CES Research Summit: Experts Consider 5G Tech, Use Cases

The advent of 5G doesn’t mean that 4G is going away any time soon, explained industry leaders at CES. “It’s not a light switch,” suggested AT&T Mobility vice president, IoT solutions Joe Mosele. “There’s still room for 4G LTE to grow, and it will continue to be a complement to 5G.” Boingo Wireless chief technology officer Derek Peterson added that, “we’ll see gigabit speeds on LTE.” “You’ll see continuous advancements with Wi-FI as a component as well as unlicensed spectrum and near-band IoT,” he said. “It’s an evolutionary cycle.”

At a CES Research Summit, CTA senior research analyst Steven Hummel led a conversation about the evolution to 5G and the use cases it will enable. “We still have devices on the network running on 3G,” noted Compass Intelligence chief executive/principal analyst Stephanie Atkinson (below, with Mosele). “The shift from 3G to 4G was about power management. 5G will take us to the next level, both with density — having lots more users in a square mile — and applications like VR, retail/shopping, simulation and training.”

All the panelists stressed that, rather than focusing on the actual numbers of 5G’s speed and latency improvements, “the true definition of 5G is to know what 5G will bring.” “5G is about use cases,” said Mosele. They also stressed that 5G offers a range of frequencies. “5G will allow us to combine the multiple frequencies for all use cases, and hardware is evolving to support that,” said Peterson.

The panelists also echoed others at CES 2019 that 5G is likely to lessen the digital divide between urban and rural areas. “More regional companies and even big carriers have a strategy around fixed wireless,” said Atkinson. Mosele agreed that it’s a good “first use case” for 5G. “You’ll get the speedy broadband you expect, in an urban or rural environment,” he said.

Peterson (below right) noted that, “point-to-point radios to create fixed wireless is a game changer.” “5G is an evolution to 6G,” he added. “We’ll continue to see this evolutionary process until we get secure, capable connections over long distances with just radios.”

Hummel asked which industry sectors will benefit first and most from 5G. Atkinson expressed her enthusiasm for smart cities. “Cities are looking at 5G as a competitive driver,” she said. “It will launch a whole series of automated and connected infrastructures for supply chain, shipping and autonomous vehicles.” Mosele pointed to the changes that 5G can create in healthcare. “Low latency, computing at the edge will have that robotic procedure done by the best doctor,” he said. “It will revolutionize what we’re doing in the healthcare space.”

Peterson — who has an NFC chip implanted in his hand to replace the use of physical keys — reported that entertainment will also benefit from 5G. “Entertainment is a multi-billion business, and we’re still dealing with analog processes,” he said. “You go to a game, you have to pull out a ticket. In CES, how can they not know who I am?” Identity is one of the issues that hasn’t yet been solved, said the panelists. “Today we use email for all our connected home applications,” said Peterson. “Our home should have its own identity rather than being you, and we then subscribe to its services.”