With the introduction of new technologies comes an abundance of doubt and hearsay. Lindsay Notwell, SVP 5G Strategy and Global Carrier Relations, Cradlepoint, is here to tell us how the myths surrounding 5G are exactly that and why CIOs should consider integrating 5G into their current and next-generation wide-area network plans.
The rollout of 5G for business is imminent and it’s an exciting time for organisations everywhere who have heard about the many possibilities it offers. But alongside the 5G momentum, various myths have also emerged that could impact the choices businesses make in the future.
While it’s important to clarify the misunderstandings, looking at six of the most common myths also helps illustrate the practical possibilities for businesses plotting their pathway to 5G:
Myth #1: 5G is all about millimetre wave spectrum
Fact: 5G involves multiple layers of spectrum
Despite various network operators focusing their 5G messaging on millimetre wave spectrum, 5G is, in fact, spectrum independent. Mobile communication today uses a spectrum of between 600MHz and 2300MHz but the challenge this presents is that they have become very popular and busy. This results in capacity limitations.
The new higher capacity 5G spectrum comes from a variety of sources, including ‘re-farmed’ 2G and 3G spectrum that is being turned off in some places around the world and reallocated to 5G. In addition, new frequencies are being added as supplemental download bandwidth, such as those from CBRS at 3.5GHz, alongside other high-capacity, short distance spectrum in the 24-100GHz range.
Myth #2: 5G will replace 4G
Fact: 4G will work hand-in-glove with 5G
Without doubt, 4G will be with us for the foreseeable future and will almost certainly grow to a point of ubiquitous coverage. It is designed to work hand-in-glove with 5G and is continuing to develop, including the advance to Gigabit-Class LTE (Long-Term Evolution), providing theoretical performance of up to 1Gbps. Rather than being replaced by 5G, 4G will ‘shift up a generation’ as more networks rollout Gigabit-Class LTE.
According to Ericsson’s 2019 Mobility Report, momentum continues in the build-out of 4G (LTE) networks. Global 4G population coverage was around 75% at the end of 2018 and is forecast to reach over 90% in 2025. In addition, it points out that there are now 777 commercial 4G networks deployed, with 311 upgraded to LTE-Advanced and 36 Gigabit LTE networks now commercially launched.
The mobile industry is also committed to the long-term future of 4G as a network infrastructure component and it will be used by operators as the connection manager to provide the data path for 5G until it is strong enough to stand alone.
Myth #3: 5G will arrive all at once
FACT: 5G is rolling out in phases
A lot of people have predicted that the rollout of 5G will take years, but it’s more accurate to say it will take time to become ubiquitous but is already out there now. In the US, T-Mobile launched its low-band 5G service ‘nationwide’ in December leveraging 600Mhz and other spectrum assets. While the T-Mobile service is widely deployed, it provides limited performance advantages over today’s Gigabit-Class LTE. In South Korea, for example, one of the network operators already has more than three million 5G subscribers. But as a general rule, it will take time for the high-performance and ultra-low-latency versions of 5G to appear and it will happen in phases.
In terms of 5G coverage in the UK, EE, Vodafone, Three, BT, O2 and VOXI (an MVNO using the Vodafone network) have rolled out 5G services currently available in 22 towns and cities on at least one network. On a global scale, Ericsson’s Mobility Report predicts that global 5G coverage is expected to reach between 55% and 65% by the end of 2025.
Myth #4: The benefits of 5G will only be available once it’s deployed in my region
Fact: Gigabit-Class LTE already provides some of the same benefits that 5G will offer
Today’s Gigabit-Class LTE has performance characteristics that many people will find acceptable compared to their current wired networks. In many cases, it will offer much faster connectivity than their current infrastructure. It also offers the benefits of going wireless, with significant flexibility advantages and cost savings compared to traditional wired WANs.
Gigabit-Class LTE is also backward compatible – in places where the network hasn’t yet arrived, it can be specified as part of a solution, becoming active as soon as the network arrives. Crucially, adopting Gigabit-class LTE also puts users on a pathway to 5G, allowing them to easily upgrade when coverage is rolled out in their locality.
Myth #5: 5G will only make sense for huge organisations
Fact: There’s a pathway to 5G that can benefit enterprises of all sizes and circumstances
Businesses of any size will benefit from 5G. For example, organisations currently rooted in a traditional wired world should be thinking about applications such as wireless failover. And as time goes on, those organisations can expand its use for software-defined networking or routing certain types of traffic for performance, redundancy or cost reasons.
And looking at Gigabit-Class LTE today, it offers a variety of use cases and capabilities, such as video surveillance, which can be enabled by 4G and provides adequate performance for video recording. The improved capabilities of Gigabit-Class LTE and 5G, however, allow more powerful applications to be implemented, such as automated image pattern recognition or facial recognition.
Across a huge variety of sectors, from marketing to manufacturing, 5G will enable organisations large and small to save money, make money, gain competitive advantage and keep people safe.
Myth #6: 5G-capable solutions for consumers are the same as enterprises
Fact: What enterprises need from a 5G solution differs significantly from consumers
Just like any other home Internet service, consumers expect a 5G solution to provide fast, reliable and consistent performance that makes video and music streaming, gaming, interacting with voice assistants, such as Alexa and Google Assistant and other bandwidth-intensive activities an enjoyable and seamless experience. Of course, they also want the service to be priced at a flat rate.
Enterprises, on the other hand, have a much broader set of requirements when it comes to implementing 5G for business solutions. In addition to fast, reliable and consistent performance, the 5G solution — which consists of the 5G service plus 5G-capable wireless Edge router acting as CPE — must also be flexible, secure and manageable. This flexibility is in terms of the Edge router supporting the different fixed-site or branch connectivity requirements, such as Wi-Fi, wireless SD-WAN functionality, and advanced routing. Security requirements include supporting private networks, VPN, firewall, IPS/IDS and web security features to enable direct Internet access across the 5G service. Management is essential for enabling zero-touch deployments across hundreds or even thousands of sites. It also provides centralised monitoring for security events, uptime and application performance to ensure customers are getting the service they paid for from the carrier.
Like consumers, however, enterprises also demand predictable, fixed-rate 5G services to eliminate budget risk and simplify the 5G deployment planning process.
Conclusion – start now
Now that these common 5G myths have been dispelled, CIOs should consider integrating 5G into their current and next-generation wide-area network plans. More importantly, they should consider getting started with LTE today to help them gain the experience needed for a more wireless WAN in the future and address current needs for better reliability and performance in the network.