The start of 2018 has the US operators making big proclamations around 5G, but will this be the year the next-gen networks become a reality, or simply the year 5G marketing hype goes mainstream?
The answer may be a bit of both.
In the past week, both AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile US Inc. have made announcements around 5G. T-Mobile kicked things off by pronouncing that it would beat both AT&T and
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) to a nationwide mobile 5G network by 2020. (See T-Mobile CEO: We'll 'Leapfrog' AT&T & Verizon With Mobile 5G.)
AT&T fired back by claiming it would be the first US operator to launch a mobile 5G service in 12 markets in late 2018. (See How Will AT&T Fulfill Its Year-End Mobile 5G Promise?)
However, as Light Reading's Iain Morris and Dan Jones point out, AT&T did not say what spectrum the network will use or what device(s) will run on it, noting only that it will have a compatible mobile device. Both of these omissions are notable because AT&T seemingly does not have enough spectrum on hand to run 5G since its acquisition of FiberTower's 24GHz and 39Ghz licenses has yet to gain approval, and Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) says not to expect 5G smartphones until 2019. T-Mobile, at least, has the low-band 600MHz spectrum required for 5G, though it too may not have enough. (See AT&T Joins 5G Marketing War, Promising 'Mobile' Launch in 2018, AT&T's Mobile 5G Plan Leaves as Many Questions as Answers, T-Mobile CEO: We'll 'Leapfrog' AT&T & Verizon With Mobile 5G and AT&T Buys FiberTower for 5G Spectrum.)
5G is on the horizon; that is certain. And, there's a reason for the hype as it holds a lot of promise with the faster speeds and lower latency it will bring. But, what we are seeing here is the exact same thing we saw with 4G before it: operators jumping the gun with marketing, starting a war of (only) words and potentially confusing consumers in the process. Everyone wants the latest and greatest, and 5G is it... even if it doesn't yet exist.
My guess is that we'll see the 5G marketing machine pick up over the next few months, convincing consumers they want -- no, need -- 5G now by the middle of the year. But, they won't be able to get it in the US even by the end of the year, outside of a few very small markets... on a trial basis... on one tablet.
— Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms