5G promises to change everything with faster data speeds, smoother streaming, low latency, superior performance for IoT and autonomous vehicles, and more.
But when? How much longer do we have to wait?
While no one knows for sure, 3 recent developments indicate that the arrival of 5G is getting very close indeed.
1) Intel speeds 5G modem availability
Earlier this month, Intel said it would accelerate the timing of its XMM 8160 5G modem by more than half a year. The device is now set to become available in the second half of 2019. Commercial devices using the Intel modem are now expected in the first half of 2020.
Why the speed-up? To support broad and global 5G rollouts. “We’re seeing great demand for the advanced feature set of the XMM 8160,” says Intel VP Cormac Conroy.
The Intel XMM 8160 is a multimode modem. That means it supports both the new standard for 5G New Radio (NR) — including both standalone and non-standalone modes — and older 4G, 3G and 2G legacy radios. And all in a single chipset. That should help hardware makers create mobile devices that are both small and energy-efficient.
2) T-Mobile’s first broadcast
Mobile carrier T-Mobile, working with Nokia, today announced that it has completed what the first 5G data transmission on low-band spectrum (600 MHz). And it was done over T-Mobile’s live commercial network.
T-Mobile and Nokia engineers completed the downlink transmission tests using global 5G standards in Spokane, Wash. T-Mobile maintains that low-band spectrum is important, because it reaches further than other frequencies. Indeed, the recent tests provided 5G coverage across hundreds of square miles from a single tower.
How soon? The carrier expects to offer 5G commercial service across the United States by 2020.
3) 5G chipsets: over a billion served (by 2022)
Smartphone users will be major beneficiaries of 5G. ABI Research now predicts that to support 5G, smartphone makers will transition their Wi-Fi chipsets away from the 802.11ac standard and instead adopt 802.11ax, also known as Wi-Fi 6.
The move will start next year, ABI expects, then pick up speed in 2020. By 2022, Wi-Fi 6 chipset global shipments could top 1 billion units.
The 802.11ax standard isn’t likely to be fully ratified until 2020. Yet pre-standard Wi-Fi 6 chipsets are already available from suppliers including Intel, Qualcomm and Broadcom. One advantage of Wi-Fi 6: It works well in dense environments.
5G technology will be fast. Getting to 5G just got a little faster, too.