The importance of 5G continues to grow and to find out what’s in store for next year, TechRepublic talked to several 5G experts to discuss the top 5G trends and more.

Participants in the roundtable included:

  • Chris Penrose, president of IoT solutions, AT&T
  • Kishen Mangat, vice president and general manager, mobility and automation at Cisco
  • Jeff Black, director, Verizon Ventures
  • Dan Hays, principal, PwC
  • Alok Shah, vice president, networks strategy, BD, and marketing, Samsung Electronics America
  • Peter Linder, head of 5G marketing, Ericsson North America
  • Volker Held, 5G market development manager, Nokia
  • Jason Elliott, 5G market development manager, Nokia
  • Glenn Lurie, president and CEO, Synchronoss
  • Toby Redshaw, senior vice president, 5G ecosystems, innovation and product development, Verizon Ventures
  • Ian Campbell, CEO, OnScale
  • Babak Beheshti, Ph.D., IEEE member and interim dean, College of Engineering and Computing Sciences, New York Institute of Technology
  • Andrew Fray, managing director, Interxion
  • Neil Anderson, practice director, network solutions, WWT
  • Ken Tsai, global vice president, head of cloud platform and data management, SAP

SEE: 5G technology: A business leader’s guide (Tech Pro Research)

TechRepublic: How important will 5G be to the US, and the world, in 2019?

Dan Hays: The rollout of 5G in 2019 is likely to be more of a whisper than a roar. While some markets will certainly see 5G coverage begin in 2019, users should be prepared for spotty availability and inconsistency in coverage between cities. As the year progresses, we expect to see more advanced deployments, though still far less than 50% availability by year’s end.

Ken Tsai: 5G speeds will take data volume to new heights. In 2019, we can only expect the volume of data to increase exponentially [Gartner predicts the number of connected devices to grow from 23 billion to 31 billion by 2020.] as IoT devices continue to become more commonplace, and data can be processed at much faster speeds thanks to the rollout of 5G across the globe. As the volume of data increases, proper data management processes will become more vital than ever for organizations today, as will automation and advanced analytics capabilities, such as AI and machine learning. In order to turn data into action in the 5G era, organizations will need to ensure they have the tools and processes in place to store, cleanse, compute and analyze data quickly to stay competitive in the digital economy.

SEE: How 5G will transform business (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

Neil Anderson: The rollout of 5G will take time, starting with islands in 2019 and evolving over the next 3-5 years to broad coverage. It will take longer to upgrade mobile infrastructure because many new microcell towers and base stations have to be built for 5G, it’s not a matter of just updating radios on existing towers.

Babak Beheshti: 5G promises to be a revolutionary force in transforming the technology landscape, how we live and play, and how many industries operate. With its increased data rates of up to 2 GBPS, 5G will bring forward applications that are inherently bandwidth hungry. These applications include much faster upload and download speeds for high-definition video, autonomous vehicles, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), the Internet of Things (IoT), and many more.

Kishen Mangat: The US market will lead, as consumer expectations for speed will continue to accelerate. Though, enterprise use cases will be a focus area for operators. 5G will become the era of customized business and industry-centric services across the mobile network, creating deeper business relationships and opportunities.

Jeff Black: 5G technology is faster and more responsive than current mobile networks. With consumer desire growing to view content on mobile devices, and an increase in overall need for both domestic and global connectivity, the potential of the technology is huge. The importance, however, will depend largely on entrepreneurs from all sectors who leverage it to help further their businesses and serve consumers.

Toby Redshaw: 5G will be a major focus for Verizon in 2019. While 4G LTE is still the core technology of our network – and will be for some time – we’re also focused on bringing next-generation 5G technology to our customers. We were first in the world to launch a commercial 5G service when we launched 5G Home in four US markets in October – with plans for rapid expansion of that service – and we will launch 5G mobile service in 2019. We will also have two 5G-capable smartphones and a 5G mobile hotspot on our network in 2019.

Ian Campbell: 5G will reach critical mass but not in 2019. On the surface it would seem like 2019 is the year of 5G. Telco companies, like Verizon, have made headlines for activating the world’s first 5G network in four US cities, and Samsung is rumored to be releasing its 5G enabled smartphone as early as Q1 2019.

Andrew Fray: The 5G tsunami is well on its way and it will hit our shores in 2019, with CCS Insight predicting that we could see 1 billion 5G users by 2023. Its rollout next year has the potential to completely transform every industry from manufacturing and marketing to communications and entertainment. Fast data speeds, higher network bandwidth, and lower latency means smart cities, connected transport, smart healthcare and manufacturing are all becoming closer to a reality.

Despite the first deployments of 5G and the launch of the first 5G-compatible devices next year, we don’t expect the impact of widespread 5G implementation to be fully felt in 2019. Instead, for many businesses, 2019 will be full of continued investment and focus into rearchitecting existing networks and infrastructure ready to host 5G networks.

SEE: Mini-glossary: 5G terms you should know (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

TechRepublic: How fast do you anticipate 5G will roll out in 2019 in the US and the world?

Redshaw: Verizon already turned on the world’s first 5G networks in Houston, LA, Sacramento, and Indianapolis in 2018, and we’ll launch mobile 5G service in 2019. 2019 will be the year 5G really begins to pick up momentum as networks come online and devices become available. It’s important to remember we’re just in the very early stages of commercial 5G service. The next several years will be very exciting as 5G coverage expands and new devices and use cases are introduced.

Beheshti: Challenges abound with 5G – that is why mobile operators and commercial device manufacturers are proceeding cautiously. The second phase of 5G standards (Release-16) is due completed by March 2020. There is a high infrastructure cost in deploying 5G. A new radio frequency range is needed to depart from the overcrowded 3G and 4G frequencies. These high frequency bands will provide new unutilized spectrum available for 5G, but Millimeter waves propagate solely by line-of-sight paths. Therefore they will not provide coverage “around the bends,” nor does it have long ranges (about 1200 ft outdoors).

To take advantage of the higher data rates, the infrastructure inner core of networks needs to be upgraded as well. This means complete conversion to fiber optic cables for the operators. So realistically, while we will see jazzy demonstrations and multi-city limited deployments of 5G in 2019, in earnest, wider commercial deployments are expected to gradually roll out from 2020 to 2025. And by the way, you will have to say goodbye to older technologies, in the US 2G will be discontinued as 5G is expected to roll out.

TechRepublic: Will the rollout be more consumer or enterprise focused in 2019?

Alok Shah: It isn’t an either-or situation. We are seeing our operator customers exploring both consumer use cases like cloud gaming and AR/VR and enterprise use cases like IoT and automation applications to enable the smart factory. The same 5G NR networks will support all of these applications, and 2019 is about getting the networks in place to enable innovators to develop exciting applications.

Chris Penrose: Manufacturing, healthcare, and public safety are expected to be the early benefactors of 5G. Smart factories will revolutionize the manufacturing process as they connect the entire supply chain. The doctor-patient relationship, and the traditional way that we think of healthcare will transform. And first responders will have new technology and lifesaving capabilities to protect citizens like never before.

Hays: Because of limited availability in 2019, 5G services are more likely to be targeted to consumers and small businesses who can benefit from more localized coverage and the increased speeds delivered by 5G.

Redshaw: 5G has already come to consumers first with high-speed internet service for the home. And now we’re announcing devices like smartphones and hotspots for when you’re not home. When those devices launch, consumers will immediately benefit from the speed and capacity of 5G on mobile phones, and over time, be able to experience all of the new and exciting services (e.g., AR/VR, mobile gaming) that will be available. For enterprises, 5G will be transformative and part of a broad set of innovations with positive impact across many verticals. We are enabling solutions to transform supply chain management, healthcare and create smarter, more efficient manufacturing.

Peter Linder: The magnitudes of change for consumers and businesses in the next five to ten years will be at least as great for industry as when we created a mass market for mobile telephony in the early 1990s. Both enterprise and consumer, as both customer categories, will experience the urban fiber broadband divide, and 5G fixed wireless is a great alternative to fiber. Specifically, we also expect 5G to be introduced to support performance critical business processes, such as manufacturing plants, shopping malls, and venues–anywherewhere ethernet LANs are too inflexible and too costly when it comes to pulling wires. Or anywhere where Wi-Fi is considered too slow, unsecure or unreliable.

Beheshti: Mobile operators have started deploying 5G sporadically. Widespread commercial deployment will be gradual, starting in 2020. AT&T plans to offer mobile 5G services in a dozen cities this year. Verizon has similar gradual deployment plans for 2019 and beyond. It appears that the first round of deployments will be 5G residential broadband deployment plans (fixed wireless). Fixed wireless targets will replace the current wired internet access to homes with high speed unlimited wireless access.

Volker Held: First rollouts will be more consumer focus to meet the increasing capacity demand of the mass market, mainly driven by video. 5G is able to meet the capacity demand in a much more cost efficient way than LTE by utilizing additional spectrum and by squeezing out more capacity out of the spectrum. At the same time, enterprise campuses and venues are being connected with 5G and new industrial use cases like smart harbors are being trialed.

