By Ed Biller
While 5G is billed as the “next big thing,” actual rollouts have been limited, and devices capable of 5G operation have been expensive and encountered some technical obstacles (e.g., short range in the case of mmWave rollouts, low battery life). Conversely, 4G LTE rollouts remain consistent globally.
5G Americas counts global LTE subscriptions at nearly 5 billion worldwide, and there have been a 250,000,000+ new LTE connections added around the world in the second quarter of 2019, states a report by RCR Wireless, informed by data gathered by Ovum.
This trend “shows that operators are continuing to invest in LTE services, reflecting the widespread belief that, even amid growing 5G deployment, LTE will remain highly relevant,” writes Catherine Sbeglia, noting that, in North America, LTE represents 88 percent of all mobile connections, increased from 82 percent in June 2018.
Not that 5G rollouts have stalled. Verizon’s mmWave 5G network is set to launch in “parts of” New York City on Sept. 26, the carrier announced last week. Verizon’s 5G service will be active in areas of uptown, midtown, and downtown Manhattan, along with select parts of Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens, according to a report from The Verge.
Across the Pacific, South Korea telco KT has partnered with China Mobile (China), Telecom Italia Mobile (Italy), Sunrise (Switzerland), and Elisa (Finland) to provide its subscribers unlimited 5G roaming connectivity when they travel to China, Italy, Switzerland, and Finland.
ZDNet reports that the roaming service currently is available only to Samsung Galaxy S10 5G users, but KT eventually will expand 5G roaming availability to more handsets via a software upgrade.
Also this week, Paul Zhou, writing for Telcos.com, takes a deep dive into which governments have subsidized their local telcos’ 5G rollouts, and to what effect. China is the most recent nation to offer favorable policies and financial incentives to aid in the construction o 5G infrastructure.
“South Korea has cut taxes on 5G deployment by 3 percent to support applications of 5G in vertical industries. Middle Eastern countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait have invested heavily to build 5G-based smart cities,” reports Zhou. “The US is subsidizing US$20.4 billion to support broadband coverage in rural areas, and Germany is investing 20 billion euros to build 5G base stations.”
In technology news, Andy Purdy — CSO for Huawei Technologies USA and former director of national cybersecurity at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — contends that 5G is the most secure wireless generation yet, citing its enhanced user authentication and stronger data encryption.
“I can say confidently that there's no reason to think 5G is inherently more vulnerable, or riskier, than previous generations of mobile technology,” writes Purdy for Forbes. “If anything, when it's fully deployed, 5G can be more secure than 4G for comparable services and functionality.”
However, Purdy also notes that “telecommunications operators are advised to use equipment from multiple vendors. Using more than one supplier in both the core and the RAN increases network resilience by eliminating the potential for a single point of failure.”
Joe Maring of Android Central, meanwhile, took a look this week at one of the most vital components in our phones: the glass. Maring interviewed Scott Forester, Corning's VP of Marketing and Innovation for Gorilla Glass, to discuss development of the glass found in most mainstream handsets, from iPhone 11s to Galaxy Note 10s.
“The top three things that continue to be the drivers of improvement [are] really around drop performance, scratch performance, and readability,” Forester told Maring in a wide-ranging Q&A.
Forester also confirmed that Corning already is working with OEMs — including Samsung and Huawei — who have created foldable phones, presumably hinting that foldable Gorilla Glass isn’t far off.
In China this week, Xiaomi unveiled its Mi 9 Pro 5G. Boasting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ processor and a 6.39-inch AMOLED display, the Mi 9 Pro 5G costs only $520. Even the top-end model weighs in at just $605, offering 5G capability, 12 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of storage space.
While the phone is unlikely to receive a U.S. launch, savvy buyers should be able to import it, if they like, reports CNET.
Moving from devices to the airwaves themselves, Austrian regulator RTR stated this week bidders in that nation’s second auction of 5G licenses “will have to commit to roll out fast internet in rural areas, aiming to ensure access for every community in the largely rural and mountainous country,” reports Reuters. Austria is, in part, seeking to avoid spectrum auction inflation and other woes that have affected the U.S., Italy, Germany, and others.
“The auction for 700, 1,500 and 2,100 Mhz bands, which will provide data rates needed for autonomous driving and to connect machines and production sites, is planned for spring 2020,” states the Reuters report. The report adds that the 2020 licenses will not be divided among regions, but will be awarded nationwide, and that “the regulator plans to attach requirements and incentives to the allocation of the frequencies.”
The situation is more dire in India, where Hindustan Times reports there may not be 5G service for another five years, citing the fact that 5G spectrum allocation is yet to take place for full-fledged trials.
IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the outlet that spectrum auctions will be held in 2019 and that trials for 5G services with spectrum allotted by the ministry will start in the next three months or so.