Every few years, a new generation of wireless technology is rolled out—with faster speeds, less congestion, and better capabilities. With this new technology comes the formidable task of implementation. As the promise of 5G begins to appear on the horizon, major carriers are finally unveiling early plans on how they’ll improve cell service in 2018.
Several leading U.S. wireless carriers have finally announced their plans to begin the transition to 5G. Similar to the 2010 switch to 4G, the major carriers have different approaches to getting 5G into the homes and pockets of customers. At the moment, there are two different strategies, with some favoring direct infrastructure investment, and others portable device technology.
Verizon and AT&T, two of the largest carriers in the US, are both planning on waiting for 5G enabled handsets to be released in a big way, meanwhile selling both fixed and portable high-speed hotspots. This plan will allow older handsets and laptops to access 5G speeds via Wi Fi, adding even further competition to broadband providers.
Sprint has a markedly different strategy, focusing on using MIMO technology to improve its towers with hardware that can simultaneously carry 4.5G and 5G, allowing them to improve their LTE speeds and coverage now, while having a network ready and waiting for 5G. MIMO technology uses arrays of dozens of antennas to make the most of limited spectrum holdings, which makes it ideal for the shorter ranges projected for the FCC approved 5G bands. This technology also works with LTE Advanced, so as this carrier upgrades its current LTE network, it is also building its future 5G network.
Aside from actual 5G networks, consumers can expect to see various iterations and clarifications of “the road to 5G” as carriers and manufacturers get closer to rolling out coverage and devices, and interim solutions are tested. In the meantime, all the carriers are continuing to improve their LTE coverage.
These different approaches provide customers with an unusual amount of choice in how and when they get access to 5G. One curiosity might be why major carriers aren’t starting with handsets first. The answer seems to be that the supply wouldn’t be ready for the massive demand. If this proves to be true, the portable/fixed hotspot strategy makes good sense right now. If handset and chipset manufacturers are able to meet the potential demand from millions of customers, then having infrastructure ready and waiting for 5G might prove to be a better long-term solution. Either way, consumers can look forward to both improved LTE coverage and increased carrier competition for the mass rollout of 5G over the next couple of years, while integrators will look for the increased opportunities that come with each new evolution in the industry.
Visit www.tessco.com to learn more about how to capitalize on the transition to 5G, no matter what part of the ecosystem you occupy.