5G outlook: What's to come in 2019 and beyond

Steve Ranger discusses the forecast for 5G, including the implications for smartphones, home routers, and big cities.

5G outlook: What's to come in 2019 and beyond

The future of 5G is coming more into focus as we approach the end of 2018. I talked with Steve Ranger about the technology that is right around the corner and what we can expect to see by 2020. The following is an edited transcript of our interview.

Steve: So where we are right now with 5G is a lot of hype, a lot of excitement, not a huge amount of actual stuff happening. We have a lot of trials going on right now, quite a small scale. I mean, in the UK they're happening around London. Small kind of things where the operators are testing out the aerials and things like that. But really, the action is going to be next year and into 2020.

SEE: IT pro's guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)

Karen: So looking ahead to 2019 then, Steve, what is on the horizon, what are you seeing?

Steve: So that's when things start to get a little bit more interesting. In the first quarter, maybe half of next year, we're going to start seeing some actual smartphones with 5G on them. Which is a really the really important thing. You know, there's no point in having a 5G network if you've got no 5G smartphones. So we will probably see the first of those April, May, June. And that's kind of when it gets interesting to the consumers because they can see these things, they can actually work out whether they want to buy one.

Throughout the rest of next year what's going to happen is those trials I talked about that are happening now, they will get bigger and bigger. So you'll probably see that metropolitan areas, big cities, the bits of big cities that are really super busy. So railway stations, that kind of thing, big shopping areas. Increasingly those will have some kind of 5G in them. So you won't see 5G everywhere, but you'll see 5G in the places where is the most traffic requirement. Most people using video or doing whatever. So that's what you'll see.

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

Really as the year goes on through 2019 you're going to see more and more of that, more and more 5G in more and more places. Probably what's going to happen at the end of the year is you'll have major metropolitan areas equipped with 5G for people with smartphones. The other wrinkle here is that 5G isn't just about smartphones, it's also about maybe replacing your home broadband with kind of a wireless, rather than a fixed router. So instead of having a cable to your house or wires, or you'll have a wireless one. So that's another business model that a lot of people are looking at.

Looking into 2020, that's when 5G becomes more a real thing.

Karen: So when you talk about the benefits, we're talking about some of these big major metropolitan areas that will be moving to 5G. What is it that people can look towards, how will it improve day to day operations for just individuals, or companies, or a major metropolitan area in general.

Steve: In the short term what you're going to see is, whereas before your signal might drop out or you wouldn't have enough of a signal to watch a movie or watch a video. Increasingly you're going to have enough bandwidth, high speed bandwidth, to do pretty much what you want. So, kind of the way that 4G was sold to us as a way of being always on the internet on your smartphone. With 5G that becomes a reality. That's kind of the short term benefit, and certainly a lot of the mobile operators really pleased it's going to give them extra bandwidth to keep their customers happy because you know, we're always using more video, we're always sending more images, we're always doing more with our phones.

Longer term, there's some more interesting stuff that comes in. You could see, because 5G offers much lower latency, so the network will respond much quicker. You could have new things, like virtual reality might work better, or augmented reality. So if you're doing either of those things with your phone, or even maybe on Smart Glasses in the future. At the moment there's a bit of motion blur, a bit of motion sickness. In the future 5G will mean that that signal is very, very smooth, very very responsible. So you could do things in real time that you can't do now.

Even further down the line there's all sorts of things like, internet of things advantages, where you'll be able to put sensors in everything because there's so much bandwidth out there. That kind of stuff is a little bit further out. In the short term, it's about getting you a lot more bandwidth so that your streaming video works properly. Way down the line, we're talking about the interesting stuff around virtual reality or internet of things. But that's maybe a few years down the line.

Karen: Steve, you mentioned 2020...talk a little bit about what is to come, what we can expect in that year.

Steve: So what's really happening in ... 2019 is the year where all the pieces start to come together. 2020 is probably when we're going to see the real benefits here. Probably most importantly the thing that's going to happen in 2020 is that a 5G iPhone will arrive. Obviously you never really know with these things, but at the moment there are lots of stories, lots of rumors suggesting there won't be a 5G iPhone this year, so the version of the iPhone turns up in kind of, September, October, November time. Won't be a 5G one. That doesn't seem to be implausible because Apple usually tries to be a little bit behind the cutting edge with this stuff. By 2020 it's entirely conceivable there will be a 5G iPhone. That 5G networks will be up and running. And that's when we really start to see the benefits of this stuff.

Karen: Lots to look forward to. Steve, thank you so much for your insight. For more on the future of 5G, check out ZDNet and TechRepublic.

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