The Many Paths and Parts to 5G

The road to 5G is certainly interesting one and it’s increasingly clear that there are going to be multiple paths to get there. Different countries around the world are taking different routes and within countries, different carriers are also following unique strategies. The net result—realistically—is probably going to be an even more confusion as we move to what is already a complicated topic.

Thankfully, there are a number of important commonalities that will link all the stories together. First, it’s important to note that 5G is the first major new network that builds completely on its predecessor. Unlike the move to 4G from 3G or even 3G from 2G, 5G can fully utilize the very strong 4G LTE networks that have been—and are still being—built all around the world. In each of the previous network transitions, entirely new networks had to be put in place before the benefits of the new standard were really felt.

The practical impact to 5G of this existing technology base is that LTE is going to stick around a lot longer than previous superseded networks. In addition, it’s likely that the full transition to 5G could take longer. At the same time, a number of major technical advances used to enhance LTE, including MIMO (multiple-input, multiple output) and OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing), will be beneficial for both 4G and 5G users and their devices.

In fact, it’s even conceivable that some advanced versions of Gigabit LTE could be faster than early 5G network deployments because of all the refinements that have been made to 4G LTE over the years. To be clear, as 5G evolves, it will be faster than 4G, but many of the initial benefits for 5G will be focused more on delivering consistently high speeds in many different environments—think stadiums, trade shows, surrounded by skyscrapers in a dense city—as opposed to just the bursty high speeds we can occasionally now get from 4G. In part this is because early 5G mobile network deployments are almost entirely focused on high-frequency millimeter wave spectrum signals, which require many more small cell towers and can transmit over much shorter distances than the lower frequencies used for 4G LTE. Transition to full 5G support in the lower frequency bands currently used for 4G is still several years away.

Many of these key advancements are being driving by important innovations from leading telecom industry players, such as Qualcomm, Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, Intel and Huawei, all of whom provide their efforts to organizations like the 3GPP, which help create and promulgate critical worldwide telecom industry standards. Of course, enormous amounts of R&D dollars and efforts go into creating these standards, so the companies involved all charge royalties to recoup and justify their efforts. While some of these practices have been viewed as controversial, the fact is, companies should be able to benefit from the intellectual property they’ve created—even though they become part of industry standards. The laws behind these principles can get complex quickly, but the bottom line is that there is a long and rich US business tradition of being rewarded for key technology innovations. In fact, it’s one the key reasons companies have been willing to make the investments necessary to push critical standards forward in many different industries.

How these technologies get deployed by chip, device, network equipment makers and carriers is, of course, the real trick to differentiation and strategy, in particular as 5G starts to be rolled out. From a carrier perspective, one of biggest early differentiators will be which markets they choose to focus the technology on. In the US, for example, Verizon has talked about first using 5G for fixed wireless deployments, providing a wireless alternative to broadband services currently offered by cable companies and different technology solutions from carriers. AT&T, for their part, have said they plan to focus first on mobile 5G applications. Of course, all the telcos will eventually provide a wide range of services—particularly for mobile networks—but the manner with which they offer those services will vary.

As the technology base evolves, we’re also going to see a much wider range of services available with 5G than we’ve seen with previous network generations. While it’s easy to simply call this hype, there are a number of important reasons why 5G really is going to be a big deal. First, much of the network infrastructure and services associated with 5G are arriving at a pivotal time for other related technologies as well. Software-defined networking, or SDN, in particular, marks a particularly important shift in technologies for networking equipment. While SDN has been around in private networks for several years, its real impact in terms of flexibility and range of services available won’t be felt until 5G is more widely deployed.

