Verizon and Samsung plan to release one of the first commercial 5G smartphones in the United States in the first half of 2019. The two companies are set to unveil a proof-of-concept 5G phone powered by the upcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon Mobile Platform, with the Snapdragon X50 5G NR modem and antenna modules with integrated RF transceiver, RF front-end and antenna elements, at the annual Qualcomm Snapdragon Technology Summit in Maui this week.
The actual launch of the concept phone (which could be a special 5G edition of the flagship Galaxy S10) is likely during the Mobile World Congress 2019 event in late February.
Samsung has partnered with Verizon in the carrier's 5G Home broadband internet service, which went live in October. Verizon's 5G mobility service will go live in early 2019, and Samsung 5G smartphone users will be the first to enjoy 5G services on the next-generation network.
Samsung's 5G device reportedly will be powered by Qualcomm's newest chipset, the Snapdragon 855, which comes integrated with the X50 5G NR modem to support 5G connectivity. The same chip and modem will power the first wave of 5G phones launching next year from OnePlus, Xiaomi, Motorola, Huawei, LG, Google (Pixel), and other Android OEMs, according to India Today.
An unspecified prototype 5G smartphone supplied by Samsung was used on Dec. 1, 2018, by Korean telco SKT during its launch of the world's first commercial services, simultaneous with those of carriers LG U+ and KT, reported Telecoms.com. All three of Korea’s major mobile operators heeded the call of Korean regulators to synchronize their launch at midnight on Dec. 1, so-called “Korea 5G Day.” The concurrent launches marked Korea as the first country to have more than one operational commercial 5G network.
By contrast, a 5G-compatible iPhone will likely feature an Intel chip, rather than Qualcomm's, and will not be available until 2020, according to The Verge and Bloomberg. Apple was late in adopting to 4G LTE, waiting until the technology was more mature, and the reports suggest Apple will apply the same wait-and-see approach to 5G, and will rely on its strong fanbase to make 5G iPhones as big a hit as their predecessors.
Commercial 5G service rollouts concern consumers, but private 5G networks pique the interest of companies desirous of replacing older technologies — such as Wi-Fi — with the faster and more reliable connections offered by 5G.
“A manufacturer could run a private LTE network today, but it wouldn’t be able to control something like a factory robot,” Patrik Lundqvist, a technical marketing director for Qualcomm, told MIT Technology Review.
Automakers Audi, BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen have expressed interest in managing their own 5G networks, as have large chemical, gas, and oil companies; utilities; and major shipping ports, according to analysts who spoke to MIT Technology Review.
Tech Review reported that Audi is testing 5G as a way to better control some of its robots used in production because its current Wi-Fi connectivity "struggles when robots need to move quickly or stream data in real time." 5G is expected to slash data transmission delays from about 30 milliseconds to less than 1 ms, and can be customized to handle or switch seamlessly from one type of data to another. In the factory of the future, 5G will "provide ubiquitous wireless connectivity so that sensors could be placed everywhere, workers could stream augmented-reality videos for guidance, and equipment could be moved easily to help managers experiment with different production methods and tailor operations to demand."
Manufacturers need to acquire spectrum to operate private networks, though. In the US, the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band could be used for private 5G networks. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to auction off CBRS licenses — an endeavor that will involve more than 500,000 licenses and will take place every three years, at a minimum.
Meanwhile, FCC's initial 28 GHz millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G auction had reached $490.7 million in bids by the 11th day of active action rounds, according to Light Reading. The amount collected, as of Dec. 3, 2018, represented 2,717 auctions with provisionally winning bids (PWBs), with FCC still holding 355 licenses.
In addition to manufacturing and industrial automation use cases, public safety applications are also beginning to be explored. Specifically, first responders will be able to leverage 5G technology to better respond to emergencies.
"Once 5G standards are finalized, likely in 2019, mission-critical communications will become a fixture among public-safety agencies," according to EMS World. "New 5G technology will provide a higher degree of reliable low-latency communications. Instead of a one-size-fits-all mobile broadband service, 5G offers the flexibility to tailor quality of services (QoS) to the specific demands of emergency responders."
It is expected that 5G will connect EMS devices (including drones) with hospitals and public safety officials under a so-called "Internet of Lifesaving Things (IoLST)" network to share information in real time and improve response times during emergencies and disasters.
In some quarters, though, public safety and 5G remain incompatible. As 5G rollouts become reality, advocacy groups and town councils have raised loudly their objections to putting up more towers and small cells needed for 5G networks.
“I’m very concerned about 5G because 5G’s infrastructure requires cell towers to be much closer to each other, thus creating an emitting grid of 24/7 wireless radiations near our homes,” Sabine El Gemayel, the producer and director of watchdog group Generation Zapped, told Salon in an email. “Radio frequencies from wireless radiations have been classified a class 2b carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is not only a concern because it’s hazardous to our health but it also raises concerns about privacy and cybersecurity with IOT (Internet of Things).”
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website states, “We don’t know for sure if RF radiation from cell phones can cause health problems years later.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal previously urged FCC to review the risks for new 5G technology, and asked for "5G safety determination from FCC and other relevant health agencies and current citations for the studies informing that safety determination," reported Global Banking and Finance.
National Institute for Science, Law & Public Policy (NISLAPP) considered it "a mistake to place new high-frequency radiating antennas in local communities" and lauded Blumenthal's request.
The Cellular Telecommunication Industry Association (CTIA), on the other hand, stated, "We follow the guidance of the experts when it comes to antennas and health effects. Following numerous scientific studies conducted over several decades, the FCC, the FDA, the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society and numerous other international and U.S. organizations and health experts continue to say that the scientific evidence shows no known health risk to humans due to the RF energy emitted by antennas and cellphones," reported WTNH,
In other news, Forbes says 5G intellectual property leadership remains up in the air. In the advent of 5G, many companies have been looking to leverage their contributions to 3GPP standards and the number of Standard Essential Patents (SEPs), or the patents they file, as a marketing tool to claim industry leadership. However, there is a wide variation in the patents being disclosed as SEPs, which may even be over-declared, without regard to their true value and use in end-products.
"Only the quality of the inventions and their intrinsic value to the standards will determine market value and represent an accurate measure of leadership. Simply counting patents ignores these facts and leads to inaccurate evaluations of leadership in the standard," claimed Forbes.