(And we’re ready for global 5G advancements in 2019)
I’m on my way to CES, the yearly Consumer Electronics Show, and wanted to share my thoughts on the tremendous strides being made in 5G.
While we are naturally excited by the start of a new year, this year is especially exciting because we are also at the threshold of a new generation of mobile and wireless technology. The 5G revolution is dawning now and will break new ground in 2019. This leap in technology will transform many industries, bringing in new capabilities, enabling limitless new use cases and business growth opportunities. The benefits to society will be significant, for example, in the advancement of telemedicine and other next-generation medical technologies. But along with being exciting, 5G is also confusing and misunderstood in some ways. Let me take this opportunity to explain how we are working with our partners to bring the full benefits of 5G to our global customers.
We all know that spectrum is the ”highway” of wireless networks. It also is the one of the main reasons for variability in mobile networks and devices deployed across the globe. One question I frequently hear from our customers is about which bands our 5G products will support. The short answer is all of them and the reason is very simple – because we are addressing the worldwide market opportunity. Our products will support both the sub-6GHz bands as well as the millimeter Wave (mmW) bands that the 5G operators are deploying in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. Here’s a little more background on what that means.
3GPP, or 3rd Generation Partnership Project, is the international standards body for cellular technologies. This group not only sets the technical standards but also approves the various bands of spectrum to be used for these standards. For 5G, 3GPP is approving many bands. One way to categorize these bands is based on where they sit in the frequency range. There are three ranges: 1) Low- band, which covers anything less than 1 GHz; 2) Mid-band, between 1 to 6 GHz; and 3) High-band, higher than 6 GHz, including the millimeter wave bands from ~30 – 300 GHz. Sometimes, the first and second are combined together and called the sub-6GHz band.
Different countries are designating different bands for 5G. Spectrum allocation is still largely a work-in-progress, however trends are emerging. In just a few months, the number of global operators committed to 5G has exploded and as of this writing has surpassed 190.
As long as there is enough market opportunity for a specific band, technology suppliers will support them. Inseego, being a global leader, is working with customers and technology partners across the globe to support the bands. Because we can work on a global scale, there are more market opportunities that we can unlock.
Another way to look at the spectrum is from a licensing perspective. Almost all of the spectrum used for cellular is licensed, meaning operators have paid billions of dollars for access. The licensing regulators have full and exclusive control over how the spectrum is used. Some of 5G’s spectrum will be licensed and some will be unlicensed. Most of the initial 5G spectrum will be licensed. The unlicensed spectrum, much of which is used by Wi-Fi, is free for anybody to use. 4G started to use the unlicensed spectrum through a feature called LAA (Licensed Assisted Access). LAA allowed many of the operators to achieve gigabit LTE speeds, even when they had limited licensed spectrum. While LAA was an afterthought for 4G, support for unlicensed spectrum is a consideration from the get-go for 5G.
A new concept developed in the last few years is called “shared” spectrum, which is usable by 5G. In this scheme, if the licensees of the spectrum are not fully utilizing the spectrum (geographically or timewise) then they can sub-let those bands to others. Some spectrum users can pay for Priority Access when or if the original licensee is not using the spectrum. There will also be General Access users who can use the spectrum at no charge, but only when Licensees or Primary Users are not using it. A good example of this is the spectrum allocated to the U.S. Navy. The Navy uses their spectrum mostly on the coasts. Inland, they can make it shared spectrum, which opens it up to 5G use.
The CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) is an example of shared spectrum administered in the United States. It is in the 3.5 GHz band, which is similar to the initial sub-6 GHz 5G bands. Inseego is a strong supporter of CBRS, because its characteristics look similar to small cell 5G deployments.
The higher capacity and unprecedented speeds that 5G bring is already well known. Another equally important aspect, if not more so, is its extremely low latency. Such ultra-low latency will enable a whole slew of new applications and use cases. Inseego, in our quest to #make5Greal, is working with many innovators to bring the benefits of this ultra-low latency to consumers and businesses. One such example was a demo that we showed at the recently concluded Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Tech Summit. We showcased a Columbia University use case of remote physiotherapy by combining the power of 5G and VR. Using 5G in a setting like a remote patient-provider interaction increases convenience for the patient and substantially cuts the healthcare delivery cost. Such uses are only possible with 5G and Inseego’s ability to be the first to bring every new generation of wireless technology to market.
So, while we stand at the turning of the year as well as at the dawn of a new wireless era, I challenge you to boldly explore the possibilities of what 5G can do for you. We stand by you with our time-tested and expanding 5G global product portfolio, and unwavering commitment to customer support.
Making 5G Real has been a wild ride. So far, Inseego has played an integral role in the solution for Verizon’s 5G FWA launch. We’ve powered real-world use cases in field test trials over 5G NR with exceptional performance results. We’ve partnered with other operators around the globe, including Telstra, with 5G sub-6 and mmWave solutions. We’re just getting warmed up and eager to reveal what we have in the works for 2019.
Here’s to an exciting year ahead!
Chairman and CEO