Similarly, the influence of edge computing models is emerging, just as 5G is becoming an important factor. With edge computing, the idea is that instead of focusing on a centralized cloud computing architecture, it’s going to be more important to spread those computing resources across a wider range of devices that are distributed across the ends of the network. Ironically, some have argued that the rise of distributed edge computing could actually lessen the importance and dependence on a network connection because the compute and storage resources are more readily accessible. But when you think about the issue from an overall computer systems perspective, you realize that in order to most efficiently take advantage of those resources, you need to dramatically increase the throughput to and from these edge devices. Otherwise they could sit their starving for data—a classic design flaw. By providing speedy access to data, along with a flexible, software-driven network architecture, 5G can fully enable the potential of edge computing—hence it’s direct tie to, and dependence upon, the 5G technology shift. In fact, as AT&T hinted at during their Spark developer’s event in San Francisco yesterday, the company is intensely interested in bringing more compute power directly into the telecom network, as well as developing more sophisticated software that can balance the compute load in an intelligent way across the network, while they transition to 5G.

To be clear, the 5G hype is very real and early deployments in late 2018/2019 could prove to be disappointing. However, when you analyze the key technological developments behind the 5G transition and put them in context with other key tech industry megatrends happening around them, it’s clear that the eventual impact of 5G will be enormous. At this point, it’s just about figuring out which parts and which paths will be used to get there.

Published by

Bob O'Donnell

Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting and market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.

29 thoughts on “The Many Paths and Parts to 5G”

  1. Howdy! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog. Is it hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I’m thinking about making my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Thank you

  2. Simply wish to say your article is as astonishing. The clearness to your post is simply spectacular and i can suppose you are a professional on this subject. Fine with your permission let me to grasp your RSS feed to stay updated with approaching post. Thanks one million and please keep up the gratifying work.

  3. I?m impressed, I must say. Really hardly ever do I encounter a weblog that?s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you might have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is excellent; the issue is something that not sufficient individuals are talking intelligently about. I am very completely satisfied that I stumbled across this in my seek for one thing regarding this.

  4. Having read this I believed it was very enlightening. I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this information together. I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it.

  5. Howdy! This article could not be written any better! Looking through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I am going to send this article to him. Pretty sure he’ll have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

  6. The very next time I read a blog, I hope that it won’t fail me as much as this particular one. I mean, Yes, it was my choice to read through, however I actually thought you’d have something useful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could possibly fix if you were not too busy looking for attention.

  7. Hello there! This article could not be written any better! Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I’ll forward this post to him. Pretty sure he’s going to have a very good read. I appreciate you for sharing!

  8. A fascinating discussion is worth comment. I do think that you ought to publish more about this subject, it might not be a taboo matter but usually people do not talk about these subjects. To the next! Kind regards!

  9. May I simply say what a comfort to find an individual who really knows what they’re discussing on the web. You actually know how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people have to check this out and understand this side of your story. I was surprised that you are not more popular given that you surely possess the gift.

  10. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who was conducting a little homework on this. And he in fact ordered me lunch simply because I found it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this topic here on your blog.

  11. Right here is the right website for everyone who wants to find out about this topic. You know a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a subject which has been written about for a long time. Excellent stuff, just excellent.

  12. Everything is very open with a precise explanation of the challenges. It was really informative. Your website is very helpful. Thank you for sharing.

  13. I’m very happy to uncover this great site. I need to to thank you for ones time for this particularly wonderful read!! I definitely appreciated every bit of it and I have you saved to fav to see new things on your website.

  14. Aw, this was an extremely nice post. Finding the time and actual effort to generate a great article… but what can I say… I hesitate a lot and never manage to get nearly anything done.

  15. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who was doing a little homework on this. And he actually bought me breakfast simply because I found it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending some time to discuss this issue here on your blog.

  16. When I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I receive four emails with the same comment. Is there a means you are able to remove me from that service? Kudos.

  17. A fascinating discussion is worth comment. I do believe that you need to write more on this subject, it may not be a taboo matter but typically people don’t talk about these issues. To the next! Many thanks.

  18. I blog quite often and I truly appreciate your content. This article has really peaked my interest. I will take a note of your site and keep checking for new information about once a week. I subscribed to your Feed as well.

  19. Greetings, I think your blog could be having browser compatibility issues. Whenever I look at your web site in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in I.E., it has some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Aside from that, wonderful site!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *