Often, when I am having a discussion with individuals, particularly millennials and iGens, about why their wireless is not working and all else is good, I answer because it is wireless. Immediately, their eyes gloss over and their brain seems to short circuit. After a few seconds, or minutes in some cases, they come back to reality and the general response is “but, I was told (or under the impression) that wireless is always supposed to work.”
To be fair, not all responses are such, but the vast majority I have come across seem to be. As well, I have witnessed some pretty angry and tantrum-ous reactions when some of these individuals lose service, for whatever reason.
In a recent discussion with a contemporary, he made the statement that we seem to have developed a mentality that wireless is infallible. 5G, the Cloud, the Edge, etc., are all promising ubiquitous, anytime, anywhere wireless connectivity. That, to me, is a dangerous precedent.
Last week I was heading up to Sturgis and had many instances where wireless was not available. I have had similar occurrences on other road trips, across the country, over the years – still do. Therefore, the image that soon, we will have a wireless omnipresence is, really, quite far from the truth – at least for the immediate future. Not to say that wireless coverage will not be omnipresent in the places that matter. However, I doubt one will find it in the Mohave Desert or in the Andes, or at the South Pole anytime soon.
Now, one can argue that I am being a bit ridiculous with these extremes – perhaps so. However, there are many places that are populated, where wireless will be difficult, expensive or prohibitive, for any number of reasons. Is that the first use case for 5G – low/no coverage areas (not the desert, of course, but what about rural America or long stretches of lonely highways)?
Moreover, are people expecting that 5G will eliminate this? Unlikely, but are we being sold the goods that it will? The reason that there is no 4G in such places will be the same reason it will be low on the 5G deployment totem pole. So to put out that the next generation of wireless will wrap us in a wireless cocoon, everywhere, all the time, and with 100 percent reliability is, IMHO, setting those who see wireless as infallible up for more disappointment.
Much of this ubiquitous wireless championing comes from the marketing segment. Not that I am trying to dis marketing, but we all know that their job is to spin things and, stretch the truth, or even put information out there that is wrong or impossible to achieve, at least at the moment (hoping that it will be working shortly).
Over the last couple of years, wireless has become a transparent technology to the masses. I the early days of radio, “FM” had a colloquial meaning quite different from its real meaning – and there is some truth to that, to the unknowing. The image we are painting of today and tomorrow’s wireless world is not likely to be the world we get, at least not for a couple of decades. However, will it matter? There are a couple of interesting issues here.
One is the hype surrounding mmWave. Verizon just put out a media piece that claims 5G mobile mmWave for a 2019 target. As usual, it was sketchy in details and heavy on hype, but this is the kind of stuff that the consumer sees and thinks will be this great new mobile service, ready for prime time, when it is only in its infancy.
I suspect that early mobile mmWave services, 5G or otherwise, will be fraught with challenges. One can also argue that we went through this in the 1970s with the birth of cellular. However, one has to remember that there was no precedent at that time and, even though, there was quite a bit of hype around it, people did not know what to expect. With 5G, there is a very long history of voice and data that has people expecting a lot!
However, there is a redeeming feature here – we already have a pretty good wireless infrastructure in places where it matters. Moreover, frankly, most of the people I talk to about this, from millennial on up, are not all that unsatisfied with what they presently have. That presents a challenge to operators (and there is a great deal of discussion around this) on how to get 5G omnipresent and into the hands of people who may not, necessarily, be chomping at the bit to jump to 5G, So here we go again with marketing being tasked to sell this to the consumer and the enterprise.
The fact that we have such a great wireless infrastructure in place might just be the hidden gem as well as the bane of deploying ubiquitous 5G. The gem being, it is not a make or break technology that will, radically, alter the wireless landscape for the immediate future (contrary to what some would like you to believe). If it is not, fully, deployed in a year or two, or five, or ten, there is plenty of 4G+ to pick up the slack, again for the immediate future. The bane is, how to make it a must-have play. So far, that has been elusive.
Eventually, of course, we will need what 5G technology has to offer. However, it will be a while before the grandiose 5G vision is realized. In the meantime, we should not proceed as if the next year or two will radically change the wireless landscape. That could be dangerous to the last couple of generation’s mental stability.
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, Lucent Technologies, , Qwest, City and County of Denver, Sandia National Labs, Goldman Sachs, 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. 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. He is a senior/life member of the IEEE, the Press Liaison for the IEEE Vehicular Technology Society and a member of the IEEE Communications Society, IEEE MTT Society, IEEE Vehicular Technology Society and the IEEE 5G Community. He was also a first-class FCC technician in the early days of radio.