Now that it is 2018 and we have technology and some guidance into the 5G platform, the taking of license to say we have 5G is ramping up. The pressure to deliver on promises made, a year or two ago, to see 5G in 2018, is mounting.
I can see it coming – vendors claiming 5G technology when their technology has bumped up the baseline to flirt with 5G specs.
Here are a couple of examples. And this is not always the vendors making bold claims. I hear it from the industry media as well.
This one is simply a spin on the 5G umbrella and not necessarily a stretch on technology. I just read where Verizon is going to “launch” 5G fixed wireless in Sacramento this year.
California always is at the head of the pack when it comes to technology. The carriers saw the need for increased capacity and speed years ago, and started looking into small cells. That has evolved into a partnership with a company called XG, which was chartered to take Sacramento to the next level of broadband. The details of this arrangement are available if one is interested. However, they are not really important for this discussion.
Anyway, now that the setup is written, here is the important part. Verizon is claiming that this rollout is 5G. Why? Because a deployment of small cells meets one of the metrics of 5G – more bandwidth and faster speeds. Never mind they are simply an adjunct to the current wireless infrastructure and not an evolving segment of the 5G platform. Yet it is being touted as a “5G” deployment and advertising Sacramento as one of the first cities to have 5G.
There is an old saying that goes somewhat like this, “no matter how much lipstick you put on a pig, it remains a pig.” Small cells have been around since before 5G was even a glimmer in the eye of the wireless ecosystem. Saying a network of small cells, which were deployed to ease the bandwidth crunch and speed up the network, is 5G is, well, kind of like the pig and lipstick analogy. It is not 5G no matter how much the industry wishes, or promotes it as 5G.
Another similar situation exists in Maine. A company called Redzone, one of the fixed wireless providers, is saying it will deliver speeds of 100 Mbps in its networks. It is using that number to claim 5G services. Hmmm…wonder why it uses the term “5Gx” to describe its services as opposed to 5G. Could it be because their technology does not adhere to the 3GPP 5G standard?
Redzone claims it is using a proprietary technology, along with both licensed and unlicensed frequencies, from 2.5 GHz to 60 GHz offer “5G” performance. Well, if that is the case, why do we even need the 3GPP standard?
All of this slight-of-hand is stratifying throughout the industry; and, it is becoming a bit tiresome. Another vendor, Ruckus, recently stamped the 5G moniker on its platform of combined LTE and Wi-Fi, claiming 5G performance. And AT&T has added their own spin on 5G with the term “5G Evolution.” Their rationale is that implementing technologies such as 4×4 MIMO (since MIMO is a key enabler of 5G) means their technologies and platforms are of the fifth generation.
I have a feeling we are going to see a lot more “loose” interpretations of 5G this year. The closer we get to 5G, the more the industry players are going to stretch their “5G-like” technology.
In the end, wireless technology is going to continue to progress. It is nice to have a defined goal such as 5G. But it would have been nicer if we took it to heart and really worked, in common, to make that goal a reality. Instead we race along wildly in our own directions claiming we are following the path, but, all the while, players are trying to capture market with spin doing whatever they can to make it seem kind of, sort of, like 5G.
Let us just hope that when 5G is firm, and both software and hardware are finalized, that everybody gets on board. If not, it is going to be very messy.
Executive Editor/Applied Wireless Technology
His 20-plus years of editorial experience includes being the Editorial Director of Wireless Design and Development and Fiber Optic Technology, the Editor of RF Design, the Technical Editor of Communications Magazine, Cellular Business, Global Communications and a Contributing Technical Editor to Mobile Radio Technology, Satellite Communications, as well as computer-related periodicals such as Windows NT. His technical writing practice client list includes RF Industries, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Agilent Technologies, Advanced Linear Devices, Ceitec, SA, and others. Before becoming exclusive to publishing, he was a computer consultant and regularly taught courses and seminars in applications software, hardware technology, operating systems, and electronics. Ernest’s client list has included Lucent Technologies, Jones Intercable, Qwest, City and County of Denver, TCI, Sandia National Labs, Goldman Sachs, and other businesses. His credentials include a BS, Electronic Engineering Technology; A.A.S, Electronic Digital Technology. He has held a Colorado Post-Secondary/Adult teaching credential, member of IBM’s Software Developers Assistance Program and Independent Vendor League, a Microsoft Solutions Provider Partner, and a life member of the IEEE. He has been certified as an IBM Certified OS2 consultant and trainer; WordPerfect Corporation Developer/Consultant and Lotus Development Corporation Developer/Consultant. He was also a first-class FCC technician in the early days of radio.