5G phones are the next frontier, with Apple enthusiasts eagerly awaiting the first 5G iPhone and Samsung fans currently ponying up $1,300 for a Samsung Galaxy S10 5G. Demand is high, but is the capability there? As with just about all upgrades to country-wide networks, the road to widespread adoption is expected to be slow, with different technologies competing to become the de facto global 5G standard.

Mizuho’s Technology Analyst Vijay Rakesh recently hosted a call with a renowned expert on the global 5G outlook which outlined trends and technical challenges to this rollout. Here are the key takeaways.

Out with the old

As the industry seeks to extend the life and use-case on LTE/4G, it is implementing 8x8 versus existing 4x4 multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) technology which uses multiple antennas at both the source (transmitter) and the destination (receiver). The antennas at each end are combined to minimize errors and optimize data speed, providing a cost-effective way to drive increased bandwidth.

And it won’t stop there: the industry is progressing to 16x16 and even 32x32 – “massive MIMO,” as Rakesh refers to it. He believes this technology could drive greater demand for new generation integrated circuits that enable lower-power consumption technologies. These integrated circuits, known as field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), have many potential applications and could be the future of 5G bandwidth – eating away at the market share of other component-type suppliers.

China and North America race to the top                                        

According to Rakesh, China continues to pour funding into its semiconductors industry, and while it still lags behind the US in terms of overall performance, they are deploying 5G at a remarkable speed. China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator, is working to deploy 5G commercially in over 50 Chinese cities by the end of 2019.  

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have deployed a combined total of 37 5G launches in major cities across the US to-date. Coverage, however, is limited to neighborhoods – or mere blocks – due to a lack of base stations. Rakesh emphasizes that most of these 5G implementations are only effective within a 1-mile radius, but he expects “massive MIMO” ramp-ups in 2020 will bolster coverage areas.

In with the new

Verizon is touting 5G as the technology that “will make businesses more efficient and give consumers access to more information faster than ever before.” However, as CNET points out, “you will need to replace everything you currently own that accesses a cellular network.” It is likely that consumers will do this just as they swapped out tube TVs for flat screens for speed and convenience. That creates a lot of changes coming in a very short period of time.

 

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