5G needs more clarity on what will be possible when

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As 5G rolls out, the industry must provide clarity on how capabilities will be enabled over time, according to a new whitepaper from IHS Markit.

The Promise and Potential of 5G report argues that although 5G networks are now being switched on, there is still little clarity on exactly what consumers and businesses can expect from 5G. As well as risking customer disappointment, this is also complicating the industry’s ability to measure itself against a standard set of 5G expectations and requirements, the whitepaper warns.

What and when

IHS Markit acknowledges the official 3GPP definition of 5G but also believes that this description needs to be better articulated “in the context of everyday experience and concepts”.

The whitepaper notes that 5G offers great potential to improve existing services and enable new use cases, such as driverless cars, immersive entertainment, zero-delay virtual reality, uninterrupted video and no-latency gaming. On the industrial front, it says 5G will be key to expanding and realising the full promise of the internet of things (IoT) in smart homes, smart cities and smart industries.

However, these use cases won’t all be realised overnight as soon as networks go live. Many will be enabled in subsequent releases of 5G standards over the next few years.

Francis Sideco, vice president, technology, at IHS Markit, commented, “The marketplace implicitly understands 5G represents an unprecedented growth opportunity, with the initial smartphone rollout set to generate record shipment volumes.

“However, fewer people understand the iterative nature of major technology rollouts such as the one we are going through now with 5G – a process involving multiple major updates that will add new capabilities in the coming years. With each of these updates having the potential to significantly disrupt the market’s competitive dynamics, it’s critical for companies to clearly understand the implications of each rollout or risk falling behind the competition.”

What’s next?

IHS Markit expects 37 million 5G smartphones to sell this year, with worldwide shipments set to surge to 120 million devices in 2020 and 525 million in 2023.

Sideco commented, “Despite strong growth, the level of success among individual competitors in the smartphone and infrastructure market will hinge on their ability to shift their business strategies in parallel with the evolution of 5G.”

The next 5G standard iteration, 3GPP’s  Release 16, is expected in late 2019. It is set to include greater reliability and peak data rates of 20 gigabits-per-second (Gbps) downlink and 10 Gbps uplink.

“This next phase of implementation and rollout will trigger a race among mobile network operators to meet and take advantage of these performance enhancements,” Sideco said. “The winners of this race are likely to gain a competitive advantage as they gear up for the next wave of growth.”