March 21, 2017
I recently saw highlights from a report by ABI research. I am very familiar with that firm and have spoken with many of their subject matter experts about a variety of topics. While I think they are well entrenched in many industries, and have some of the best experts around, sometimes I think their analysis may be a bit off the mark.
For example, the firm recently did a research report on the transition to 5G. while it was pretty spot-on about how 5G will be a gradual transition, I’m not so sure they are right about 4G predictions – at least concerning the time frame.
The report implies that 4G, and its enhancements over the next few years as 5G emerges, will offer some of the same advancements that 5G will eventually offer. I have to wonder about that. I think that may be true in some of the more generic platforms, such as social media and text/voice. But I am not so sure it will be able to handle the data tsunami that is ramping up – especially with multimedia.
There are some issues with the present 4G, such as latency, modulation schemes and some others. Not that people aren’t working on that. Some advanced “4G+” platforms have shown promise in dealing with such challenges. But so far, they are mostly in the lab or out in a test scenario.
ABI says LTE carries about 67 percent of all mobile traffic currently. Well, I can tell you this; while that may be true, my 4G connections leave a lot to be desired when it comes to speed. And that speed is all over the map, depending upon where and when. ABI claims that by 2022 LTE will carry 82 percent of all mobile traffic. While that also may be true, the QoS of that number will leave a lot to be desired. So, just because the number is plausible, it isn’t just always about the numbers.
2022 is only two years past the inauguration year for 5G. it is pretty predictable that, in 2022, 5G will still be evolving. In fact, many experts I talk to say 5G won’t be the predominant wireless platform until late into the 2020’s, so saying 82 percent of all mobile traffic will still be 4G in 2022 is a pretty safe guess as a bounded statistic.
I think there is a pretty wide margin here. A couple of years at least. And if the numbers get better, that is good for all of us. If they get worse, well, we are all familiar with the promises versus delivery in the wireless arena.
The industry is developing gigabit LTE in response to the changing demand for bandwidth. Various schemes like carrier aggregation are part of that arsenal. But spectrum is still finite for LTE and latency always rears its ugly head. And that is more important than bandwidth for some apps, especially real-time ones.
Now don’t get me wrong. 4G LTE is here to stay. Especially in rural and sparsely populated sprawling areas. But in the densification arena, 4G LTE is likely to become strained.
Since 5G is going to start out mainly as point to point or point to multipoint, using mmWave, the coverage areas are relatively limited and sensitive. But deployment of hardware will eventually resolve that issue.
And, let’s not forget Edge Computing, which is going to become a very important metric that ideally lends itself to 5G.
In the end, the variations of 4G LTE will play alongside 5G. But at the very end, 5G will be the predominant, next generation platform for much of the wireless world and LTE will handle the back end in many cases.