News Feature | April 30, 2019

The Week In 5G: 4/30/2019 – Verizon Expands 5G Mobile Service, AT&T Claims 5G Network Reaches 2 Gbps Speeds

By Jof Enriquez,
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq


Verizon has announced the rollout of its 5G Ultra Wideband service to 20 more cities in the United States. In addition to Chicago and Minneapolis — the first cities to get the service earlier this month the following cities also will get Verizon's 5G service by the end of the year: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Des Moines, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Little Rock, Memphis, Phoenix, Providence, San Diego, Salt Lake City and Washington, DC.

With the announcement came the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, the first U.S. phone to have 5G built-in. The smartphone features a 6.7-inch cinematic Dynamic AMOLED display, 3D Depth Sensing camera with six-lenses, a 4,500 mAh battery, and 256GB ($1,300) and 512GB ($1,400) storage variants.

“The Galaxy S10 5G on Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network will give our customers access to incredible speeds and the latest and greatest streaming, augmented-reality, gaming, and consumer and business applications that bring us into a future powered by 5G,” said Ronan Dunne, executive VP and president of Verizon’s consumer group.

CNET reported that the S10 5G will start as a Verizon exclusive before heading to the other major US carriers later in the second quarter.

AT&T has launched 5G mobile services in 19 cities so far, and plans to offer 5G-compatible devices this year, including the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G. The mobile carrier claimed earlier this month that it was the first U.S. carrier to hit gigabit speeds on a mobile 5G network in multiple cities, although this was achieved using Netgear's 5G hotspot. Now, AT&T is claiming it has reached 2 Gbps speeds using a commercial network in Atlanta.

"We're all about finding ways to unleash the full potential of 5G, including celebrating the exciting milestones along the journey," AT&T wrote in a blog post, according to Tech Times.

Meanwhile, China Unicom has moved up its commercial 5G rollout to May 2019. The carrier will offer 5G services initially in seven cities, including Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, Shenzhen, and Xiong’an New Area, reported Venture Beat. China Unicom’s launch will be backed by numerous Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 modem-based 5G devices from Chinese companies, including OnePlus, OPPO, Vivo, Xiaomi, and ZTE. Shenzen-based ZTE launched this week the ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G, which it claims is the first Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 flagship smartphone to adopt the F2FS file system. Meanwhile, Huawei reportedly plans to offer "aggressively priced 5G devices" with its own Balong 5000 modems.

Apple's 5G iPhone, on the other hand, is not expected until 2020. The company reportedly is developing a 5G iPad Pro device that would debut in 2021, according to Forbes. A key upgrade is rumored to be Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) soft board technology, which "could lead to the antenna and the motherboard being connected in ways that reduce signal loss and make for better performance, especially in terms of networking."

South Korean carrier SK Telecom looks to one-up local competition by forging multiple deals for its 5G network to be used in smart cities, smart hospitals, smart offices, and self-driving cars, reported ZDNet.

The company is working with the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) Authority on an HD map that will be updated continuously via 5G based on changing road observation data from Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) in the IFEZ area, which includes the Songdo, Yeongjong, and Cheongna International Cities.

According to ZDNet, SK Telecom also plans to create a startup incubator — called Venturepolis and located in Songdo — aimed at supporting startups based around smart office solutions. The carrier also inked a deal with Yonsei University Health System to provide digital solutions across 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and the Internet of Things (IoT) for a hospital slated to open in February 2020. Separately, SK Telecom also is working with Severance Hospital, Gangnam Severance Hospital, and Yongin Severance Hospital on quantum cryptography solutions to help secure the hospitals' networks against cyberattacks.

In addition to Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines, add Cambodia to the growing list of developing nations willing to deal with Huawei despite warnings from Western powers. Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC) signed an agreement with the Chinese company this week to boost Internet speeds in the Southeast Asian country, although the deal was not exclusive.

