5G by 2017: Is it Possible?

October 23, 2015
By: Ed Fox

Recently, Verizon (News - Alert) announced that it will begin trials on 5G (or fifth-generation) wireless technology within the next 12 months. This came as a surprise to many, myself included, as the expected date for 5G availability is still at least a few years down the line. According to Roger Gurnani, Verizon’s executive vice president and CIO, “5G is no longer a dream of the distant future,” and Verizon believes that by 2017 there will be “some level of commercial deployment.” To facilitate the process, Verizon has set a plan in motion which involves establishing teams to ensure innovation, creating 5G network environments and beginning technology field trials as early as 2016.

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This timeline for 5G adoption is much earlier than many industry experts believe possible, especially since we are still continuously developing 4G and 4G LTE (News - Alert) technology. I don’t doubt Verizon’s ability to lead the charge towards 5G, as they were leaders in the trials for 4G and 4G LTE, but deploying 5G will be a serious and ongoing undertaking.

Following Verizon’s announcement, AT&T (News - Alert) jumped into the conversation to put a temporary hold on the excitement. “We’re not at a point to be making promises or commitments to customers as to what 5G is,” said AT&T CEO, Glenn Lurie. “We as an industry have been really good at overpromising and under delivering when it comes to new technology.” While Lurie declined to comment specifically on any work AT&T might be doing on a 5G network, he did add that the company is trying to set a standard for the fifth-generation wireless technology.

My own prediction for 5G is a timeline running through 2024. I believe that we are still a long way away from seeing the technology necessary to develop a fifth-generation network, not to mention that many of the requirements are still being negotiated in standards bodies. Currently, we are in the concept trials and lab design stage, which is just the first of many steps before consumers will see 5G come to fruition. As previously mentioned by AT&T, the industry as a whole is working to set a standard for 5G, as there is no definitive answer on what we should expect to see from the technology. The vision for a 5G network should become standardized by 2018. As for now, our understanding of 5G is still at a very basic level.

Besides standardization, other issues in deploying a 5G network include costs, enterprise deployment and carrier “garden walls.” The process of creating 5G wireless technology is expected to be expensive, considering wireless carriers have spent millions on adopting 4G in the past and still are spending similar amounts even today. As enterprises continue to use higher levels of data, the 5G that is currently being developed may already be behind in bandwidth requirements before the technology is even deployed. Another barrier is the possibility of wireless carriers having complete control over the sharing of personal data and over-the-top (OTT) services.

Even with these challenges along the way, 5G technology will be well worth the trouble. Looking forward, a 5G network will support the ever-evolving Internet of Things and make wireless connections faster and more reliable, benefiting both consumers and enterprises. 5G technology will bring fast and extensive connections to all wireless devices for consumers, while allowing enterprises to keep up with the demands of a fast-paced, connected workforce. Over the next year, it will be exciting to see the progress we make as an industry on the journey to deploying 5G wireless technology.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere