5G’s false dawn – who’s really rolling out the next technology?

Image credit: Morten Normann Almeland | shutterstock.com

With a number of countries laying claim to the title of world’s-first-5G-state, we explore whether we are really any closer to seeing the first 5G rollout.

With every passing week, the clamour of noise in the 5G echo-chamber seems to ratchet up another couple of decibels. As companies jostle to be to the first to bring their particular part of the 5G puzzle to market, the levels of hyperbole surrounding next generation mobile networks is fast approaching critical mass.

For me, 5G’s false dawn began in May, when Qatar and the UAE faced off over who had been the first country to launch 5G (spoiler alert – neither of them had). Just two days later, spurred on by the rhetoric of its regional rivals, Saudi Arabia also laid claim to the title of World’s First 5G Launch. While all three countries can certainly claim to have put in place key components of their 5G network infrastructure and to have completed live testing, (and credit where it’s due, for that), none of them have officially ‘launched 5G’.

This week, the First-For-5G clamour reached Europe as the tiny micro state of San Marino claimed to be the continent’s first 5G connected nation (I’m keeping my ears open for similar claims from Andorra, Liechtenstein and the Vatican City in the coming hours!).

The fact remains that there are currently no handsets on the market that are capable of accessing 5G networks, so the claims to be first 5G connected nation are largely irrelevant.

With the first 5G devices not expected to go on sale until the very end of the year, any talk of 5G readiness is just posturing. When large scale rollout does come, it will come first from the US and then on a more comprehensive scale in China and the Asia Pacific region.

All this is not to say that 5G is not worth getting excited about – quite the contrary. When 5G does arrive, it will usher in a new era of seamless and ubiquitous connectivity. In the meantime, spurious claims to be the world’s first 5G connected nation do little but make the claimant appear foolish.

“The launch of 5G will be a phased introduction. It will begin properly in 2020 and then over the next 7 years or so it will reach more comprehensive population coverage,” said Bengt Nordstrom, CEO of Northstream.

“The introduction of 5G will vary from region to region. China and the US are investing more – they don’t have better business cases than we do, it is just that in the US they have greater faith in the ability of technology to solve problems. It’s in their culture to go ahead with it [5G].

“In China it will be fuelled by the potential industry impact – how the Chinese ICT industry will be impacted and how they will benefit from that. It’s a governmental directive to launch early over there.

“Now, the two find themselves in something of an arms race and therefore they will push each other to launch earlier and earlier,” he added.

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Written by Chris Kelly, Editor, Total Telecom

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