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Telecom Experts Plot a Path to 5G

The ITU is sorting through likely approaches to the next-generation mobile standard

4 min read
Telecom Experts Plot a Path to 5G
Photo: iStockphoto

Even before the 4G technology your smartphone uses was rolled out in earnest, telecommunications experts were dreaming of the next generation: 5G. But what 5G will do and how it will do it have remained pretty nebulous. “5G is a plethora of technologies that people are trying to bring together. What technology should be prioritized in what way?” says Thyaga Nandagopal, the director of the Networking Technologies and Systems program at the U.S. National Science Foundation.

But pressure to answer that question is mounting: Within five years, mobile service providers will need the new networks to power the Internet of Things, where just about everything, including smart cars, homes, thermometers, and portable sonar fish detectors, will be online.

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The Cellular Industry’s Clash Over the Movement to Remake Networks

The wireless industry is divided on Open RAN’s goal to make network components interoperable

13 min read
Photo: George Frey/AFP/Getty Images
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We've all been told that 5G wireless is going to deliver amazing capabilities and services. But it won't come cheap. When all is said and done, 5G will cost almost US $1 trillion to deploy over the next half decade. That enormous expense will be borne mostly by network operators, companies like AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, and dozens more around the world that provide cellular service to their customers. Facing such an immense cost, these operators asked a very reasonable question: How can we make this cheaper and more flexible?

Their answer: Make it possible to mix and match network components from different companies, with the goal of fostering more competition and driving down prices. At the same time, they sparked a schism within the industry over how wireless networks should be built. Their opponents—and sometimes begrudging partners—are the handful of telecom-equipment vendors capable of providing the hardware the network operators have been buying and deploying for years.

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