The UK government has set their sights on 5G as a tool to increase safety, communication, and efficiency in communities. To see how 5G can benefit real-world communities, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is looking for a city with a popular of at least 500,000 people in which a 5G network can be launched. Digital minister Margot James said: “This is a huge opportunity for an urban area to become the flagship of our ambitious programme to make Britain fit for the future and a world leader in 5G. Trialling 5G at scale across an entire city is a chance to prove the economic benefits predicted from this new technology, test different methods of deployment, and boost the connectivity of ordinary people working and living there.”
While most of the world is looking towards 5G as a huge improvement over previous generations in every way, the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) is concerned about security flaws. In their report, ENISA noted that “there is a certain risk of repeating history” if 5G networks uses the same signaling protocols used in 2G, 3G and 4G mobile. Known flaws in the SS7 and Diameter signalling protocols have allowed traffic to be eavesdropped, spoofed, or intercepted by attackers, and there are concerns that 5G networks may use the same or similar protocols – although that remains to be seen at this stage.
While Verizon has been making the most noise when it comes to US carriers discussing their 5G plans, AT&T is not sitting idly by. This week AT&T announced their plans to being rolling out 60,000 5G “white box” routers at its cell towers over the next few years.
In their statement, they explained that AT&T is “transitioning from the traditional, proprietary routers that sit inside these structures to new hardware that’s built around open standards and can be quickly upgraded via software.” They went on to explain how their move to open source operating systems and “white box” routers will mean decreased latency at the network edge, as well as easier upgrades and updates in the future.
The race to be one of the first providers to offer 5G service is worldwide, with carriers around the globe clamoring to be able to tout their networks’ availability. Here in the US, Verizon has announced plans to launch a limited 5G network this year, but some other carriers are skeptical. When Korea Telecom announced plans this week to make their 5G service available in 2019, they commented that Verizon’s promised 5G network is actually “a step backward,” since it will not provide broad coverage. As a KT executive Oh Seong-Mok explained, “it is true 5G only when coverage is guaranteed,” so because Verizon’s 2018 launch will not provide nationwide coverage, the door remains open for KT’s launch to be the first true 5G service in the world.
While KT has a point, launching a nationwide network in a country the size of the US is no small task – and if Verizon delivers on their promise to launch 5G in some areas this year, it will still be a huge step in wireless.
UK mobile operator O2 released a report this week titled “The value of 5G for cities and communities,” detailing the anticipated positive impacts 5G will have in a variety of sectors. The report utilizes research and examples rooted in the UK, but the message is global: the integration of 5G technology in any city or town could mean billions of dollars in savings and increased productivity.
The report illustrates potential benefits everywhere from healthcare to transportation to energy. Leveraging 5G to enable widespread adoption of video conferencing by medical professionals, for example, would allow doctors to offer remote consultations when office visits are not necessary and would improve post-hospitalization patient monitoring. In the transportation industry, 5G sensors would enable predictive maintenance to reduce train delays and cancellations. The possibilities are virtually endless, and so are the benefits!
Donald Trump cited security concerns as the reason behind his executive order blocking Broadcom’s proposed acquisition of Qualcomm, and it appears that it’s Qualcomm’s 5G knowledge and research that US leaders are concerned about. Qualcomm has been a leader in the fledgling – but extremely important – 5G arena, and US experts may not want that expertise and advantage to be lost to the Singapore-based Broadcom. This move is certainly in line with other decisions Trump has made to penalize or block foreign interest in certain industries, so it seems likely that the motive for the decision may be purely political and not actually influenced by legitimate 5G-related security concerns.
5G promises super-fast speeds, but just how fast will 5G networks really be – and what does that mean in a practical sense?
For comparison, LTE users in the US typically see speeds around 20Mbps, although speeds north of 60Mbps are possible in certain markets and under ideal conditions. That is a huge improvement over older technologies like EVDO and HSPA+, but can still feel sluggish when downloading very large files or doing other bandwidth-intensive activities.
At Mobile World Congress this year, Samsung was able to achieve speeds of up to 4 gigabits-per-second (Gbps) during their demonstration of their 5G routers. That’s 4000Mbps, almost unimaginably faster than LTE speeds – fast enough to download a 100GB file in under 4 minutes!
Obviously, results from a testing environment are unlikely to translate to an identical real-world experience – but if 5G networks are able to provide users with even half of these types of speeds, that would be an exponential improvement over LTE.
5G was the hot topic at last week’s Mobile World Congress, with carriers and manufacturers of everything from laptops to smartphones showing off their plans and visions for a 5G future. A less flashy but arguably more important demonstration was made by National Instruments, who demonstrated their 5G New Radio (NR) sub-6GHz emulator as a solution to lower testing costs and improve time-to-market for carriers and modem and hardware manufacturers.
Testing hardware and software like the offerings from National Instruments are critical to getting 5G equipment to market, particularly while the technology and the adopted standards are so new. National Instruments’ emulator can be programmed to behave like different modems and simulate various RF conditions, allowing engineers to test their 5G equipment in a world that does not yet have 5G.
To show off their solution at Mobile World Congress, National Instruments partnered with Samsung to demonstrate NI’s test user equipment communicating with Samsung’s 5G NR 28GHz base station. The demonstration showed the test equipment connecting to the base station and validating the downlink quality and performance. For carriers and manufacturers alike, it was a hugely exciting peek into how NI’s technology will help push the progress of 5G and 5G equipment.
5G cellular networks may not be accessible to the masses just yet, but manufacturers are prepping for them so that consumers will have equipment that can take advantage of the new technology as soon as 5G lights up. Intel has announced that their XMM 8000 series 5G modems will be included in laptops and netbooks from Dell, HP, Lenovo and Microsoft by the second half of 2019.
Once carriers like AT&T and Verizon have deployed their 5G networks, users of products like netbooks that have 5G-capable modems like the XMM 8000 series will be able to take advantage of the superior speeds and latency that 5G will deliver. Intel plans to demo one of these devices at Mobile World Congress next week to show off the capabilities and hopefully encourage early adoption. It also seems likely that Intel may partner with phone manufacturers as well, pushing for their 5G modems to be used in future smartphones.
2019 is sure to be a race between both component manufacturers like Intel and hardware manufacturers to get 5G-capable devices in consumer’s hands. It will be exciting to see how the competition spurs development!