5G is an incredible standard that’s packed full of moving parts. The specifications for 5G are unlikely to be fully-evolved until somewhere in 2021, but many different aspects of it are already accepted as priorities. 5G will be facing all the typical standards-progress issues, along with the common question of whether there’s even a business out there for 5G. Right now, we’re also facing the typical problem of inertia, as mobile infrastructure would need to change drastically to support 5G, and many operators are still finding their place within the 4G world.
Next Year and Beyond
So, where are we going in this topsy-turvy world of 5G? Well, the first phase of 5G is likely to emerge sometime in 2018 for areas that are rich in mobile competition in demand. The solution being called “5G New Radio” has been fast-tracked, and specifications for the basic version, which includes 5G radio with typical 4G structure, should be completed by the end of the year.
Although there have been some heavy claims of 10-20 times the speed of 4G for businesses adopting 5G NR technology, the truth is that a doubled speed is more realistic. What’s more, to get that performance, you’d probably need new hardware too. That means if you want to take advantage of 5G, you should probably think about timing your phone replacement cycle for some time around late 2018.
Mid-2019: Wireless Access
The next 5G opportunity to hit the market is likely to come in the form of fixed wireless access, otherwise known as FWA. 5G technology is now fast enough to be super competitive with DSL, and operators are turning to FWA as a solution to serve more customers from a single fiber note. Business sides could be seeing a faster new option, that’s also cheaper than ethernet solutions.
Planning for FWA will mean reviewing broadband options available for your business. However, the chances are that this technology is unlikely to be available before mid-2019, and even after that, it may only be usable in certain areas.
Mid-2020: An IoT Boost
The Internet of Things (IoT) will be the next big step on the 5G path. Some say that you’re going to need 5G for IoT, which obviously isn’t true, because we already have plenty of internet-connected products. What is true is the fact that deploying these solutions will be much cheaper and easier with 5G. Of course, you shouldn’t wait for 5G to start considering IoT in your business, and you shouldn’t expect it to create new and incredibly powerful business models either. Before IoT can take over, it needs to land on a set of basic principles.
2022 and Beyond: Optimising 5G
The further we move into the future of connectivity, the more we’ll focus on optimising the technology that’s available. This will mean looking at long-term 5G features like wireless infrastructure convergence and network slicing. Network slicing promises to give operators the chance to build their virtual networks within 5G, to better support applications with different tolerances for packet loss, availability, and latency. These features are some of the solutions 5G could offer IoT. Wireless convergence focuses on reducing the expensive evolved packet infrastructure that handles mobility for 4G networks. If it arrives, this will reduce the cost of mobile services, and it may even promote FWA.
At this early stage, it’s difficult to tell where either of these features are going to end up. We’re all in a state of speculation, and if we get everything that’s promised, there’s a chance that 5G could have what it takes to transform the networking environment for businesses. Of course, the same could be said for network function virtualisation and software-defined networking, both of which have been around for a number of years and have yet to reach their full potential.