By Andy Markem and J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D.

5G is going to garner in a remarkable new generations of wireless technologies. Very low latency will enable cars to communicate almost

instantly to help prevent accidents. HD movies will be able to stream almost instantly. Low power devices can run on batteries for years but still

communicate. But, the networks have to be built before the devices in order to provide all the benefits. We are in a “5G over-hype gap” from now until

the fall of 2020 and into 2021 before it all becomes a reality. The mantra here is to be very careful when you hear, “We have 5G now!”  

Last week we identified the development of 5G wireless technologies as one of the major technology trends that will (begin to) happen in 2019. Some operators (such as Verizon) is saying they have gone live already. But, without any devices that can transmit and/or receive 5G, it’s like hollering in a strong wind with no one able to hear you. It always causes consternation when you migrate from one major technology to another, but in this case there is going to be around 18-24 months between the introduction of 5G (now) until the operators have the time to build out all of the new 5G capabilities AND the handset manufacturers are able to build new smartphones and tablets with 5G modems (as well as a myriad of smaller devices).

There is a classic diagram in high technology called the Gartner Hype Cycle that is shown above in Figure 1 and which we have adapted to the rollout of 5G Wireless. This is not as complicated as it might appear. The first up and down cycle is the situation where hype of a new technology is out in front of the actual market. Vendors and the press are all talking about the new 5G wireless all over the place. There’s a ‘buzz’ in the consumer mind, e.g. “Wow, isn’t this amazing!” Early adopters will do almost anything to be the first ones to get a device that has the new 5G wireless technology. 

As you can see, the hype is simply that – hype. And that’s the stage we are now in with 5G. Operators are talking about it. Handset manufacturers are talking about it. The press is talking about it but no one can go out and actually buy it. 

It’s rather humorous to hear Verizon and AT&T say that have launched 5G in a number of cities. This is the early adoption phase without all the new features added. Try going into an AT&T store and say that you want to try out the new 5G. Here’s the way it might go:

“Hi. I’m interested in getting access to your new 5G. What phones use it? “

“Ah, none of them right now, but come over here and see our new 5G Wi-Fi hotspot router. You can use it today with you current devices. It has Wi-Fi on the front end and an early version of a 5G modem on the backend. It’s a lot faster than your current Wi-Fi modem. That will get you by until, oh say, 2020 or 2021 when the AT&T network will be upgraded to all of 5G and the phones will include 5G modems that incorporate the full 5G standard. With this cute little Wi-Fi hotspot modem, you can tell all your friends that you are using 5G today!”

“Ah huh. Let me see, does this 5G Wi-Fi hotspot modem run at full 5G speeds – you know – like download a movie in 15 seconds?”

“Well, ah, noooo … but it is faster than 4G. You’ll get that full featured 5G in a couple of years. How would you like to pay for this snappy new 5G Wi-Fi unit?”

“Just one more question. What about the cost? Are the data rates lower with 5G?” 

“Not yet, but we expect it to cost lot less in a couple of years.”  “Ok, nice talking to you.” (Walks out).

That’s what living in the over-hype phase is all about. You have to really, really want it to get it – sort of get it – at this stage. 

AT&T is also broadcasting TV commercials that say “5G E” which in the fine print says that the area is 5G “Evolution” which is very misleading. Almost every area of the country is going to ‘Evolve’ given enough time into having 5G. They could just as well said that the “E” stands for “Eventually.” I love most of what AT&T does, but I think that this is miss-leading advertising and should be removed until 5G smartphones available and the network has been fully deployed. Please AT&T, show some responsibility and remove those ads. 

It’s like AT&T is trying desperately to get the two letters “5G” out there to somehow make the public think that they are first with 5G even though they are just now starting to upgrade network infrastructure so it can be tested before it goes live. Further, the initial equipment for operators is not at the full 5G standard. AT&T should take the position more like Apple: they should say they are working on 5G and they will launch it when everyone can come buy 5Genabled devices that work on the 5G network. They should not try to fool the public over this. 

Now, with that said, here are some major improvements that 5G will provide over 4G:

You can see things like latency (response time), traffic, capacity, data rates, available spectrum and connection density. There are also parts of 5G that will operate at very low power. Yes, it is clearly going to be much, much better someday but not right now. 

Once 5G is fully deployed, there are going to be a number of significant benefits. The following diagram shows what the vision will be like when we get to that point. Whereas the previous diagram showed the technology improvements, the following diagram shows what we can expect to actually do with 5G wireless technology once it is in the market and customers can put it to good use.                                                                                                                                                               

Strategic Insights

Yes, there have been some very intelligent folks that have worked hard on making wireless much, much better than it has ever been before, but we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves here. The wonders of 5G wireless are still out in front of us. Let’s all take a deep breath and relax just a bit and let the wireless operators and device manufacturers work out the details so that we can all realize the benefits of 5G wireless. 

J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D. 

Principal Analyst, Mobile & Wireless

Mobilocity LLC [email protected]

404-855-9494

And

Jointly By:

Andy Marken 

Strategic Marketing & Public Relations

Marken Communications [email protected]

408-986-0100