CES 2019 may go down as the historical inflection point for 5G telephony. MediaLink Chairman and CEO Michael Kassan told attendees that “CES 2019 is, for all intents and purposes, the dawn of 5G.” For three reasons, Kassan has not overstated the importance of 5G.
First, 5G offers a big jump in network speed, allowing consumers to benefit from faster download and upload speeds. Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon says 30 5G handsets have been announced starting in Q2, and they will have “at least ten times the speed you have today, and instant response time.” Another term for describing quick response time is low latency, which refers to the average time for data to travel across a cellular network from phone to tower. End-to-end travel time of data from the mobile device to the edge of the 5G network is expected to be five milliseconds — faster than the blink of an eye. That’s crucial for health care uses as well as mobile gaming.
Second, decisions consumers now make about how much storage capacity their phone should have will disappear, with 5G providing anytime access to everything in the cloud. Cloud computing servers also will become a co-processor for your phone, doing the number crunching when needed.
And third, 5G will connect millions more devices to the internet. That enables sensors on self-driving cars to work in real time and “see” other vehicles and objects, like pedestrians. And video analytics via 5G can be used to either automate intelligent traffic systems, or for use by first responders, such as for a connected ambulance.
Although 5G won’t replace 4G in the U.S. until the early 2020s, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile were promoting the 5G connectivity they plan to launch in at least part of their networks this year.
Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg cited what he called the “Eight Currencies” or benefits of 5G during his CES keynote. These included speed and throughput (peak data rates of 10 gigabits per second and mobile data volumes of 10 terabits per second per square kilometer); mobility; connected devices and IoT (up to one million devices supported by 5G in a square kilometer); energy efficiency (5G network equipment and devices consume only 10 percent of the energy consumed by 4G network equipment) and latency; and reliability (5G will be more than 99.999 percent reliable).
John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications, discussed the recent launch of its 5G Evolution network. AT&T is working on 5G across hospitals and stadiums, including signing a deal with Rush University Medical Center and the Rush System for Health in Chicago. Dr. Shafiq Rab, senior vice president and CIO, said, “The technology will enhance access to care, even from long distances, while also helping to decrease costs and improve efficiency. Imagine a doctor performing a virtual visit with a patient while downloading an entire MRI scan within seconds.”
At CES, T-Mobile — in partnership with Ericsson and Intel — concluded a live data and video test of its commercial network using the 600MHz frequency band. T-Mobile also completed a 5G video call on other bands (28GHz, and 39GHz), showing low-band, mid-band and millimeter wave can be used to deliver next-generation services. T-Mobile says, its rivals, AT&T and Verizon have only demonstrated testing of 5G services using very high frequency millimeter wavelength spectrum.
During CES, Sprint announced it completed a 5G data call across the 2.5GHz spectrum on a live commercial network in partnership with Nokia and Qualcomm. The test streamed YouTube videos, conducted Skype audio and video calls, and sent and received instant messages.
Samsung CEO Hyun Suk Kim confirmed at CES the company will debut its first 5G phone for Verizon in Q2 and two 5G phones with AT&T this year. The company teased its offerings by enclosing a 5G prototype behind glass at the company’s CES booth.
At CES, the entire 5G ecosystem — the backbone for transportation, VR, sports tech and digital health — came together. As Verizon’s Vestberg concluded, “5G will change everything. 5G is the promise of so much more than what we have seen from wireless technology.”