When 5G hits closer to home

Feb. 3, 2020
2020 certainly will be a year of more talk about 5G. But how about action?

As we were putting the finishing touches on this issue, I also was gathering up perspectives from analysts, prognosticators and the like about what's going to shape the technology world in 2020. It didn't surprise me, and it probably won't surprise you, to know that 5G was a prominent items of discussion.

Beyond that hype that "5G is going to make everyone's life better and make some people really, really rich," I found some thoughtful insights that I'd like to share with you here.

Research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts that this year, 2020, for the first time in four years, the global smartphone market will experience growth rather than contraction in terms of unit shipments. IDC attributes that forthcoming growth to China's ambitious plans for 5G. This year's 1.5% growth will push total global shipments just beyond 1.4 billion.

"There is little doubt that China will quickly become the lead market in terms of 5G volume, but other important markets like the U.S., Korea, United Kingdom and Canada are all expected to help drive 2020 volume," said IDC VP Ryan Reith. He emphasized that phone prices need to come down for this growth to be realized, and believes they will indeed come down this year.

Meanwhile, U.K.-based Cobham Wireless's VP of business development and technology, Ingo Flomer, opined about what's going to happen inside buildings once 5G really takes hold. "For many building owners, there's currently not the financial incentive to create the kind of 5G user experience touted by the press," he said. (Hey, I resemble that remark.) "This will change when 5G devices become more affordable and more widespread. Building owners will have to be ready," he stressed.

"In 2020, building owners will request that current wireless coverage systems be easily upgradeable to 5G. Venue owners and operators want longevity and ROI for purchases; what they don't want is to have to buy a whole new system in a year or two, as demand for 5G in-building coverage grows ... Ethernet-based protocols will be used in order to increase data-transport efficiency, supporting the transport of more RF on the same digital bandwidth."

Will 2020 be the year of 5G? It will be another year of talking about 5G, I can promise you that. I also believe it will be a year of significant progress building the physical-layer infrastructure for 5G. Let's see where we are a year from now.

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