, they can continue to grow,” he continued. “If they don’t, and as their competitors do, they will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage. That means they must be a player if they intend to successfully stay in the wireless marketplace.”
Kagan pointed to two big stages in the coming 5G transformation. First, he said, early adopters will enter with new technologies and will explore ways to interact with customers. Then, as the industry matures, other competitors will enter into the market. The market will diversify, until every major player is on board.
That’s looking pretty far down the road, though. Presently, we’re only at the point in the U.S. where carriers are starting to deploy small scale 5G networks in select markets.
Current Carrier Deployments:
Sprint: Sprint is now running 5G service over the mid-band 2.5 GHz spectrum. This service is offered in Atlanta, Houston, Dallas/ Fort Worth, Kansas City and Houston. Expect Sprint to continue into major markets including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles in the not so distant future.
AT&T: AT&T is now offering ultra-high frequency millimeter wave-based mobile 5G in 20 markets. The company has recorded speeds of over 2 Gbps.
T-Mobile: According to the company, game-changing 5G will require a range of spectrum, from low to high. If T-Mobile does merge with Sprint, the combined company would be able to offer a complete range of services to enable fast and flexible 5G service. That merger, however, is pending regulatory approval.
Verizon: Right now Verizon is offering mobile 5G service in Denver, Chicago, Providence and Minneapolis, as well as 5G fixed wireless in four markets. More deployments are on the horizon.
So for now, we’re still very much in the nascent stage of 5G. However, this is a market that will pick up steam over the next few years. What’s truly exciting is the combination of 5G, the IoT, big data and artificial intelligence. Businesses should start laying the groundwork now, to successfully leverage all of these advancements when they are capable.