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5G: The Future of Wireless Has Arrived

Steve Koenig, Sr. Director Market Research, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)

CES 2018 set the stage for America’s 5G roll out giving us a view of how the industry—from handset makers to wireless carriers—plan to deploy this advanced network that will empower life-changing innovations from self-driving cars to smart communities. Dialogue at CES 2018 transcended what’s possible with 5G to address what’s happening where and when across the United States. 

At the CES 2018 keynote panel Mobile Innovation: How 5G Will Enable the Future, Verizon discussed its plans to launch residential broadband service over 5G fixed wireless networks in Sacramento, California, by the end of 2018. Meanwhile, AT&T announced it will provide 5G wireless service in 12 markets later this year, and just last week announced Atlanta, Georgia and Dallas and Waco, Texas will be its first deployments.

5G announcements continued to cascade in the wake of CES. One week after the show, T-Mobile committed to start offering 5G service in 2019 in select markets, with nationwide 5G coverage in 2020. But when will we see 5G-capable smartphones?

About a month before the show opened in December 2017, the standards group 3GPP completed their work on the Non-Standalone 5G New Radio (5G NR) standard. It was an important milestone for the wireless industry and the deployment of early 5G networks, but even more significant for the handsets and other IoT devices that will operate on them. At CES 2018, the scheduled arrival date for 5G handsets was set in early 2019, but we could perhaps see them sooner.

Handset maker ZTE has promised to be the first manufacturer to launch a 5G smartphone in the U.S. market. In an interview with Bloomberg News in January, Lixin Cheng, chief executive officer of the company’s mobile device business, said their smartphone would be introduced in the U.S. at the end of 2018 or early 2019.

Subsequent announcement from industry players have corroborated this expectation. In fact, Mashable reported earlier this month LG, Sony, HTC and several other manufacturers intend to launch 5G-ready devices in by 2019.

The future of wireless has arrived and we’ve not long to wait before the promise of 5G becomes reality in the palm of our hand.