5G, latency and roll-out challenges
5G isn’t purely about broadband speed. It is, instead about enabling new applications beyond cellular to be delivered over the network. If we look at latency, 5G is aiming at just 1ms. This reduced latency will mean it can be used in autonomous vehicles (requiring 5G communications infrastructure to become essential for the road networks), in industrial robotic control and many others where there is a critical need to minimise delay. At the very sci-fi end of the spectrum, we’ve even heard suggestions of remote surgery but this does seem somewhat far-fetched at this stage.
However, we’re still in the pre-standards phase and with two competing versions – 3GPP’s 5G NR and Verizon’s pre-5G specification. There is a real risk that the competition will make life harder for equipment developers and operators, as it did 20 years ago when DoCoMo launched a competing pre-3G specification.
This is not helped by the fact that many in the industry think the 5G NR specification is too complex, too expensive, too power demanding, and too late to be relevant for what operators want to do in 5G. But it is likely to win out. And, if the past is anything to go by, it will not be immediate, or an easy journey for the industry, hence as an IP company, Blu Wireless is preparing to support both options – aligning our road map with that of our customers’.
In the meantime, we’re seeing some looking to take a third, lower-risk option before the choice between Verizon’s and the 3GPP’s specifications is settled, taking scalable, cost effective 60 GHz mesh or star networking in conjunction with small cell-based networks.