5G highlights as we enter 2020, hurry up and wait

When it comes to 5G availability for 2020 the answer depends on the type of network each carrier is building and to what level of progress each has made, as all carriers have a different strategy to their 5G buildout. It also depends on the availability of the networks as well as the new 5G handsets and devices prepared to work this new technology.

Understanding the basic differences of the three types of frequencies that will be used for 5G also helps:

  • mmWave is very fast but only covers a few city blocks and does not penetrate buildings, glass or trees. This radio frequency spectrum is between 24GHz and 100GHz and has a very short wavelength and will be used in highly populated areas.
  • Mid band waves (2.5/3.5GHz) covers several miles and has a decent speed but not as fast as mmWaves.
  • Low band waves (600MHz) covers hundreds of miles and the signals can penetrate buildings and topography well. The speeds are average.

As for each of the major wireless carriers, here are a few 5G updates to date, although things are in constant change in this space.

AT&T predicts 2020 will be the year of a major handset upgrade cycle and has promised to deliver nationwide 5G by mid-year. AT&T has launched 5G in 35 cities for business customers on mmWave and has launched 20 markets on the low band for consumers and plans to continue their buildout.Verizon rolled out 5G (high band mmWave) in 31 cities by the end of 2019 and expects to continue their 5G buildout in 2020 but has delayed its home 5G rollout.

Sprint has a different deployment strategy and is building out their 5G with 2.5Ghz spectrum which is a mid-band spectrum and so far has rolled out 5G in 9 cities.

T-Mobile is waiting for court approval to merge with Sprint and to combine the networks, but announced that their nationwide 5G network went live in December; covering 5,000 cities and 200 million people. The networks taps into T-Mobile’s 600Mhz spectrum which is a low band spectrum and not as fast as millimeter-wave but travels very far and has good penetration capabilities.

Currently there is a lot of confusion for consumers around 5G and when they will be able to upgrade to a 5G device that provides the coverage they are accustomed to with 4G LTE. Bob O’Donnell, president of TECHnalysis Research, cautions that these upgrades won’t happen right away due to some technical aspects of the 5G rollout. “That’s like opening a 10-lane highway only for people with electric cars,” he said, since only a small minority of drivers would have access.

For the most part, carriers are waiting on the device manufacturers to develop newer devices that are 5G compatible while they continue to build out their 5G networks. Devices that may be able to handle multiple spectrums (both low band for building penetration and mmWave for the fastest speeds) would be advantageous for consumers, however the networks must be ready. And while we may continue to hear news and announcements in 2020 about new cities launched for 5G, until the network is fully ready, and until the new 5G devices are here, many analysts predict that 5G will not be a viable option for the masses until 2022.

Additionally, Samsung launched their new 5G devices at their February 11, 2020 event (Galaxy S20 Series for 5G, the S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra) and Apple will most likely announce their 5G iPhones at their September 2020 event.

Does your company have a device refresh strategy in place with the upcoming 5G devices? Consult with OVATION Wireless Management to develop a plan around your company’s device refreshes and overall mobility program.