If there’s a singular truth about 5G it’s this: If you polled every single IT or telco executive in the world and asked them to list the most important trends in their industry, virtually all of them would put 5G at or near the top. Many of them, however, would probably put an asterisk beside it.
If you haven’t already noticed, the bloom is starting to come off the 5G rose. Not because the technology doesn’t have the potential to be truly transformative—it does. Rather, the excitement around 5G has created some faulty expectations and confusion, and those in the industry are starting to take note.
Is 5G a massively important trend in the industry? Without question. But there are a few reasons why you should temper your expectations.Perhaps the biggest misconception about 5G is that it will render wired internet and Wi-Fi obsolete. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Click To Tweet
Despite appearances, 5G still hasn’t really arrived
Smartphone makers and cellular network providers have been the first to adopt 5G technology and sell it directly to consumers. You can buy a 5G-ready phone and—if you live in a few select cities in the United States—you can connect it to a 5G network.
If you’re someone who can take advantage of these developments, it means you can do things like download a movie to your phone in minutes rather than hours.
Thus far, that’s the extent of 5G’s arrival. The next phase will see mobile 5G coverage slowly expand across the country and the rest of the world, but we’re still not close to seeing 5G’s truly disruptive potential in widespread action just yet.
Rollout will start in major cities and lag elsewhere
If there’s one shortcoming with 5G technology, it’s the infrastructure. Because 5G uses high-frequency mmWave bands that don’t travel very far, it’s going to be a significant challenge to bring proper 5G coverage to rural areas where buildings, people, and devices and more spread out. Even in major cities, an extremely high number of 5G antennas will need to be installed to provide adequate coverage.
Rollout has already begun in large, dense cities and that trend will continue, with less populated regions and isolated communities lagging far behind. Some experts predict that providers will deploy a kind of “light” version of 5G (Sub-6) to rural communities instead. This offers lower speeds and higher latency than full 5G.
Wired broadband and Wi-Fi will remain as important as ever
Perhaps the biggest misconception about 5G is that it will render wired internet and Wi-Fi obsolete. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, both might become even more important than they are currently.
We already mentioned that 5G’s mmWave spectrum doesn’t travel very far. But that’s not its only flaw. It also doesn’t penetrate buildings very well. To enjoy the full benefits of 5G indoors, operators would need to saturate buildings with mini-antennas—inside and out. In all likelihood, this simply won’t be feasible.
More likely is a future in which ultra-high-speed, high-bandwidth structured wiring internet connections will work in tandem with fast and reliable Wi-Fi coverage—especially in the home, small business, and corporate world.