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The Current State of 5G

By Nick Shoemaker, Blog Contributor
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There have been plenty of blogs, news articles, and the like about what 5G is. For a quick refresher you can check out this Aruba blog post and this quick video. The need for 5G from a cellular carrier level is very well documented. So too has the co-existence of 5G and Wi-Fi 6. What seems to be lacking, however, is a clear indication of when 5G is going to be online and what is needed to use it.

If You Build It, They Will Come
5G is truly coming. In some cities, smartphones are already displaying either a 5G or 5Ge logo in the signal bar. But is it really 5G or is this a marketing ploy by the carriers to get the first-mover advantage in the market?

This question depends on the city. For 5G to be available there are a number of things that have to happen in a city to prepare. Large amounts of new fiber have to be pulled or be in the ground already to support the amount of backhaul needed. Additional towers need to be brought online to support the density that is needed for appropriate coverage. Some major metropolitan areas have this infrastructure in place already, making them prime spots to start up service. Here is a listing for AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. While this coverage is currently “available” there are still a number of things contributing to its actual use and adoption.

The Dreaded Upgrade
The spectrum for 5G is being split and sold off to the carriers, backhauls are being built, towers are getting constructed, but what about the users?

When looking at the websites of the carriers there is a common theme running through them. To get the true benefits of 5G, customers need to upgrade to a 5G-capable device. The client is usually the limiting factor, not the infrastructure. With Wi-Fi, this is a common theme as well. To get the full benefits, new hardware or upgrades are needed to allow the devices to connect with the new standards and “work as advertised.” The carriers are now saying the same thing about 5G.

Timing for these devices seems to be scattered. There are a number of Samsung devices on the market today and more are coming soon. Lenovo has a few tablets/laptops available today and there are reports that Apple will be releasing new models for support as well, but not until 2020. So, is 5G actually a thing now?

Carriers like AT&T are touting the “5GEvolution.” This is how they can ‘say’ they are doing 5G while still trying to actually build out their 5G infrastructure. Estimates that have circulated around the Internet and various sources put full 5G deployment at six months or more in large markets and a year or more for the remaining markets. Like anything, the more infrastructure needed, the longer it will take to deploy.

With all the hype being seen on commercials and the internet, 5G is still going to be a work in progress for the near future. This and device support are reasons that there needs to be a symbiotic relationship between 5G and Wi-Fi 6 in the marketplace. One does not make the other obsolete as some have said in the industry. Who knows, things may change in the future, but that seems to be a long way out, if at all.

Related Content

More information about 5G and Wi-Fi 6 from Aruba can be found here.

What is 5G?

5G and Wi-Fi 6

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