US FCC aims to make 5G wireless networks a reality
Not long before 5G will be the new ‘it’ technology. Just as most Indian smartphone users and a small percentage of the elite are getting used to 3G and 4G speeds respectively, media reports suggest that this technology is redundant, out-of-market, junk, a technology that’s turning obsolete. While discussions around 5G have been making waves for some years now, this week’s proposal by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to kick-off 5G Wireless proceedings, seems to indicate that the future is nearer that it had appeared earlier. If FCC approves the technology then the United States will be the first country in the world to open up high-band spectrum for 5G networks and applications.
5G technology should be like mobile fiber offering speeds 10 to 100 times faster than what’s available in today’s spectrum. Some activity has already begun around the project with Verizon conducting 5G tests in the United States and AT&T intending to follow suit later. Google and Samsung had also reported some work related to 5G technologies, both from a hardware as well as software point of view. The proposal would also open up a large amount of high-speed unlicensed spectrum. Whereas most of the new 5G spectrum will be leased out to wealthy companies, this unlicensed area will be open to use by anyone.
A major concern is that 5G would not travel far and cannot penetrate buildings. The solution could be extensive tower deployment, something that is already raising the hackles of environmental groups. There is also the problem of developing new technologies that allows mobile devices to track down 5G signals in a manner vastly different from the way traditional wireless has worked through blanketing an area. Phones and other devices may need to get smarter to catch signals that are aimed and steered.
So, when would all of this result in fruition? Opinion is diametrically divided amongst the current service providers who believe 5G could become reality within the next 12 to 18 months. That’s all still a few years out, at the earliest. But actions by the FCC signal that it’s moving toward reality. The commission will vote on the proposal at a meeting next month. If it passes then the commission will then move toward opening up spectrum. That process, which will be called the Spectrum Frontiers proceeding, could also take several years. But FCC Chairman notes that the first 5G deployments are expected to be ready for 2020.