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December 10, 2014

The Rollout of 5G: Get Ready, Get Set, Hype!

The hype cycle for 5G has officially crossed into mainstream with the GSMA Report on what 5G could be, and what clearly the GSMA is not. (For those who don’t know, the GSMA is the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association, an association of mobile operators and related companies devoted to supporting the standardizing, deployment and promotion of the GSM mobile telephone system). 

First of all, let’s join the report in admitting that past generations were technology driven. 1G was analog, 2G was digital and 3G limped into supporting data services. 4G as a technology was the migration to supporting wireless IP from the cellular industry, and made smartphones something more than weak terminals.  It is probably not surprising that 4G support has been gradual, but with the addition of VoLTE by Apple on the iPhone6, we can make the case that the chasm has been crossed and the transition is no longer a question of if, but rather when.

Now comes the problem of the hype. 5G as a technology is somewhat nebulous, having less to do with big transitions in protocols but more with deployment strategies.  At the core of 5G will be beam forming and shaping the data. It can be a straight cellular play, or it can be a mix-and-match play.

GSMA as a cellular organization is perhaps strained by the realities of its own issues, but the reality is that the 4G network would not have met customer demand without the benefit of Wi-Fi.  So the suggestion the 5G beam-forming is the complete picture is self-serving and ignores the realities.

Reality is that no one has the monies or drivers to make 99 percent coverage available 99 percent of the time without some form of customer self-investment by consumers, businesses and governments.

The reality, then, is that 5G will be antennas and alternatives. The mix will be very much driven by wealth, policy and applications. If you read the report with this in mind, you will have a better understanding of what will drive GSMA activities and alternative business adoption.


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