i3 | May 24, 2019

Adopting Mobile and Fixed 5G

by 
Jack Cutts

No doubt you have heard lots of hype on 5G – how fast it is, how it’s going to change your life, et cetera. Right around the time that most U.S. consumer smartphones are 4G capable, the telecom industry comes back with the latest tech. Fortunately, unless you live in one of the U.S. cities offering live 5G service, you have time before you decide on upgrading to a 5G compatible mobile device. As we wait for the coast-to-coast rollout to begin in earnest, let’s look at what the path to 5G will look like for both mobile-use cases (smartphones and laptops) and fi xed-use cases (namely, home broadband).

5G Mobile Data

At CES 2020, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg debuted the company's 5G broadband internet service – a world first.

The large-scale rollout of 5G is underway in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta, among other cities. In many cases, these are limited trial runs designed to help mobile service providers learn how customers use 5G service, how signals propagate around major metropolitan areas and some of the real-world capabilities and limitations of the first generation of 5G broadband equipment like base stations and picocells. However, carriers like Verizon are also starting to sell “live” 5G service in select markets.

The initial sales of 5G capable smartphones will be small in number and only available to those who absolutely need to be on the bleeding edge of tech. CTA sees a modest fi rst year for 5G capable sets, moving around 2.1 million compatible units in 2019. As phone manufacturers ramp up production of handsets with ever-more-powerful and feature-rich CPUs and baseband radios, we will see the sales of 5G capable handsets rise.

2020 will see a 865 percent increase over 2019 with more than 20 million 5G sets sold. By 2022, CTA expects roughly 76 percent of handsets sold in the U.S. to be packing 5G speeds. As with any new feature, expect to see 5G baked into high-end handsets initially, then moving to mid-range and lower-end units as time marches on and coverage blankets the country.

5G Fixed Data

The popularity of smartphones ensures that most attention is fixed on mobile 5G. However, it is entirely conceivable that fixed 5G has more transformative power for most of the population. There is a broad swath of the U.S. for whom truly speedy internet is something to dream about. 5G promises to change all of that and it’s important to understand that 5G does not have to deliver multi-gigabit per second speeds to unlock a world of services for parts of the population that currently live with dial-up or satellitebased internet service.

A slow 5G connection, or even a reasonably solid 4G connection, can stream an over-the-top video service with fairly good results to the home. The economics that keep wired broadband from being deployed in areas with low population density can be overcome with smartly deployed 4G and 5G services. In light of this transformative potential, CTA sees roughly 1.5 million 5G home gateways moving in 2019 and as many as nine million by 2022.

There are still many details to be sorted out in the 5G marketplace including speeds, prices and data caps. But there is no doubt that the 5G revolution is coming and will change lives for the better.

Jack Cutts