People around the world want even more from wireless networks than usual thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. 5G service is still limited, but the need for fast connections is clearer than ever.
Chris Pearson, president of 5G Americas, said that the new rules of work and daily life show how critical mobile wireless technology is for first responders, workers, and consumers to maintain social distancing while staying connected.
“5G will play a vital role in sustaining the economy and our health,” he said.
Here is a look at which sectors could use a fast and reliable connection right now as well as an update on the state of the expansion.
Healthcare, education, and telecommuting boosted
Connecting healthcare providers and patients safely and securely is an immediate benefit of 5G service. Pearson said telemedicine not only improves productivity and healthcare, but also protects both patients and healthcare workers from infection.
“In some parts of the world, the combination of 5G, drone, and AI are already being used to detect body temperatures of potential COVID-19 cases in public areas,” he said.
5G connectivity also can also help educators and students now relying on remote classrooms and live streaming video.
“The high capacity of 5G networks will allow for very high-quality, real-time video and allow large homework video files to be sent from the teacher to the student,” Pearson said.
Bill Menezes, a Gartner analyst specializing in sourcing, procurement and vendor management said that 5G connectivity also will help people working at home.
“The millimeter wave spectrum Verizon Wireless is deploying is only available in limited areas, but provides even greater throughput comparable to faster (close to 1 Gbps) cable modem or fiber to the home link,” he said.
Most 5G currently deployed using low- and mid-band spectrum (T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint) may provide marginally greater throughput than 4G LTE or comparable throughput to cable modem.
5G expansion and the coronavirus
5G connectivity requires much higher density than current networks, to the extent that an area covered by one installation needs anywhere from eight-20 more sites to cover the same area in 5G service.
“Having real-time information means that we need bandwidth and for that we need more sites,” he said. “We’re going to see a lot of new 5G sites within the next months.”
Pearson said a few components of the 5G expansion have slowed down:
- GSMA Intelligence has reduced their forecast for 2020 by more than 25%: Expecting around 150 million 5G connections globally by the end of the year.
- The US Federal Communications Commission has delayed the 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum auction by a month to July 2020.
- There could be an impact on the supply chain surrounding 5G New Radios manufactured in China, which could slow rollouts globally.
- The standards work for 3GPP Release 16 & 17 is also being delayed by around three months, due to the inability to meet face-to-face.