I wish 5G, with its 490 Mbit/sec. speeds and download latency times of 17 milliseconds, was just around the corner. It’s not.

I know, I know. AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, and the pairing of T-Mobile and Sprint are all promising 5G real soon now. They’re … fibbing.

There are a host of technical, business and even political reasons why I think we’ll be lucky to see 5G by 2021, never mind later this year.

First, on the tech side, we don’t have any common understanding of what 5G is. The Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance has one 5G definition, 3GPP has another one and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has yet another one, which has just passed first-stage approvals. Then there’s what the vendors are actually doing, which bears some resemblance to all these proposals.

Then there are purely practical matters such as, say, 5G’s range. Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), which is only one of three flavors of 5G, is the one you’ll be using with your smartphone. It makes use of multiple-input and multiple-output, (MIMO) and millimeter wave (mmWave) to, in theory, deliver up to gigabit speeds as you walk down the street and watch Star Wars: Chewy’s Story in 3D and try not to walk in front of a self-driving truck.

While a seminal research paper boldly proclaimed, “Millimeter Wave Mobile Communications for 5G Cellular: It Will Work!” there are still real doubts. The real range of mmWave appears to be about about a third of a mile. 4G? It ranges from three to 30 miles.

Think about that for a minute. That’s a heck of a lot of new cell towers, isn’t it?




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