Apple’s 5G iPhone is a sure sign that “wireless is the new fiber.” The pace of innovation is simply stunning. But it’s not your phone that will bring you this wireless revolution first. It will be in your network fabric, on your towers, phone poles and rooftops — on the devices you don’t touch but that touch you. Apple is breaking the ice, so thank you, Apple! You have got our attention. But it’s the telecommunications infrastructure providers who will make it real.
Early deployments of 5G infrastructure will be in dense urban or suburban areas to provide connectivity for outdoor communications and will be fortified by fixed wireless infrastructure to connect buildings or sites. However, even in places where 5G for consumer access is available, it might not be the panacea people expect. Unless 5G data plans are very economical, when indoors, most consumers will continue to use Wi-Fi to keep data charges to a minimum.
In either case, both 5G and Wi-Fi are only as good as the network infrastructure behind them. That backbone is rapidly becoming a heterogenous combination of wired and wireless technologies. Using a car analogy, consider the backhaul, distribution and access layers as three wheels on the car – with cloud management being the fourth wheel. While a fast broadband distribution network is surely welcome, broadband service providers also need long-range links for broadband and/or mobile infrastructure, high-speed Wi-Fi access for delivery and cloud management for provisioning and monitoring. Given recent innovations, all these capabilities can now be delivered using wireless technologies, including but not limited to 5G.
Broadband and mobile service providers now have unprecedented flexibility to optimize their networks. Across the spectrum (pun intended) including urban business, suburban residential, education campuses or industrial sites, service providers can choose from a wide range of wireless technology for each layer of the network enabling them to deliver the best possible connections at the lowest possible price.
Last month, I pointed out in my blog that one size does not fit all. This is as true for new 5G technology as it is for CBRS, millimeter wave, Wi-Fi 6 and all others. While 5G is a great accomplishment for the industry, it is a point on the evolutionary path. It’s just the newest one of many technologies that make the network work.
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