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TechnologyBeware the 5G Hype: Wireless Rivals Fuel Confusion

18:16  10 january  2019
18:16  10 january  2019 Source:   msn.com

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U.S. telecom companies have started slapping the 5 G label on a smorgasbord of technologies, sowing confusion as they lay the infrastructure for full-fledged mobile 5 G wireless service. The FCC recently announced a plan to encourage a blazing fast wireless service called 5 G .

The FCC recently announced a plan to encourage a blazing fast wireless service called 5 G . But what is 5 G ? And how far is the U.S. from rolling it out? U.S. telecom companies have started slapping the 5 G label on a smorgasbord of technologies, sowing confusion in an industry not known for its simplicity.

Beware the 5G Hype: Wireless Rivals Fuel Confusion© steve marcus/Reuters

What’s 5G wireless service? On this, companies can agree: It’s what comes after 4G.

Asking for a more specific definition of the wireless industry’s brand new thing invites controversy. U.S. telecom companies have started slapping the 5G label on a smorgasbord of technologies, sowing confusion in an industry not known for its simplicity.

AT&T Inc. gained attention in recent days for putting “5GE” labels atop some customers’ Android smartphone screens. The E stands for “evolution,” a sign of the added bandwidth those phones can access as the company lays the groundwork for full-fledged 5G service.

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Like other wireless communication methods, 5 G sends and receives data in the radio spectrum. However, unlike what we're used to with 4G, 5 G uses higher frequencies (millimeter waves) on the radio spectrum to achieve ultrafast speeds. The downside of using high frequencies to transmit data is that

Buried beneath the hype around 5 G rests a growing sense that wireless carriers are aggressively over-selling the technology’s potential. “It’s a seismic shift—one that only the combined company can unlock nationwide to fuel the next wave of mobile innovation.”

AT&T finance chief John Stephens said the designation is appropriate because the company is upgrading cell towers with new equipment that will immediately improve wireless service quality. Those costly installations will eventually support full 5G service when the company updates antenna systems with newer software, a relatively inexpensive improvement.

“When you see that symbol show up on your phone, you’re getting that quality right now,” Mr. Stephens said Wednesday at a Citigroup Inc.-hosted investor conference in Las Vegas. “It’s real. It’s helping our customers today.”

The change caught Robert Ropars, a marketing strategist from Aurora, Ill., off guard earlier this month. He said web browsing on his LG Electronics Inc. smartphone seemed “zippier” when the symbol appeared, though he knows 5G service hasn’t rolled out yet.

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Qualcomm rival Intel will likely also talk about autonomous driving technology, given that Amnon Shashua, CEO of its Mobileye vision-based driving The rest of the mobile industry may be holding off until Mobile World Congress for its big 5 G announcements. The wireless -centric trade show, held in

Rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T also have designs on building out the next generation of It sat out the 600 MHz auction because as Verizon Wireless chief network officer Nicola Palmer commented It may also cause confusion about what 5 G really is, because it will mean fundamentally different

“I saw headlines that Verizon and T-Mobile were mocking them,” Mr. Ropars said, adding that news coverage of the technology shows that 5G service requires “more cell towers. That to me says [it’s] a long time coming.”

Despite the name, the 5GE-labeled phones are still only capable of connecting to 4G service. T-Mobile US Inc. technology chief Neville Ray said in a blog post the move was “duping customers into thinking they’re getting something they’re not.” Verizon Communications Inc. also criticized the tag, arguing real 5G service must use fresh hardware and new radio technology to deserve the moniker.

“Verizon won’t take an old phone and just change the 4 in the status bar to a 5,” the company’s chief technology officer, Kyle Malady, wrote this week in an open letter published online and as full-page newspaper ads.

Yet Verizon’s critics say it, too, has blurred the line, by focusing its early 5G service on home broadband instead of cellphone improvements. The company developed its own 5G-like specifications years ago to make sure it could get equipment in the field early. The company will upgrade that gear later with new machines subject to the same cutting-edge specifications that other carriers are using.

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This is why wireless and fiber are not the same. Even if a wireless connection can carry a boatload of data over a few feet, fiber optic cable can carry virtually unlimited data for tens of kilometers — perfectly, unthreatened by interference — without needing a boost.

Fuel -Efficient Cars. Rivals Verizon and AT&T have experimented with 5 G using higher-frequency spectrum, which can deliver speeds that are higher than a fiber-optic line, but limited in geography. "It may also cause confusion about what 5 G really is, because it will mean fundamentally different

Verizon spokesman Kevin King said the company has “been pretty clear from the beginning that we’re developing a mobile solution” as well as home broadband. “We’re able to walk and chew gum at the same time.”

The cable industry joined the fray this week at CES 2019, the consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, by unveiling “10G,” a reference to cable companies’ goal of providing wired broadband service at 10-gigabit speeds. The acronym is unrelated to cellphone carriers’ fifth-generation wireless technology, though the parallel branding wasn’t lost on wireless executives.

Cable companies want to highlight their efforts to boost broadband speeds beyond the 1-gigabit speeds on offer today, said Brian Dietz, a spokesman for cable trade group NCTA. “Our industry felt like it was important to be in that conversation as well,” he said.

It’s hardly the first time telecom marketers have used engineering patter to muddy the waters. T-Mobile caught flak in 2010 for putting 4G labels atop phone screens connected to its upgraded HSPA+ network, which critics argued was only enhanced 3G. Its executives said the new branding was fair because subscribers’ data bandwidth drastically improved.

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What is 5 G ? 5 G networks are the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, offering faster speeds and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices than ever before. Combining cutting-edge network technology and the very latest research

The CTIA, the wireless industry trade association, has launched an advertising campaign entitled, "The Global Race to 5 G .". The ads claim that unless the U.S. wins this "global race" to become the first nation to deploy the fifth generation of wireless technology or 5 G

All four nationwide carriers cover most urban areas with 4G LTE service, which for now remains the gold standard available to consumers. Carriers will need to install tens of thousands of new radio systems to deliver wireless 5G signals. It could take years before a significant number of people own 5G-capable cellphone models, the first of which are only now hitting the market.

Even as Apple Inc. struggles to sell enough of its latest iPhones, U.S. wireless carriers are attracting plenty of new customers with existing technology. T-Mobile said Wednesday it ended the fourth quarter with one million more phone customers on postpaid plans, which are valued because subscribers with monthly bills tend to stick around longer. Verizon said Tuesday it added 650,000 of those phone plans in the fourth quarter, another positive sign for industry profits.

Official 5G specifications, for the record, are set by 3GPP, a global industry group. Its engineering rules then go to the United Nations-affiliated International Telecommunication Union. Engineers say the process is slow but gives companies the confidence to make sure the billions of dollars they invest in development and manufacturing isn’t headed toward a dead end.

The new 5G standards, like previous generations, will offer cellphone users a big speed boost. They will also support dense antenna arrays that support a swarm of devices and will make networks more responsive, cutting the time it takes for connected machines to process commands. Those advances could give wireless carriers a bigger foothold in sectors like virtual reality, industrial automation and transportation.

Those distinctions might not matter to customers. The public pays more attention to smoother videos and faster downloads than to technical specifications, said Walt Piecyk, an analyst at brokerage BTIG. In that respect, AT&T’s upgrades might deserve their numerical advantage.

“It’s not that complicated,” Mr. Piecyk said. “Consumers will just figure out what works and what doesn’t.”

Write to Drew FitzGerald at [email protected]

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