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The Future of 5G

5GDespite all the buzz of what 5G will offer, we need to remember the future of 5G is reportedly at least 4 years away.  During that time, we need to plan on it NOT being the end all be all for everyone.  Sure, the possibilities are intriguing.  Health care professionals checking vital signs remotely, self driving cars (and trucks-yeeks!), smart home appliances, virtual reality gaming and downloading HD movies in seconds.  But, there are so many obstacles that stand in the way.  Basic stuff like buildings and trees that block signal strength, insufficient network buildouts, and the highly contentious, never ending, zoning approval process.  Then the issues get really complex.  What happens if you are in a rural area without cell coverage currently?  How do you standardize when there are people still using 3G and 4G (platforms?)  Will the 5G be compatible with earlier generations of service?  How many towers is it gonna take to fulfill all this intense data consumption?

There seems to be a lone voice in the industry trying to put consumers at ease.  Seizo Onoe, CTO of NTT DOCOMO, Japan’s largest mobile carrier, is trying to “right the direction for where 5G is going,” he says.  In an article in IEEE Spectrum, he refutes some widely held views of 5G.

  1. He cautions us not to view it as “Hot spot” technology.  There are way too many people, in rural areas,  that go without adequate cell coverage currently.  If we concentrate so heavily on 5G we will be furthering the “informational divide” and lessening our chances of standardization.  He stresses the need for additional technology to be developed to address this.
  2. He goes against the thought of 5G deployment requiring a huge deployment.   Perhaps, he is basing this on Japan’s geographical footprint (not even 1 times the size as California) as opposed to the United States.   
  1.  He believes that the 4G and 5G will have to run concurrently.  As history has shown, the adoption of a new “network platform does not happen overnight.”
  1. He “maintains that carriers can find plenty of existing spectrum to support 5G and free up more through re-farming, or the recycling of that which is currently dedicated to other uses.”
  1.  We will still have the use of the 4G.  Not everything, technologically speaking, is gonna be capable of utilizing the “new generation of wireless”.

Whether you subscribe to his views or believe in the futuristic visions being widely touted, the question remains: will we be ready?

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