5G is coming: Are you ready?

While official standards for the latest wireless upgrade won’t be finalized until 2020, handset-makers and businesses alike are preparing for this new network capability — and we’ll get a sneak peek at the upcoming Winter Olympics.

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Athletes aren’t the only ones whose speed, agility and overall performance will be scrutinized at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The telecom world will also be watching to see how well 5G fares during the Games. Although official standards for the latest wireless upgrade won’t be finalized until 2020, Ericsson will be running tests of 5G in Pyeongchang, as will SK Telecom (South Korea’s largest wireless carrier) and South Korean state broadcaster KT Corp.

5G recently created a lot of buzz at another big event that just ended: the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. While gadgets usually steal the show at CES, this year 5G — the new network that will connect many of them — garnered a fair bit of attention as well.

Here’s a roundup of the latest 5G news, including what handset-makers and enterprise customers are doing to get ready for this new network capability.

The hardware

In an interview from the CES sidelines, ZTE executive Lixin Cheng told Bloomberg his firm hopes to launch a 5G smartphone handset in the U.S. market in late 2018 or early 2019. Cheng, CEO of the Chinese company’s mobile device division, said ZTE could also release two other 5G products — a wireless tablet or wireless Internet hub for homes — this year.

As reported by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon told a CES audience his company plans to bring 5G smartphones and other mobile devices to market by early 2019.

The benefits

5G holds out the promise of speed, with reported data transmission rates of 100 megabits per second.

But at CES, Qualcomm’s Amon was bullish about the potential for lower latency, according to Tech Republic. If 5G pares latency down to less than one millisecond — 30 times lower than typical 4G latency — cloud will perform better, achieving response times matching on-prem, he predicted. Amon said that could drive more people to use cloud storage, thereby reducing storage requirements (and related costs) on mobile devices.

Fellow CES panelist Vestberg said 5G’s lower latency will allow businesses to communicate better with customers and employees in real time.

5G will also enable network slicing, the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) suggested in its annual industry report released in December. In such a scenario, “an individual service or user can call up a virtual ‘slice’ of capacity, optimized for its particular requirements, e.g., low latency or high data rate,” the report stated.

What businesses are doing

Since the International Telecommunication Union won’t finalize its 5G standards for another two years, every 5G network and device that hits the market before 2020 will be pre-standard.

What are businesses doing to bridge the gap to 5G in the meantime?

Per Tech Republic’s account from CES, Amon and Vestberg pointed out 4G isn’t going anywhere and will, in fact, coexist with 5G for some time. Some enterprises will use technologies like Gigabit LTE and MIMO until 5G protocols are standardized, they said.

The WBA agreed with that in its aforementioned annual report.

“There will be a long period of coexistence and integration between 5G NR, LTE and Wi-Fi, and other unlicensed spectrum technologies,” the WBA wrote. “In some cases, unlicensed spectrum technologies such as Wi-Fi, WiGig or LPWANs may tick these boxes before ‘official 5G’ standards do.”

There you have it. Like the upcoming Winter Olympics, 5G is already generating tons of hype and anticipation before it officially arrives. We don’t yet know which players will emerge as winners. One of the safest ways to boost the odds of a great performance, however, is to make a game plan with lots of practice and preparation.

Image: iStock

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