Cut Through the 5GE Marketing Hype

May 7, 2020

Emerging 5G highspeed wireless technology has tremendous potential, but nomenclature confusion clouds adoption. 

Cellular wide-area networking (C-WAN) has become a cornerstone in modern enterprises, and the best is yet to come. 5G, a new higher speed, more functional and more flexible network option, is moving from test labs to the production line. However, suppliers are not using the term “5G” in a consistent way, making it difficult for customers to evaluate services on an apples-to-apples basis.

To clear up the confusion, let’s first look at how the standards groups conceived 5G services and then compare that to what carriers commercially offer in their 5GE service. The International Telecommunications Union, 3GPP and Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) develop higher-speed network standards. Work on the latest iteration, which was termed IMT-2020 but is better known as 5G, began several years ago. Recently, device suppliers and carriers began releasing 5G products and services.

The latest network option offers many potential enticing and novel features, which will roll out in different phases:

  • Faster Speeds: 4G operated at 2 Gbps; 5G has top speeds up to 20 Gbps
  • Support for More Devices: The new standard was designed for IoT. 5G has been designed and thought to support IoT devices massively, much above what is supported today on 4G networks.
  • Reduced Latency: 4G latency typically ranges from 20 milliseconds to 30 milliseconds; 5G is 1 millisecond to 10 milliseconds.
  • Broader Spectrum of Operating Bands: Previous network generations operated in bands all below 6 GHz; 5G will leverage this range but will also go into the millimeter wave spectrum.

Making a Change

Transitioning from legacy technology to an emerging one is never easy. What works with the old may or may not function on the new because the latter includes features that the first devices were not designed to support. This issue becomes more pronounced when a change occurs, like supporting different frequency bands, which is the case this time. So, when moving to 5G, corporations may need to buy new endpoints, WAN links and management tools. What they will require depends on many factors centering on their current and future network configurations.

In 2018, a U.S. carrier began using the term 5GE for upgrades to its 4G network. The new capabilities were not based on 5G standards, did not support new 5G features and were identical to what other vendors labeled as 4G network upgrades. So, corporations that think they were buying 5G services will later discover that they were mistaken — but were they? Truly, the matter is a gray area. The class of service referred to as 5GE is Gigabit LTE. There is a formal discussion among standards bodies whether Gigabit LTE should merit the moniker of 5G.

Technically, the U.S. vendor is not labeling its products as 5G, but most would assume that 5GE and 5G are based on the same networking foundation. However, they are not. One might expect a standards group or certifying body to step in and keep such brash marketing hyperbole in check. One would be wrong. While the different consortia create wireless standards, they do not control how vendors market their products and services.

Complications Arise

The need to understand the difference between what the vendor is labeling and what it is delivering will become more pronounced as corporations embrace the next wave of technological advances. Artificial intelligence and machine learning, augmented reality and virtual reality, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are poised to become the foundation for next-generation applications. They offer new capabilities, like real-time, predictive manufacturing analytics; no-latency gaming on mobile devices; robotic telemedicine; and self-driving cars. 5G was built to support such applications; 4G was not. Companies need to be sure that they make the right choice for both the short term and the long term when upgrading their cellular IT systems.

Businesses need to dig deep, ask many questions to determine what will be required to upgrade to 5G and make valid comparisons to make competent decisions. They need to avoid marketing hype and equipment and services that lack a clear path to the new network option. The hyperbole muddies such distinctions and makes the transition more challenging.

Where to Turn?

Given the confusion, where can organizations turn? Input from a third party would be helpful. Telit is at the forefront of 5G development. Operating for close to 20 years, the company is a leading provider of IoT networking solutions for both Gigabit LTE and 5G hardware and software services. In this case, they can act as an unbiased source and help your company cut through the marketing hyperbole and craft clear 5G migration plans for both the short and long term. Contact Telit for more information, so you get on the right path to 5G and reap its potential rewards.

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