Current Status of 5G
The adoption of 5G is happening much faster than previous cellular network transitions. In the early years of 4G globally (2010-2011), only 4 carriers and 4 devices supported the standard. 5G is at its nascent phase. Yet, over 30 5G-smartphones have already been scheduled for release in 2019, and over 20 carriers worldwide have announced support for this standard.
EE has now launched in the UK and Vodafone will follow suit this summer with Three and O2 not far behind. So what can those users expect who’d like to put a cellular router onto these 5G services as a fibre style replacement, or to enable the next killer app, be it AR/VR, Internet of Things, autonomous driving or something entirely new.
What we are going to try to do is clarify the hype from the reality and provide advice on what steps you can take to either use bonded 4G+/LTE-A or look at future-proofed routers with 5G swappable radios in.
Limitations of 5G
Network Congestion and Short Range
The 5G network is designed to connect an unprecedented number of devices: billions of consumer mobile devices streaming data-intensive apps, critical IoT networks that cannot be disrupted and mobile broadband users expecting stability and quality of service of a fixed line, all at the same time. Coupled with mmWave’s short range and its inability to penetrate walls and windows, 5G network conditions at any given moment are subject to a high degree of uncertainty. Also mmWaves are not deployed yet in the UK.
Operators can partially overcome this challenge by increasing the density of network infrastructure. However, this is a function of cellular operator’s ROI. According to market forecasts, 5G spending will balloon up at a rate of 118% CAGR, reaching approximately $26 billion in 2022.
Mobile devices can be equipped with antenna enhancements such as beamforming and MIMO, but can hardly achieve the 99.999% reliability required by business users.
In conclusion, 5G network and user requirements pose significant engineering challenges, so it will be a while before we see a lot of the hyped benefits delivered for use in the UK.
Cellular Dead Spots
Although 5G brings improved performance, each network still has gaps in their coverage. Effects of a cellular dead spot can range from stream jitters due to packet loss all the way to dropped connections. This limitation is inherent in all cellular technologies to date. To overcome this limitation, system integrators need to employ SpeedFusion SD-WAN technology: combining the bandwidth of multiple cellular providers and WAN technologies into a single VPN connection. This technology enables reliable connectivity and session persistence even in cellular dead spots