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What Are The Expectations For 5G?

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About 15 years ago I was in Kingston (Jamaica), listening to an expert talk about the advantages of WiMAX. For this, the all-preached version of this technology at that time was known as 802.16 and was appropriate for fixed services. The business models proposed in these environments varied widely.

The frenzy caused by WiMAX and promises for its 802.16m and 802.16m versions has prompted virtually all Latin American and Caribbean telecom operators to at least test with this technology. There have been releases as ephemeral as the length of the commercials promoting the service on television. The promises of over-coverage, constant data transmission and phenomenal customer experience have never come true.

What was the mistake? Simple, the rampant exaggeration of voracious sellers who promised more technology performance than physics allowed. These problems coupled with the fragmentation of the provider landscape, lack of interoperability of equipment, and tender delays in standardization processes sent to death a technology that was good but lacked an essential element to triumph in developing markets: economies of scale.

Fortunately, the arrival of 5G will not have to face many of the problems that WiMAX had, as interoperability and standardization will be a part of the technology since its inception. Nevertheless, in some cases, there are too high expectations for what the new technology will actually perform. However, when it comes to 5G there seems to be more doubt than certainty and reducing its capabilities to one simple aspect: transmission speeds on mobile Internet access services.

Faced with this scenario we find an explosion of questions about the date of 5G’s arrival in Latin America. There is a rage in understanding who will be the first mobile operator to develop the technology and how it would increase the benefits already received from the previous generation. Among the questions are very reasonable questions focused on the design of mobile phones, as they differ from current models.

Also, there are people who want to know more about the applications that will justify the Gbps speed that will be available to many consumers in the Americas in less than five years. All this curiosity is the result of uncontrolled consumer expectations and also an unmet need to educate the market about the reality of wireless technologies that can be used to deliver mobile services.

Some confuse and position 5G as a technology primarily for users. But, when its key qualities, such as low latency or the ability to handle large amounts of traffic enabling the growth of IoT, are enlightened that directly points to a business market.

The start of 5G has been defined by mobile operators around the world as a service with the main focus on offering fixed broadband that allows you to take to suburban and rural areas at speeds that previously could only be achieved through fiber-optic connection. The mobile model will be more than a year after the proliferation of fixed wireless networks that together with a DTH connection could offer a fully wireless converged package as it has offered in markets such as Argentina and Brazil.

Another aspect of 5G that seems to have been overlooked by consumers is that its growth will be slower than previous technologies. There are several justifications that serve to explain this situation. For example, even with the first launch of 5G that took place on May 14th, the first mobile devices only started to be available during 2019. In other words, we do not yet have phones that allow the commercialization of 5G mobile services.

Thus, the development of 5G will require the use of higher frequencies than those used by previous technologies including so-called millimeter bands. This implies, by pure law of physics, that 5G networks will have higher densification than today’s mobile networks, as they will need more antennas to provide service. The greater the number of antennas required, the longer the infrastructure development time will be. The logic is simple.

And finally, I want to state that at its inception, 5G networks did not offer users with easily recognizable advantages. We will not have new services that cannot be accessed by LTE-Advanced networks. The difference is initially due to higher spectrum utilization efficiencies and the ability to support the aggregate traffic generated by the growing number of connected things. It is here, indirectly, that users began to receive benefits from 5G cellular networks because if it does not arrive, this technology will be very costly and difficult to absorb all the new aggregate traffic generated by mobile network users in the market.

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