The Global Race to 5G is On

Tom Sawanobori, SVP & CTO, CTIA
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Tom Sawanobori, SVP & CTO, CTIA

Look around! You will see the vast majority of people using their mobile devices, whether that’s to use the Internet, listen to music, watch videos, or post to social media. As Americans quickly shift to a mobile-first lifestyle, we’re using wireless devices to do everything from track health and fitness to remotely monitor our homes.

While we’re benefiting from these integrated new uses, America’s wireless industry is already looking at 5G, the next generation wireless network, which will revolutionize consumers’ mobile-first lives.

5G Means Faster Speeds and Lower Latency for More Devices

5G will be at least 10 times faster than 4G. To put this into perspective, within 30 minutes, you could download every Simpsons TV episode in high-definition. It will be five times more responsive, minimizing latency or lag time. When a doctor is in one location performing surgery on a patient across the world, 5G’s ultra-low latency is vital. Next generation 5G will connect 100 times more devices to enable massive growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) such as transportation, utilities and healthcare.

5G Requires Infrastructure and Spectrum

In order to remain the global mobile leaders, America’s wireless industry needs policymakers to streamline siting and right of way rules. Given the anticipated number of connected devices, there will be a significant increase in data usage demands. Today, small cells are the size of a pizza box so they can be deployed in less conspicuous places such as on lamp posts and bus stops. Local, state and federal policymakers need to recognize this kind of advancement in small cells and help facilitate deployment.

 Next generation 5G will connect 100 times more devices to enable massive growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) 

Originally viewed as unsuitable for mobile, wireless engineers developed technologies that use high band spectrum for wireless, which will be integral to our 5G networks. Thanks to the FCC and wireless companies throughout the ecosystem working together, high band spectrum will be available for 5G. Today, spectrum bands are available in 5, 10 and 20 MHz blocks, but with 10,000 MHz of high band spectrum available for wireless, companies will have large swaths of spectrum to provide very high speed data to handle more traffic and bandwidth-intensive usage (e.g., ultra-high definition video, virtual reality and augmented reality.).

While high band spectrum is going to be a major driver for our 5G networks, wireless companies need low and mid band spectrum for coverage and capacity too. With the different characteristics of high, low and mid band spectrum, and Americans’ varied usage and disparate geographic locations, all types of spectrum are needed  for the U.S. to lead the global wireless industry.

5G Testing Underway in the U.S.

We’re already seeing America’s wireless carriers and equipment vendors testing 5G networks and technology. Here are just a few of the national carriers’ testing locations:

• AT&T is testing in Middletown, New Jersey and Austin, Texas
• Sprint is testing in Santa Clara, California and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
• T-Mobile is testing in several locations in Bellevue, Washington
• Verizon is testing in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Texas

Wireless carriers are also working with network and device manufacturers like Cisco, Ericsson, Intel, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung on everything from small cells to new devices to new chipsets.

Yet other countries are moving quickly to try to beat America in 5G. South Korea plans to demonstrate 5G when it hosts the 2018 Olympics while Japan says it will showcase 5G at the 2020 Olympics.

America’s wireless companies remain competitive with not only each other, but other countries. This fierce competition benefits Americans who enjoy the world’s best mobile products and services at unprecedented levels while their costs continue to decline. With the help from policymakers, America’s wireless industry is poised to continue as a global leader as we move to 5G. 

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