TechRepublic: What do you predict the key uses of 5G will be in 2019?

Hays: Fixed wireless service, which has already started to be available in limited areas during 2018, will be a key use case for many early adopters of 5G technology. For smartphones, most early use cases will simply hinge around faster download speeds, particularly for video-based services. Perhaps the most exciting, yet still unproven, near-term use case for 5G is augmented and virtual reality. 5G stands to enable mobility in AR and VR, which has never been possible in the past at scale.

Shah: Next year we expect 5G commercial use cases to fall into two categories: Enhanced mobile broadband and fixed wireless access (FWA). With the release of 5G mobile devices from Samsung and others, users will be able to stream video in higher quality, download TV shows and movies in a few seconds, and experience enhanced more immersive VR. 5G FWA, or home broadband service, has already been launched by Verizon and will likely be offered by other operators in 2019.

Linder: In studies of industry sectors, Ericsson found that an average of 78% of the respondents would take advantage of 5G to improve or develop new customer offerings with automotive, healthcare, and retail leading the way. The business potential of 5G could represent up to 36% growth in revenues. Operators will find the greatest opportunities in the manufacturing and energy/utilities sectors. However, for this to truly come to life, collaboration between operators, municipalities and utility providers must occur to secure a smooth process for permits, poles, fiber, and power to enable small cell roll-outs.

SEE: 5G mobile networks: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

TechRepublic: In 2019, do you think there will be a few smartphones, or many smartphones, with 5G capabilities?

Hays: We expect that 5G-capable smartphones will begin rolling out around mid-2019, although initial solutions may be somewhat awkward extensions of existing 4G LTE devices. Late 2019 may see more devices introduced, but the majority of smartphone sales are likely to remain focused on 4G devices well into 2020.

Redshaw: I expect we’ll see up to half a dozen 5G smartphones in 2019. Verizon will have not one, but two 5G smartphones available on our network next year, as well as a new Inseego 5G hotspot. In August, we announced we’d offer the world’s first 5G-upgradeable smartphone – the Moto z3 paired with a moto mod – and now we just announced the first 5G smartphone with Samsung.

Linder: As 5G smartphones become available during 2019, several service providers are expected to commercially launch 5G. In North America and North East Asia, significant 5G subscription volumes are expected early. Many smartphones with 5G capabilities will become available mid-year. For the very early adopters, we’ll also see a large quantity of smartphones connecting to 5G via pocket routers. Multi-device users who want 5G on their devices faster and sooner will see pocket routers as a great alternative.

Anderson: We may see a handful of smartphones with 5G capability in 2019, but most mobile infrastructure systems won’t be capable yet, so most likely real consumer adoption will not start until 2020. Early adopters of 5G smartphones may have inconsistent experiences, for example some may see poor battery life while others may see dramatically improved battery life.

TechRepublic: Who do you think the major providers will be for 5G?

Hays: The introduction of 5G is a potentially huge inflection point for the telecom industry and could reshuffle the decks for service provider market shares. While the incumbent mobile network operators are all well on the way to launching 5G services, we expect that cable, satellite, and Internet platform companies will dip their toes into the 5G pond to see if providing wireless access services could be a new business for them. 5G could enable traditionally geographically bound cable and wireline telephone service providers to expand beyond their current territories.

Shah: In the US, all of the major mobile operators are preparing to launch mobile 5G services in the coming months.

Jason Elliott: A number of service providers have announced their intention to deploy 5G in 2019. In North America, the top four have announced they will launch in 2019. In South Korea, all three providers will launch in 2019, and in Europe at least two operators in the Nordics have announced launch plans. All three providers in China are committed to launching some markets starting Q4 2019, increasing throughout 2020.

TechRepublic: Will consumers get on board and be willing to spend more for 5G?

Hays: Our research shows that consumers’ willingness to increase their monthly broadband and mobile phone bills for 5G is limited. On average, consumers expect to pay only five dollars more per month, though two thirds of consumers insist that they are not willing to pay anything more at all for the benefits offered by 5G services. It may well be a very long road to see 5G adopted by the majority of consumers.

And all of this still leaves speculation about 5G. As Hays said, “The biggest question out there about 5G is really what new use cases it will enable and how they will be valued by consumers and enterprises. It is likely that we don’t even know yet what some of these may be, but we will certainly be working on this in the months and years to come.”

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