“Gee Whiz” is an old-fashioned phrase, first used in 1876, but the combo of astonishment + speed related to the saying may well describe 5G speed in telecommunications. In this case, the G is for generation. And whiz – it’s still about speed.
5G is fifth generation mobile technology. Back in the days of 2G, mobile phones and texting were new, 3G brought mobile broadcast data, and 4G was faster and came to be called Long Term Evolution (LTE). Now we are at the advent of 5G. Ericsson created the initial 5G platform in 2017, but it is only in 2020 that 5G is coming to market. 5G is a breakthrough because of a something called “latency.”
Latency is the time it takes for information sent to be received. While 4G seemed fast at the time, taking about 30 milliseconds from sender to receiver, 5G could travel that synapse in 1-2 milliseconds. That whiz of time is barely perceptible. Closing the gap of latency will enable leaps the “Internet of Things” (IoT) including:
Many breakthroughs in technology began with military or government research, including the Internet that stemmed from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), founded in 1958 by American President Eisenhower in response to Sputnik’s success the year prior. DARPA led to computer networking, the Internet, and graphical user interfaces – and also to the NASA lunar landing.
Now, government may again take the lead in connection. The United States Department of Defense is exploring sharing a new 5G wireless network with commercial enterprises. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon are rolling out 5G upgrades, and Google’s Alphabet has advocated sharing the wireless spectrum. A shared network would keep military use, but add commercial partners. License bidding for spectrum access through a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) raised $4.6 billion recently; in December 2020, another auction will determine future power and access. While CTIA, trade association for the wireless industry, may favor private-sector decisions, some advocate sharing. Precedent may be found in FirstNet, AT&T’s $40 billion service for fire-fighters and public safety. In 2021, the Pentagon may direct 100 megahertz of spectrum towards the FCC for auction. What do you think of military and commercial interests – combined or separate?
Meanwhile, 5G network leaders include Ericsson (ERIC) with a market capitalization of $25 billion, Nokia (NOK) with $18.5 billion, and Qualcomm, with $81 billion market capitalization. Ericsson created the first 5G platform in 2017. Huawei is among 35 global carriers active in 5G deployment. New chips will be needed: Qorvo (QRVO) and Skyworks Solutions (SWKS) are active. It will also mean new phones: Apple (AAPL) announced the 5G-capable iPhone 12 this week.
Speed has always driven advances in transport. Wheels were faster than walking; cars were faster than horses (we still use the term “horsepower” for speed); jets were faster than propeller-equipped aircraft. Now, a new era of connective transport is arriving, with the advent of 5G. But latency exists in more than signals; it’s also a roll-out timing factor. Full 5G capability requires new infrastructure. China, South Korea, and Switzerland made progress in 2019; in 2020, U.S. low-band is more available than mid-band or high-band, and only in some cities. By 2023, 5G may support more than 10% of the world’s mobile connections. Investors are betting on developing capacity, including chip-makers, with the next wave of significant activity from 2021-2022. Meanwhile, important policy issues regarding 5G access are in discussion: what do you think?
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Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp