News Feature | February 6, 2019

The Week In 5G: 2/6/2019 – Verizon Cuts Latency In Half, Cisco Targets Agriculture, U.S. Needs More Mid-Band Spectrum

By Jof Enriquez


Verizon claims to have cut in half latency rates on a live 5G network using edge computing methods. Along with low power and high speed, low latency is a hallmark of next-generation 5G networks, and holds the promise to realize wireless AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality), as well as seamless video streaming experiences. Using Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC) equipment, Verizon engineers in Houston used an application to analyze information right at the edge of the network, instead of waiting for data to return from the nearest data center.

“For applications requiring low latency, sending huge quantities of data to and from the centralized cloud is no longer practical. Data processing and management will need to take place much closer to the user. MEC moves application processing, storage, and management to the Radio Access Network’s edge to deliver the desired low latency experiences, thereby enabling new disruptive technologies,” said Adam Koeppe, Verizon’s Senior VP for Network Planning.

Verizon introduced 5G services in select U.S. cities last year, and other carriers have followed suit.

While the carriers expectedly focus on metropolitan areas to deploy 5G, networking giant Cisco is looking the other way: rural 5G deployment. The company is starting the "world's most ambitious rural 5G trial" this month with 29 partners, reported Venture Beat.

The "5G RuralFirst initiative" will attempt to revolutionize agriculture, running autonomous tractors remotely and tilling parcels of land called the “Hands-Free Hectare” in the the Orkney Isles, Shropshire, and Somerset. Another use case is remote monitoring of a salmon fishery. In addition, the BBC is planning to broadcast digitally in these areas using 5G signals. Cisco also will test Internet of Things sensors for the renewable energy industry, and improve consumer mobile broadband service to underserved Orkney residents.

The program reportedly will use slower 700 MHz spectrum to propagate far-reaching radio signals that span large, sparsely-populated areas. But it will also test suburban- and city-scale 3.5 GHz, as well as short-distance but super-fast 26 GHz mmWave spectrum.

If 5G paves the way for autonomous tractors to harvest crops like coffee, then it can allow coffee beans to be brewed and served by 5G-powered robot baristas. These robots at The Beat Cafe in Seoul, South Korea, will take mobile orders from customers, brew the coffee and deliver it to a pick-up point, reported RCR Wireless. South Korean carrier KT Telecom, which is launching commercial 5G services next month, provided the 5G mobile hotspot at the cafe.

“The 5G network in the cafe is used to send the status of the robot and high-quality CCTV to the control tower 24 hours a day,” a KT official reportedly told Korea Times. “With the CCTV equipped inside the robot, the robot also recognizes visitors to the coffee shop and sends video footage of the inside of the shop to the manager.”

SK Telecom and LG Uplus also plan to fully launch 5G services soon. RCR Wireless noted that South Korea in June awarded spectrum in both the midband 3.5 GHz and high-band 28 GHz bands. A total of 280 megahertz in the 3.5 GHz spectrum band and 2,400 megahertz in the 28 GHz band were made available.

Meanwhile, the lack of midband spectrum in the United States can jeopardize America's aim to become the global leader in 5G, warned the industry group CTIA.

“Making more mid-band spectrum available will secure our long-term wireless leadership and boost our economy,” Attwell Baker said in a statement, according to RCR Wireless. “The FCC is already making great progress freeing up mid-band and we’re confident that under the leadership of Chairman Pai, we’ll can quickly close the close the gap.”

Ahead of a Senate committee hearing with the subject "winning the race to 5G", CTIA released an analysis revealing that if another 400 MHz of spectrum for commercial wireless use in the 3.45-3.55 GHz, 3.7-4.2 GHz, and the 3.5 GHz band (3.55-3.7 GHz) are started sooner than later, then $274 billion will be added to the U.S. economy and create 1.3 million jobs over seven years. CTIA has maintained that the full combination of high, mid-band and low-band spectrum are needed to build national 5G networks.

Besides the lack of spectrum, lesser competition among American technology companies also threatens to stifle the goal of winning the 5G race over China. A National Interest columnist opined that intense legal wrangling over patents between American companies are counterproductive to innovation in the field of 5G. He cited the dispute between companies like Qualcomm, Apple, and Intel to out-muscle each other and monopolize areas in technology.

"The problem, though, is not the existence of a patent system but the ever-expanding power of the patent laws, which encourage companies to pour dollars into complex patent licensing and assertion schemes—as companies like Qualcomm have done—rather than to perform the hard work of building new technologies. When innovation in patent strategy is more profitable than actual innovation, we lose the race to 5G and other technologies," wrote Charles Duan, Director of Technology and Innovation at the R Street Institute.

In contrast, Duan stated that China grants subsidies and financial benefits to encourage its citizens to file for patents, in addition to outspending the U.S. by $24 billion and earmarking $411 billion in 5G investment over the next decade.

In other news, another 5G use case, this time in fashion and entertainment, will be demonstrated at this year’s British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards on February 10. Network operator EE will use 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and holographic technology in a trial that is aimed at helping consumers shop for the fashions worn by celebrities on the night, according to As celebrities arrive on the red carpet, they will be invited to pose with Shudu, who EE calls the "world’s first AI stylist". Shudu will capture photos with a Google Pixel 3 smartphone and share them with viewers at home via an online chatbot, and will have the ability to study dresses worn by celebrities and match similar items online.

Meanwhile, Ericsson just unveiled its largest training center in the U.S. The new facility at Lewisville, Texas will be operational in the next two months and will teach technicians and tower climbers on radio base station installation, tower and rooftop installation, and microwave alignment, according to Light Reading.

9to5Mac reported that AT&T customers who buy or own iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and the 2018 iPad Pros running iOS 12.2 and beyond will now start seeing AT&T's “5G E” or 5G Evolution logo indicators on their devices.