Just as with 4G, the marketers will announce 5G products and services before the real thing is ready. Brace yourself for the onslaught.
To the engineering community, 5G has been a discussion topic for several years. Conferences such as the IEEE Microwave Symposium, for example, put 5G at the top of its program in 2017. 5G has been a hot topic at NI Week for several years as well. NYU's fifth annual Brooklyn 5G Summit takes place in April 2018. Keysight Technologies hosted a 5G conference in December 2017. All this time, the engineers have focused on the various technology segments of 5G and on making them work. Now, 5G is leaking into the consumer space. The marketing hype is coming; you can feel it.
Beamforming is just one aspect of 5G. Source: Anritsu.
This week, ZDNET's Larry Dignan used the term "5G overload" in his article, "5G takes center stage at CES 2018 with actual deployments later
." At least Dignan limited his 5G hype through the word "later." But now that 5G has reached CES, the real marketing wave is coming.
More evidence that the term 5G is being pushed around outside of engineering conferences came at Mobile World Congress, where EE Times
reported on what's being called "non-standalone
" 5G, meaning that initial 5G will ride on top of LTE. To me, that sounds like LTE Advanced Pro
but hyped as 5G.
We've seen it before. In 2010, T-Mobile started using 4G
even though the real 4G (LTE) didn't begin deployment until the following year. Of course, other carriers had no choice but to follow, lest they look like they were behind the times. When that happened, CNN went so far as to say that 4G is a myth
. Will we hear the same about 5G in 2018? You can bet on it.
Just as wireless carriers started calling 3.5G as 4G, the same will happen with 5G. Sure, Verizon and AT&T have announced initial 5G deployment plans, but not for your cellphone. Even though 5G will change wireless communications beyond simply pushing more data to your phone, the masses will think of 5G in terms of accelerated download speeds. Initially, Verizon is focusing on high-speed fixed access (as in for homes and businesses) and AT&T is focusing on low latency (as in for vehicles). Yes, those are 5G components, as are phased-array antennas, beamforming, mmWave, and software-defined networks.
LTE isn't done yet. Deployment continues with LTE Advanced Pro. I claim that it's unlikely that marketers will wait for widespread 5G deployment before initiating the hype. Even if they hold off until a real 5G technology is ready, the marketers will surely be vague about which 5G technology is being deployed. "5G looms, but it's more like 4.5G
5G deployments are coming, but in stages. The recent adoption of New Radio
(NR) standards by 3GPP appears to mark the beginning of the 5G age. But really, we're still a few years away from seeing many of 5G's components from entering deployment. Indeed, the NR standard still needs to evolve, and it will. That lack of a full standard won't hinder the marketers.
Say, for example, that the first 5G deployment uses beamforming. Marketers will claim 5G speeds even though they will not reach full potential until some time later. Then assume that network slicing and software-defined networks or true 5G NR come next. Marketers will call that "5G-Plus" or something like that. By the time 5G is completely deployed, we just might hear the marketers call it 6G. Remember, marketers talk funnier than ever
—Martin Rowe, Senior Technical Editor