"We're not exclusive. Our market is open," said Im Vutha, Cambodia's Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, according to Straits Times. "(It) can load movies in seconds," he said, adding that all sectors — including education, manufacturing, and transportation — are going digital and will require 5G technology to develop.

United Kingdom officials last week reportedly decided to allow Huawei to supply antenna and other non-core elements of a new 5G network, according to Roll Call. The BBC, however, reported that a formal decision is not expected until the end of spring. Britain and other nations are being pressured by the United States to block Huawei from their new 5G networks due to spying concerns.

Beijing’s ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming, said "countries of global influence, like the UK, make decisions independently and in accordance with their national interests," reported The Guardian. “When it comes to the establishment of the new 5G network, the UK is in the position to do the same again by resisting pressure, working to avoid interruptions and making the right decision independently based on its national interests and in line with its need for long-term development.”  

According to The New Yorker, banning Huawei hardware will not secure next-generation networks from cyberattacks and surveillance from enemy states. Contributor Sue Halpern wrote, "Even in the absence of Huawei equipment, systems still may rely on software developed in China, and software can be reprogrammed remotely by malicious actors. And every device connected to the fifth-generation Internet will likely remain susceptible to hacking."

In other news, Cisco says 5G’s success will depend on new WiFi technology. The company says that the latest iteration, WiFi 6, will be crucial in allowing electronic devices link seamlessly with other electronics, not just smartphones. Cisco, one of the biggest providers of routers and WiFi access points to companies, estimates that WiFi carries 50 percent of Internet data traffic, and remains a key technology to be harnessed to its full potential. To that end, it is offering new WiFi 6 access devices, core switch machines that will better direct the booming traffic in 5G networks.

“Up until now we’ve connected people and devices,” Gordon Thomson, a Cisco vice president of enterprise networking sales, told Bloomberg. “Now we’re moving to a world of connected things. I believe it’ll drive the business transformation that we’ve been thinking is coming.”

Meanwhile, manufacturers of solar-powered balloons and drones claim 5G will be deployed better using these "floating cell towers" to complement terrestrial networks. Proponents claim these platforms can fill gaps in Internet coverage in rural and underserved areas, or in times of disasters when ground-based networks may be knocked offline.

“The opportunity is in our hands in terms of truly leveraging 5G in conjunction with the massive paradigm shift when it comes to UAS — drones — and also satellites,” said Volker Ziegler, CTO at Nokia Bell Labs, reported IEEE Spectrum.

“There’s a billion people in the world who don’t have sufficient connectivity, whether that’s temporary because of a hurricane or just because of where they live,” Salvatore Candido, principal engineer at Alphabet and CTO of Loon, told IEEE Spectrum. “I think all these new technologies coming together makes it possible to create networks that might begin to cover huge numbers of those people.”

Engineers already are looking ahead to the next generation of mobile technology: 6G.

"This summit is about 5G, but it is also 'Year 0' of the 6G era," Nokia President and CEO Rajeev Suri, said during the Brooklyn 5G Summit, reported ZDNet. "There is some pretty reasonable concern that people are getting distracted by 6G, while 5G is still in its infancy. Fair point. But at the same time, we should recognize that forward-looking research and potential technology components could be useful, not only for 6G but also for evolved 5G."

Similar to how previous telecommunication generations improved their predecessors (e.g., 4G over 3G), 6G is envisioned to address the shortcomings of 5G. Even though 5G is in infancy, engineers are discussing what’s next.

"I think there's a lot that you can learn from being early in the process for a new generation of technology," remarked Chris Pearson, president of telco advocacy group 5G Americas.

One particular area they are looking at is utilizing terahertz waves, which have shorter wavelengths and higher frequencies than millimeter waves, which have trouble traveling around buildings and other obstacles, and can be "absorbed" by rain or foliage.

IEEE Spectrum stated: terahertz waves should be able to carry more data more quickly, though they will not be able to propagate as far. In general, that means that the introduction of terahertz waves into mobile networks could address any areas in which 5G isn’t able to deliver high enough data throughput or low enough latency.