5G is awesome and nine other things we learned at 5G Asia this week

5G Asia

5G Asia (formerly known as LTE Asia – see what they did there?) has wrapped up in Singapore, and here’s ten (10) things we learned:

  1. 5G is an awesome technology that will do awesome things.
  1. 5G will arrive on time (in Japan and Korea, anyway).
  1. No one’s really sure what the market drivers are that will actually convince customers to upgrade their devices or service packages, or what new services will pay off, but that’s okay, said Jin-Hyo Park, senior VP of network technology R&D at SK Telecom, because no one knew what 4G was good for either and look how well that’s worked out.
  1. If nothing else, said Chris King, senior director of CSP product marketing at Oracle, the future customers of 5G will be companies like Uber, Netflix, and Tesla – companies who will take your unprecedented connectivity and computing power and disrupt the hell out of whatever industry they care to play in. But telcos will need to be agile enough to give them the platform they need – and brave enough to fail.
  1. Or, as Paolo Sidoti, managing director and APAC Network Services Lead at Accenture, put it during his presentation, telcos need to be able to manage a fluid ecosystem, and need to be able to manage critical control points within that ecosystem such as security, interoperability, APIs and analytics.
  1. LTE and 5G will coexist for a very long time, but someone needs to tell the 3GPP that, because they haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about how LTE and 5G can share and reuse existing facilities and spectrum, said Fumio Watanabe, chairman of KDDI R&D Labs. He explained that this could create potential interference issues in situations where a 4G device and a 5G device (which will likely be using different waveforms) are trying to use the same spectrum band.
  1. if the 5G spectrum chart displayed by Takehiro Nakamura, VP and MD for NTT DoCoMo’s 5G Lab, during his keynote is any indication, the GSM Association will have its work cut out for it in terms of spectrum harmonization (especially the 28 GHz band, which is not a 5G candidate band as far as WRC-19 and the satellite industry is concerned, but Japan, Korea and the US seem determined to use it for 5G anyway).
  1. Those New Radios don’t matter nearly as much as SDN/NFV, which is the key technology on which the whole 5G business model (whatever it might be) depends.
  1. Developed and developing markets are going to have very different priorities and timelines when it comes to 5G. Amila Saputhanthri, value added services engineer at Sri Lankan operator Dialog Axiata, said that people in developing markets will see a lot more use for irrigation canal monitoring, medical record tracking, flood estimation and smart grids than, say, connected cars. He was talking about the IoT, not 5G, but notice how all of those particular apps aren’t necessarily dependent on 5G access to work.
  1. They are, however, dependent on connectivity that barely exists (if at all) in the rural areas that would benefit the most from them. And Facebook is determined to connect them by any means necessary – satellites, lasers, drones, open-source base stations, whatever it takes, because if 5G isn’t designed to literally connect everyone on earth, what’s the point?
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