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CES 2019: The Phony 5G Wars

1/10/2019
Recapping the annual tech-fest in Las Vegas, Light Reading's Dan Jones, Mike Dano and Jeff Baumgartner discuss the clash between major mobile operators over what is -- and isn't -- true 5G, and provide an update on what cable has in store for the industry's big "10G" initiative.
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Clifton K Morris
Clifton K Morris
1/11/2019 | 2:08:40 PM
5G
This is reminiscent of the days when Sprint launched “3G” services; commonly referred to at the time as “Wireless Web”. Wireless Web was a phone with a WAP-based browser that also relied on a circuit-switched connection. Sprint advertised the service as web ability on a cell phone, but it actually called a phone number in the background and established a connection similar to a modem or fax machine. On the back-end, Sprint zero-rated these phone calls so customers were not deducted minutes of use.

True 2.5G (as per the GSMA/ITU standard) implemented packet-based networks which CDMA and Sprint’s network didn’t support. But that technological shortcoming didn’t stop Sprint from selling it based on functionality.

Today, absent a NIST recognized standard for communications, it’s best to stay true to recognized standards from GSMA/3GPP rather than marketing. The “5G” standard hasn’t been ratified by 3GPP yet. It’s core add-on is supposed to increase QAM spectral efficiencies from a symbolrate of 256 to 1024. This may be available as a software upgrade if the DSP (Digital Signal Processors) in the 4.75G Wireless network hardware allows. In a worst-case, it may require a card upgrade or new antenna. Today, this is truly minimal effort now that Crown Castle and American Tower manage most of the infrastructure and mantainence.

Also, the licenses for millimeter wave are so large, the licenses should allow carriers to offer and advertise rateplans that offer a plan with unlimited service that competes toe-to-toe with with twisted-pair copper.