Provided by CRU
The term “5G” refers to the fifth generation of mobile-cellular network technology. In 2018, this generation is in a phase of field trials. A few “pioneering” companies – wireless telecom network operators, or “carriers” – have announced plans to introduce commercial 5G services in late 2018 or 2019. For most carriers, however, commercial deployment will not get underway until 2020 or later.
There are vast differences between 5G and the earlier generations. For customers, the main differences will include faster transmission speeds and greater efficiency. The faster speeds will support improved video delivery as well as new services, such as augmented reality, or virtual reality. For the carriers, there are significant differences in building and operating the networks. A big difference is that antenna sites will be closer together. This has implications on other network infrastructure, especially the cable network that carries the data to and from the antenna sites.
Another big difference for carriers is that 5G technology is being developed to carry new services and to support new types of customers. For example, 5G is intended to help industrial companies to control robots and other factory machines more efficiently. Another example will be enhanced services for cars and other vehicles, including communications for driverless vehicles as that technology develops. Thus, 5G’s proponents say the technology will open new revenue streams for the carriers, revenues that will be in addition to the monthly fees paid by consumers and other subscribers now using mobile services.
These new services are among the reasons why 5G has received so much advanced publicity, and why carriers are eager to deploy 5G. Considering the timing of the earliest cellular technology trials in the 1970s, the mobile industry is about 40 years old.
And during this time, there has been a cyclical pattern with about 10 years been the commercial launch of each generation. For 5G, however, the first commercial deployments will fall a little sooner – only eight to nine years since 4G networks entered service. In fact, many carriers are still building out their 4G networks, and they haven’t had many years of pay-back on their 4G investments.
Many information and communications technology (ICT) industry executives, however, have claimed that 5G represents a bigger step than the earlier generations. In these claims, 5G will be part of more sweeping changes in ICT, including artificial intelligence (AI), greater use of cloud functions for more services, such as medicine, and the Internet of things (IoT). In this context, 5G is not just another generation of mobile services, but it is an integral part of new manufacturing processes, improved transportation services, smart cities, energy management, and new medical procedures.