5G takes center stage at CES 2018 with actual deployments later

Welcome to CES 2018 and 5G overload as the technology industry goes into overdrive pitching the perks of next-generation wireless. 5G will be a big deal for business just not quite yet.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Video: 5G explained

By the time CES 2018 wraps up it's likely that you'll hear the term "5G" so much that it'll seem like next-generation speedy wireless service is already here.

5G is progressing, but let's not get carried away. 5G refers to the fifth generation wireless broadband technology based on the 802.11ac standard. Speed and coverage for 5G will be better than 4G and potentially compete with services from cable and telecom providers. Think low-latency wireless speed up to 1 GB/s. These fast connections are likely to enable a host of business applications and smarter Internet of things deployments.

At CES 2017, 5G was talked up a good bit. This year's CES will feature talks about how 5G will revamp industries and enable everything from smarter homes to business to autonomous driving.

Also: Executive's guide to mobile security (free ebook)

Now 5G is promising. To wit:

AT&T will offer 5G in 12 markets by end of 2018, but more importantly the company is focused on specific use cases. Jefferies analyst Scott Goldman noted:

Management is seemingly taking a different view than Verizon when it comes to 5G. AT&T believes the technology is more about low latency rather than speed, and while Verizon appears focused on going after geographic footprint, AT&T is more focused on specific use cases. Examples include virtual reality, autonomous cars, and vertical-specific solutions. AT&T to provide 5G to 12 markets by end of 2018, fibre to 82 metros by mid-2019 | AT&T Labs' Mazin Gilbert on AI, quantum computing, data collaboration and 5G

Verizon is plotting a broad 5G rollout starting in 2018 with a positioning that goes head-to-head with cable companies. Verizon is thinking residential and then business and IoT for its 4G launch. Verizon 5G to launch in Sacramento in 2018

Standards for 5G have come together well with the supplier ecosystem--Qualcomm, Intel, Ericsson and a hot of others--aligned. 5G specs approved, sets stage for next-gen business mobility | Ericsson leads 5G interoperability test with global carriers

As CNET noted, however, it's unclear how much hardware will support 5G in 2018. The timelines are also traditionally muddy. Just because a product is announced at CES doesn't mean it'll land anytime soon--if at all.

The other wrinkle here is that the term "5G" is also going to be abused to the point where in some camps it'll be more like enhanced 4G. Chris Duckett recently noted in our 2018 preview:

The next generation of mobile communication is slowly and deliberately coming together, and it will be known as 5G. But as far as consensus goes, that's pretty much it with 5G, everything else about it is up in the air.

The problem with 5G is that it doesn't have a definition, and that means some telco is probably going to slap the label into a slightly-faster-than-LTE connection at some point.

Nevertheless, 5G will help the battery life of IoT devices and enable more analytics at the edge of the network. 5G will also be a boon for analytics as well as latency in the IoT field.

Like all technology shifts, the rollout of 5G may be a bit complicated. IHS Markit noted in its 2018 trends preview:

The path to full 5G adoption and deployment is complicated, with new opportunities and challenges alike in store for mobile network operators, infrastructure providers, device manufacturers, and end-users. 5G--the next generation of cellular technology after LTE--represents a dramatic expansion of traditional cellular technology use-cases beyond mobile voice and broadband, to include a multitude of IoT and mission-critical applications.

In a chart, the 5G timeline goes something like this:


5G's impact, which we will hear about nonstop at CES 2018, will include the following:

  • IoT will be more relevant in difficult locations and enable more automation.
  • Low power wireless access will be enabling for IoT and sensors.
  • Industries are likely to use new standards for private LTE. These private networks will be critical for industrial customers such as oil and gas.
  • Personalization and edge intelligence.

While 5G deployments will be shrouded in more video consumption and entertainment the returns are likely to be all about business use. CES 2018 is likely to be the second installment of 5G chatter leading up to actual deployments and real use cases in 2019 and 2020.

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