News Feature | March 12, 2019

The Week In 5G: 3/12/2019 – LG Uplus and Hanyang Test 5G Autonomous Car; Sprint And T-Mobile Tout Merger Benefits For Rural America

By Jof Enriquez,
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq


South Korean mobile carrier LG Uplus and Hanyang University's Automotive Control and Electronics Laboratory (ACE Lab) announced the successful trial run of their 5G-connected autonomous driving car.

The self-driving vehicle (called the 'A1') drove eight kilometers in 25 minutes on busy roads, highways, and bridges in and around Seoul with the assistance of 5G connectivity. According to ZDNet, the A1 was close to performing at the fourth level of SAE Levels of Driving Automation, and utilized light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors. Through high-speed, low-latency 5G connectivity, the autonomous vehicle received traffic information in real time and – working with onboard cameras and LIDAR sensors – used it to safely navigate traffic along the trial route.

“5G network’s low latency is considered a key factor that improves the safety of autonomous vehicles,” said Lee Sang-min, senior vice president of LG Uplus’ Future & Converted Division, reported The Korea Bizwire. “The test drive was meaningful, allowing the autonomous vehicle to show its advanced capabilities in a challenging road environment.”

LG Uplus, KT, and SKT launched the world's first, albeit limited, commercial 5G services in December 2018, with a full rollout slated by the end of March 2019. This week, however, South Korea's Ministry of Science and ICT announced that they are postponing the nationwide launch to a future, unspecified date, due to a lack of 5G terminals.

“Commercialization of 5G is possible when various factors such as network, smartphones and service are ready,” the Ministry stated, reported RCR Wireless.

Industry sources reportedly said local telcos needed more time to conduct 5G trials than originally anticipated, and that the carriers are still hammering out a deal with government regulators on an acceptable 5G price plan for customers.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile and Sprint told U.S. lawmakers this week that their proposed $26.5 billion merger will be a boon to underserved communities in rural America who continue to have poor access to high-speed internet. A merger of the third- and fourth-largest carriers in the U.S. will connect more than 59 million rural Americans — or 95.8 percent of this sector — to next-generation 5G technology that's more than 100 times faster than current 4G LTE networks can provide, according to Fox Business.

Sprint said last month that its 5G network will go live this May for customers in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and Kansas City. Later, it will launch in Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C. The carrier also filed a lawsuit against AT&T over the latter's "false and misleading" 5G E (Evolution) advertising on AT&T phones. According to Ars Technica, Sprint alleged that AT&T violated a US law prohibiting false advertising and New York state laws against deceptive acts and practices and false advertising, and is seeking monetary damages and an injunction against AT&T's 5G E campaign. This week, Sprint took out a full-age ad in the New York Times reminding wireless consumers, "Don't be fooled. 5G Evolution isn't new or true 5G. It is fake 5G."

Across the pond, the United Kingdom carrier Vodafone confirmed it will roll out 5G in 19 cities across the UK by year's end, reported CNET. Vodafone switched on the UK's first 5G network in Salford, Greater Manchester, in October 2018. The carrier has since expanded coverage to Bristol, Cardiff, and Liverpool, and is preparing equipment in Birmingham, Glasgow, and London.

Vodafone uses Huawei equipment in one-third of its base stations, which explains why it’s going against the tide regarding Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant accused by the U.S. of espionage.

“If we were forced to remove Huawei from the network, we would need to go to the 32 percent of base stations that are currently using Huawei for radio and replace all of those with somebody else’s technology and then deploy 5G on top of that,” Vodafone UK chief technology officer Scott Petty told Reuters. “The cost of doing that runs into the hundreds of millions and would dramatically affect our 5G business case; we would have to slow down the deployment of 5G very significantly.”

However, Vodafone halted the use of Huawei equipment last month in its core networks in Europe, pending a security assessment.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is using the same approach, telling Computer Weekly that it will take “a broad look at the security compliance issues surrounding 5G and is not focused on any specific supplier” in its own investigation.

“[However], the MCMC is currently collaborating with the National Cyber Security Agency [NACSA] to engage with all mobile operators and equipment suppliers involved in 5G, aimed at identifying the risks to national security and to manage them accordingly,” an MCMC spokesperson told Computer Weekly.

In other news, Germany's Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) announced that it will award blocks of spectrum in the 3.7-3.8 Gigahertz band for industrial companies sometime in the second half of 2019, reported The Economic Times. This auction is separate from the contentious auction of national 5G licenses slated for March 19.

Financial services adviser The Motley Fool published a piece reminding investors that 5G is no marketing gimmick and to stay patient.

"The key for investors right now is to find some companies that are making big moves in the space (keep your eye on Verizon and Qualcomm) and understand how they'll benefit. 5G is coming, devices will start hitting the market in significant ways next year, and cellular carriers will likely have large swaths of the U.S. population connected to 5G sometime in 2020," stated the website.

Some consumers certainly don't see 5G as a gimmick at all. In fact, they see 5G — and the alleged dangers that come with it — as very real. Opponents of 5G claim that equipment to be installed will expose more people to high doses of RF radiation, which can cause many illnesses, including cancer.

This week, the Portland City Council is set to vote on a resolution "requesting the FCC and other relevant federal agencies to revisit and update studies on potential health concerns arising from radio frequency wireless emissions considering 5G technology. Findings from these studies need to be publicly available," reported the Portland Tribune.