The FCC announced today that New York and Salt Lake City have been designated as the first two “Innovation Zones” for advanced wireless research and development, including 5G. Both cities are already operating licensed experimental programs, but the FCC’s designation as Innovation Zones will allow them to expand their tests and conduct more experiments.
“These projects will test new advanced technologies and prototype networks like those that can support 5G technologies,” FCC Chair Ajit Pai said in the press release. “We’re also establishing a process to ensure new innovators can have access to this testing resource while protecting current, licensed users.”
New York City already has some 5G available, and AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have all announced that they are building 5G networks there. Salt Lake City is on Verizon’s list of cities to receive 5G this year.
US Cellular has committed to making rural locations the focus of their 5G plans, and this week they confirmed that Racine, Wisconsin will be one of the first cities in which they launch 5G next year. At the Smart Cities conference, taking place in Racine this week, vice president of sales business channels at U.S. Cellular Jim Anetsberger announced that his company would be bringing 5G to the city in early 2020.
US Cellular has not been as prominent in the 5G space as other carriers in the country, but in 2020 they will join the market with deployments in Wisconsin and other as-yet-unnamed locations.
Apple made some announcements about their streaming services and upcoming iPhone 11 Pro today, but there was no mention of a 5G-capable iPhone. Analysts indicate that Apple is in a “holding pattern” for the time being as they wait to launch a 5G iPhone, which is expected to happen next year.
5G has been rolling out around the country, primarily from Verizon and AT&T, but there are limited devices available for customers to utilize the new service. Many would-be customers are eagerly anticipating a 5G-capable iPhone, and it looks like Apple is holding off on making major changes to the iPhone line until they are ready to launch that. 5G coverage should be much improved by the time Apple joins the 5G market, sure to make a 5G iPhone even more popular.
With the launch of service in New York City this month, AT&T has now made 5G available in 21 cities in the US. Their plan is to have nationwide coverage by the middle of next year.
AT&T is also in the process of rolling out 5G on the sub-6GHz spectrum. “We will also introduce 5G broadly over sub-6GHz in the coming months,” AT&T said. “Providing 5G over multiple spectrum bands will enable our customers to benefit from the ultra-fast speeds of 5G millimeter wave as well as the broader coverage ranges of 5G sub-6.”
Customers in areas with AT&T 5G service available can use the new network on the Galaxy S10 5G on AT&T;s Business Unlimited Preferred plan.
5G, or the fifth generation of wireless technology, is being rolled out around the country by Verizon, AT&T, and other carriers. Many are wondering how it really compares to the current 4G standard, LTE, as well as older technology. 5G promises to be exponentially faster, and there are known limitations in the coverage it can provide vs 3G and 4G, but many potential users are not familiar with all of the differences between the generations.
Visual Capitalist has put together a guide illustrating the differences between the various wireless technologies, as well as the availability of 5G. Read more to see how 5G compares and where users can get coverage.
The biggest issue with 5G technology is the limitations of coverage, due to milimeter wave frequency’s lack of ability to penetrate buildings. Verizon has found a solution to that problem for airports, stadiums, hotels, office buildings, and other indoor public spaces by partnering with Boingo Wireless. Verizon announced today that they will leverage Boingo’s distributed antenna system and WiFi technologies to design networks that will bring 5G to indoor spaces.
Verizon is continuing with their 5G development by deploying infrastructure in Denver, but some locals are not happy. Some have health concerns (although the FCC has recently confirmed again that 5G is safe), but others are concerned about the towers being an eyesore or other infrastructure-related issues.
A spokeswoman for Denver Public Works confirmed that Verizon and other carriers have built out 122 new poles, each about thirty feet tall, in the city to accommodate the 5G small cells. Other small cells have also been deployed on light poles and other existing towers. Many residents have mixed feelings about the development.
“I think everybody wants faster connection and Internet,” one local said. “I think people will really question the costs of it, whether that’s health costs, the aesthetic costs… . There are costs to things that aren’t always monetary.”
Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, confirmed to reporters that his office is making 5G development a priority.
“We’re looking at 5G, which is a Department of Defense initiative that was given to R&E to supervise. We’re evermore convinced, given especially all the news centering around Huawei — who will and won’t buy their hardware, whether we will or won’t — [that] microelectronics [and] assured microelectronics is a key priority,” Griffin said.
The Pentagon sees 5G as an important technology for IoT and defense, and Griffin said that he expects new funds to be allocated to 5G in the fiscal 2021 budget. “You’ll see that we’ve requested significant money, we’re actually requesting extra money in [FY20] for that and in the [Future Years Defense Program]. When those budgets are released, you’ll see all that,” he said. “This is a major initiative for us.”
Like with any new technology, some people have raised concerns about the potential safety hazards of 5G wireless. The FCC has previously said that it was safe, and officials confirmed again this week that there is no indication that 5G is any less safe than 3G or 4G.
5G transmits over higher frequencies than the radio waves used for 4G, but 5G waves are part of the radio spectrum known as non-ionizing radiation and are even less energetic than visible light. The FCC stated that their regulations are “among the most stringent in the world” and that there is no need for any changes to be made to regulations to address 5G.
During his keynote address at the Oppenheimer technology, internet, and communications conference, Verizon consumer EVP Ronan Dunne spoke out on T-Mobile’s recent accusation that Verizon lacks strategy for their 5G development. “The first thing to understand is not all 5G is created equal,” he said, explaining “the broader the bandwidth you have, the available spectrum bandwidth you have, the more of the features and capabilities of 5G that you can enable.”
Dunne further explained that because carriers like T-Mobile are utilizing mid-band spectrum (which is better for penetration and provides good coverage but doesn’t offer the speeds that millimeter wave can provide), in many places 5G will be more like “good 4G service.” Verizon is using millimeter wave in urban areas but will use mid-band spectrum in outlying areas.