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The Ins And Outs Of 5G Wireless Technology: Speed, Rollout And Spectrum

Tanzeel Akhtar

Fifth-generation — 5G — wireless technology deployment is underway, and many tech savvy consumers will soon be considering upgrades to smartphones that are 5G-compatible.

Marcus Weldon, Nokia Oyj's (NYSE: NOK) chief technology officer, says 5G technology can solve the productivity paradox. 

“All dense urban areas, whether they’re cities, towns, whatever, will be heavily 5G-ised, because fibre already goes to those places and fibres can also be found typically throughout those places," Weldon says in an interview with the LSE Business Review

"I have to just tap into that fibre and deploy a radio and you will be 5G-ready. I think the question always is how you cover rural where the fibre isn’t going there."

5G Speed

5G users in the U.S., along with users in Australia, Switzerland and South Korea, are experiencing download speeds over 1 gigabit per second, with the U.S. enjoying max speeds at 1.8 Gbps, according to Opensignal.

As 5G evolves, speeds will increase, according to the analytics company. 

Opensignal, an independent global mobile analytics company, has been analyzing 5G over the last several months. 

Only 1% of speed tests conducted used an active 5G connection, according to the firm. 

While users may have a 5G-compatible phone, it will take longer for connectivity to become ubiquitous.

One reason is that 5G is still new and launching city-by-city, state-by-state. Another is that there is more than one type of 5G.

Nokia CTO Says 5G Will Go Mainstream In 2021

When asked when will most western cities be using 5G at scale?

Nokia’s CTO Weldon says 5G will go mainstream in 2021, adding that 5G probably faces a 10-year or longer cycle of deployment. 

“Each year, new technologies will become available that get deployed on top of the base. But in 2021 it will already be pervasive, meaning that you’ll start running into 5G networks. You will see the 5G signal on your phone more often than not, but in '22-'23, more machine technologies will be coming online as well,” he told the LSE Business Review. 

Three main types of 5G are being deployed in the U.S.: low-band, mid-band and high-band (mmWave), differing by the wireless spectrum used, according to Opensignal.

"Spectrum" refers to the radio frequencies that wireless signals travel over — radio, television, Wi-Fi and mobile phones all use spectrum.

High-Band Spectrum

High-band spectrum is "dense and deep," meaning that it allows for very fast speeds, but in a small coverage area, Opensignal said. 

Mid-band spectrum could be the sweet spot, providing both reach and speed — and U.S. operators have asked the government to make more mid-band available.

Until then, it helps to know what spectrum band each wireless carrier uses, because it will impact the overall 5G experience.

Related Links: 

Verizon, Boingo Wifi Partner To Improve Verizon's 5G Presence in Phoenix

Report: China Will Issue 5G Business Licenses This Week

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