News Feature | June 8, 2018

The Week In 5G: 6/8/2018 – 5G PCs From Intel And Sprint Coming Next Year, UK Conducts First Live 5G Trial, AR/VR Needs 5G To Boost Ecommerce

By Jof Enriquez
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq

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Intel and U.S. carrier Sprint are teaming up and will start selling 5G PCs next year, the companies announced at Computex 2018.

"Sprint is now joining us as a partner to sell Intel processor based, 5G-connected PCs in stores around the world. Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Microsoft are working with us to deliver the industry’s first 5G-connected laptops and 2 in 1s in 2019," said Gregory M. Bryant, Senior VP and GM of the Client Computing Group at Intel.

Intel's expanding number of partners utilizing the company's Core chips will help it better compete with rival Qualcomm in the connected device space, according to The Verge.

Qualcomm has said it is working with 18 smartphone makers to make the first wave of 5G devices. The company also is developing 5G chips and modems under 5G trials conducted with operator partners, and claims more battery-efficient 5G phones will be available in 2019.

One of its partners, the British mobile operator EE (part of BT), is set to switch on the United Kingdom's first live 5G trial in London's Tech City this October. EE/BT aims to be first to offer commercial 5G services in the UK by 2020.

“This live trial is a big step forward in making the benefits of 5G a reality for our customers, and in making sure that the UK is at the front of the pack for 5G technology,” said EE and BT Consumer CEO Mark Allera, reported Tech Radar. “We’re focusing our resource and experience across EE and BT to ensure that we continue to lead the UK market with a mobile network that keeps giving our customers the best speeds and the best coverage. 5G is a fundamental part of our work to build a converged, smart network that keeps our customers connected to the things that matter most.” 

Qualcomm may be a frontrunner in 5G, but does not have applications all figured out, according to former company executives who bolted Qualcomm to found engineering startup XCOM. 

"There's still a fair amount of work that needs to be done to prove out the applicability of 5G through various Internet of Things applications," Derek Aberle, Qualcomm's former president, who joined former CEO Paul Jacobs and former CTO Matthew Grob in XCOM, told CNBC. "We feel we have some better ideas for how to do some of that stuff."

Aberle says XCOM plans to license proprietary 5G technology or provide software and designs to other companies to use in their semiconductors. XCOM plans to invest and develop technologies to solve important 5G issues, such as low latency and greater reliability, according to CNBC.

Those characteristics of 5G will usher in the next era of immersive experiences, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Currently associated more with gaming applications, VR/AR has myriad other potential that can only be enhanced by 5G technology. In particular, online retail and ecommerce could receive a huge boost from 5G-driven VR/AR applications.

“Imagine a product like a full-size couch in hyper detail that you can place in your room. With 5G, we will be able to provide the couch, the room and everything in it, toss in a realistic human avatar with artificial intelligence that walks into the scene and helps end user with any information needed to complete the purchase,” Eric Prince of AR startup Cimmerse, told Forbes' Roslyn Layton.

Her article, the VR/AR Association — which claims the retail industry already spends over $1 billion annually on VR/AR solutions, and is growing by 240 percent annually — notes that this immersive experience “cannot happen unless the networks that will have to support these applications can deliver the required performance, [e.g.] latency on the order of several milliseconds.”

“In the early phases of 5G,” writes Forbes' Prakash Sangam, “when it gets off the ground in 2019 and 2020, cost-effective broadband data capacity will be its killer use case.”

While high-speed broad band and IoT may get all the attention, however, low-latency mission critical (i.e. defense, military) use cases could garner the same level, if not more, interest to developers.

Much-hyped use cases like AR/VR or AI may not take off as fast as expected, due to financial, technological or policy constraints. Lack of regulatory support could stifle many of 5G's use cases. FCC has started to rectify past policy missteps to reclaim its leadership position taken by China, and U.S. carriers have been pushing for more government support to free up spectrum, install more small cells, and hasten 5G rollouts.

Their European counterparts, however, are having a tougher time getting regulators to favor their 5G rollouts.

This week, providers including Deutsche Telekom, Orange, BT/EE, Vodafone and Telefonica, along with tech companies Ericsson, Samsung, Huawei and Nokia, sent a joint open letter from GSMA Europe to the European Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) to ease rules and technical conditions in a pending draft that “will severely constrain use of the band for 5G in Europe. These include restrictive emissions limits for mobile communications equipment, and other conditions that would constrain how 5G could be deployed in the 26 GHz band by licensees. Such rules would prevent mobile operators from building the best possible 5G networks, and would de-incentivise the industry from building the types of dense networks that would enable the gigabit society.”

For its part, the ECC promises to enhance 5G rollout by ensuring the availability of spectrum by the end of 2020 and by granting 20 years licenses to operators, according to Tech Radar, but European operators and vendors see the regulatory changes as unfriendly to investors, and could cause Europe to fall further behind in the race to 5G.