In 2020, 5G will simply resemble Wi-Fi coverage

As 2019 comes to a close, Shrihari Pandit, Stealth Communications CEO, discussed with RCR Wireless News what to expect from 5G in 2020, as well as how the explosion of data usage and the emerging workforce will impact mobile operators.

While Pandit acknowledged that 2020 will certainly see 5G becoming available commercially in more locations, it will be with very limited spot coverage. According to him, there will more “spot” 5G coverage next year, but we are still about three to five years out until next-generation networks look more like a 3G or 4G coverage scheme.

“5G will resemble Wi-Fi coverage because it is only available on certain streets,” he elaborated. “But the goal is for U.S. carriers to have wider coverage, comparable to their 4G service.”

He explained that in order for them to do that, they have to upgrade their network infrastructure. “A lot of them are already doing this, so I think in major cities, we will have some coverage — not city-wide coverage — by late next year.”

Globally, Pandit said that the biggest hurdle for 5G remains allocated frequencies. “In order for 5G to operate,” he explained, “it needs its own frequencies, so carriers need to carve out their already exiting frequencies to allow for 5G. Wireless carriers are governed by the frequencies allocated through the regulatory means.”

“But there are a lot of policy changes in the works to try to make more frequencies available,” he added.

He went on to say that while a lot of wireless carriers in the U.S. are currently working in the millimeter wave bands for 5G, there is a lot of effort under way to free up space in lower frequencies, which will solve the penetration problem presented by mmWave.

One risk in 2020 is consumer “heartbreak” over the limitations of 5G, he added.

“Once the consumer makes the investment to buy a 5G device, which could be over $1000, their hearts could be broken — because it’s all dependent on the frequency that the user has access to or they can receive,” Pandit said.

He continued, “The only way the carriers can really tackle this problem is to continue investing in DAS systems […] but they are expensive and property managers aren’t forth coming to make that investment.”

Another trend to be on the lookout for in 2020 is the continued increase of remote workers, he added. As digital natives overtake the workforce, remote working has become commonplace, and it is up to mobile operators to build out the infrastructure necessary to support this emerging trend. There is, and will continue to be, a need for enterprise-grade connectivity in residential buildings to keep up with the growing demand for better infrastructural support.

In addition, both up and downstream data usage will continue to explode in 2020. In a business setting, high quality, instant connectivity will become expected, and those businesses will need to optimize connective support for cloud, remote storage, VoIP and videoconferencing while also being able to support downstream needs like more data rich content and streaming.

But even inside the home, Pandit said to expect a dramatic increase in data consumption in 2020 as streaming services continue to roll out. He explained that by next year, there will be at least a dozen streaming services available, and further, studies show that people will subscribe to roughly four or five of them at once. And then, when you factor in the new gaming streaming platforms being released, like Google’s Stadia, you’re talking about a lot of data.

“To consume this data on a wireless connection is impossible,” stated Pandit. “People will really rely on their cellular and wired connections. This is where 5G will be able to start addressing this data explosion.”

Finally, Pandit warned mobile operators to keep an eye on the progress being made by those in the low earth orbiting satellite (LEO) space, such as SpaceX and Amazon. While still in early stages, LEO satellites could pose a major competitive threat to fixed services by offering fast connection with latencies that are much closer to landline quality.

Operating between 300 to 400 miles above the Earth’s surface, LEO satellites are a low-latency alternative to costly geostationary satellites. “At such a low altitude, the roundtrip latency from a user on the ground to the LEO satellites can be between five and 20 milliseconds, which is very comparable to fiber and cable modem-type service, and they can potentially reach up to gigabit speeds,” Pandit explained.

Because LEO satellites have the potential to deliver this gigabit, fiber-like performance, it could go a long way in serving rural, underserved areas. 5G promises to solve the rural connectivity problem, but Pandit pointed out that in order to do this, operators have to bring that fiber “really close” to the user. “But with LEO, theoretically, once more satellites are launched, they can start covering major pockets of the Unites States,” said Pandit. “This could put a dent into 5G, potentially.”

The post Stealth CEO: 2020 will bring spotty 5G coverage, more data usage and heartbreak appeared first on RCR Wireless News.


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