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5G: a hype or a must?

In recent months, a lot has been written about 5G networks and the future of the technology. It almost seems as if every supplier is trying to convince you that you must make a migration step from your current broadband environment to this new super-fast network.

Before discussing the future and the applications of this new super-fast broadband network, what do you know about the meaning and history behind it? The "G" in 5G stands for "Generation" and 5G indicates that we are dealing with the 5th generation broadband network.

The diagram below shows the evolution of the five generations.

4G is now widely accepted and used and 5G still has a long way to go. South Korea was the first country that used the 5G network. In December 2018, three providers launched a still very limited network. It currently can only be used by enterprise users and a small number of cities. It is expected that in the course of 2019 the first consumer electronics that can make use of the network becomes available. This will happen when the European Institute for Telecommunication Standards (EIT) formalizes the global technology standards for 5G. This means that telecom companies, which, as usual, carry the largest share of broadband network-related innovations, will roll out their products commercially between 2020 and 2025.

What is 5G going to deliver extra to the previous generation? The diagram shows the greatest benefits of the 5G network.

Service providers and hardware suppliers will use the benefits of 5G to persuade you to use their, almost obviously, more expensive 5G network as quickly as possible in order to keep their business profitable. They will compete against each other with arguments such as "even better coverage", "even higher capacity", "even lower latency" and "even higher speeds". However, most service suppliers will get the same from their network without large differences.

This means that they must look for other possibilities to differentiate from the competition. The previous generations of networks had to be reliable and fast. For 5G, however, the requirements are many times higher and therefore higher demands are placed on this new network and its management. New applications that are expected to use the 5G network (e.g. high-resolution video and autonomous driving) require low latency and fast distribution of data. The current datacenters of the service providers are unlikely to be able to immediately meet the desired capacities and it will take some time before all adjustments have been made.

A final hurdle that you as a user have to take into account is that the 5G network is really a new network and that almost all devices which use this network will require other chipsets. This is therefore going to have to make new investment.

In short, what you must consider is that the 5G network is coming but is still in full development. My advice for companies, except for service providers, of course, is to keep a close look at the developments and invest where necessary on the short term to keep enough budget available when major changes need to be made to your infrastructure which by then most likely can be done at a lower cost.

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