Qualcomm is hosting its Snapdragon Technology Summit this week in Maui, Hawaii, where the company has partnered with their plans for 5G in 2019. Among the companies invited the mobile chip giant Samsung, Verizon and AT & T.
Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon showed on Tuesday a 5G prototype device that can access "live" 5G networks running in the Grand Wailea Hotel, the venue of the conference. It is operated by Verizon and AT & T. The 350 journalists present had no opportunity to try the devices, but we had the opportunity to see them. Curated demos showed the capabilities of the network.
5G "will lay the foundation for smartphones, later cars and virtually any electronic device that will be connected," Amon said in a keynote address. "This first step (smartphones) will be achieved in the first half of 2019."
5G, the next generation of mobile technology, is expected to significantly increase the speed, range and responsiveness of wireless networks. It can run 10 to 100 times faster than a traditional mobile connection, and even faster than anything you can achieve with a fiber optic cable in your home. This also speeds up how quickly a device connects to the network at a millisecond speed to start downloading or uploading.
Due to the general increase in speed, phones are better equipped for complex computing tasks in a fraction of the time they currently need. This could allow for advanced photography skills, artificial intelligence and augmented reality apps. Today's cell phones would take far too long to complete these tasks. The 5G technology also enables driverless cars and buses to communicate with each other and to communicate with intelligent street lights and other vehicles on the road.
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5G technology, while offering more powerful devices, also gives equipment manufacturers and operators the opportunity to profit. 5G requires special hardware so it does not "work" in any city or with your current phone. Service providers with the largest 5G networks and mobile phone manufacturers with the best-equipped 5G phones hope to win their customers as competitors and brands barely catch up. 5G service plans and 5G enabled phones could also sell a premium in addition to "regular" LTE plans and devices.
On Monday, Samsung and Verizon announced their first 5G phone, a proof-of-concept device unveiled before the summit. Samsung plans to launch a 5G phone for bothand in early 2019. Earlier this year, Motorola and Verizon were working on a 5G-enabled module snapping onto a 5G-capable $ 400 module, the Moto Z3. No one will work until Verizon officially lights up its first US 5G networks, but if it does, these handsets are waiting.
Although 5G technology will replace today's 4G LTE networks, the transition will be gradual. The carriers will introduce their first 5G networks city by city while accelerating existing 4G LTE networks. Expect larger cities to receive first 5G and rural markets earliest support.
The stony path to 5G in the middle until the end of 2019
The transition to the 5G network brings with it its own challenges. First, operators need to prepare their networks for 5G. This fifth generation data pipeline uses a different part of the wireless spectrum than 4G. It uses high-frequency millimeter waves (mmWave) to deliver very high speeds in the near range and below 6GHz to provide data wider and in-building.
As with 4G and 3G, carriers buy the rights to use the spectrum in auctions conducted by the FCC. This could mean that some network operators have a wider range than the others and this can affect the overall speed of the network in different parts of the country.
Second, device manufacturers need to make sure their handsets work seamlessly with 5G. Phones must use a special modem and dedicated processor chip that supports 5G. Smartphone brands like Samsung, Apple and LG are already testing every single device with every major carrier they sell. 5G certification is another lengthy and expensive process.
However, Amon and wireless partners such as Verizon said they were confident they would launch phones in early 2019.
"We're up to speed with the 5G mobile service," said Nicki Palmer, Verizon's chief network engineering officer and director of wireless networking, on Tuesday at the Qualcomm event. Verizon plans to set up 5G incubators in Los Angeles, the Bay Area and Washington, DC, to target the fast-moving networks.
And Amon noted that it is not just US carriers or certain mobile phone companies that are other countries that will bring 5G to market next year. Instead, all the world's major markets are seeking to introduce 5G as soon as possible.
"5G is so important that the whole industry moves at the same pace in 2019," said Amon. "The fact that we have a mature mobile environment [means] … the development system will move faster than ever."
This story was originally published on December 4 at 12:13 pm and updated 4:51 pm PT with more details.
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