The world is heading into a 5G technology driven future, and major wireless carriers in the United States as well as the country’s regulators are helping paving the way. But as warned by Amir Rozwadowski of Barclays, the transition will not be a walk in the park. Via a research note, Rozwadowski cited the great promise of 5G networks, but also emphasizes the challenges ahead for those involved in bringing this technology to life.
Rozwadowski mentioned that there seems to be solid support for upcoming new generations of mobile technology, not only from the understandably excited mobile user populace but also from the wireless industry, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and United States lawmakers. Rozwadowski specifically cited the recent approval of the Mobile Now Act by the Senate Commerce Committee as well as statements expressed by Tom Wheeler, the current chairperson of the FCC.
As indicated in the research report, even though the industry is still trying to figure out exactly what form 5G technology will take when delivered to consumers, the foundation is already set for transitioning from 4G networks to 5G networks. Indeed, while everybody is still debating, testing, and attempting to set standards regarding the commercial application of 5G, it is really only a matter of time before mobile users can experience for themselves the wonders of this new generation technology.
The approval of the Mobile Now Act by the Senate Commerce Committee is particularly significant because it is aimed at encouraging growth for 5G mobile broadband services, while at the same time, letting loose federal spectrum and welcoming more licensed and unlicensed spectrum into the bigger picture. Couple this with the FCC’s willingness to free up spectrum even though there are no 5G standards yet, everybody seems to be eager to let this new technology see the light of day at the soonest.
But Rozwadowski notes that determining which spectrum to use for 5G is easier said than done. Although the FCC is already looking into the 28 GigaHertz, 37 GigaHertz, 39 GigaHertz, and 64 to 71 GigaHertz, it appears that some parties are taking issue over the use of those airwaves. For instance, Microsoft and Google have specifically cite the need for a Spectrum Access System (or similar system) to allow spectrum sharing for the 37 GigaHertz band. Moreover, satellite companies are pointing out that other millimeter wave bands should be named and used as opposed to the 28 GigaHertz band.
As for wireless carriers’ deployment of their respective 5G services, standards (or a lack of) remain a factor. T-Mobile for example will wait until 2019 or 2020 (about the time standards will be set in place) before transitioning to 5G. Verizon Wireless is looking to roll out its 5G service as early as 2017, regardless of whether standards have already been established or not. AT&T on the other hand is planning to start field testing its 5G service before the end of this year.
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