Will 5G live up to the hype? It depends who you ask
Feb 04, 2019 by Manuel R. Marti


With less than a month until MWC Barcelona kicks off, the hype surrounding 5G is reaching unprecedented levels – even by wireless industry standards.

More and more telecoms companies are now sharing their ambitious plans about how we’ll soon be living in a 5G world. 

The release of technology and products highlighting the potential of the next generation of internet speeds has been ramping up over the past few weeks. Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg, for example, told the CES show in Las Vegas that “5G will change everything”.

“We’re going to see a technology change that is going to transform people, businesses and society,” he said. 

At the same tech convention, AT&T CEO John Donovan confirmed that the mobile carrier would switch the “LTE” indicator to “5G E” (for evolution) when users connect to the operator’s faster LTE network. Would it be accurate to call that 5G?

The European Commission is confident that 5G will live up to expectations. The director of its DG Connect unit, Roberto Viola, says it will become the glue holding together all future technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and advanced computing.

People in our line of work are fascinated by predictions… but let’s not forget what Vestberg himself said in 2013, back when he was Ericsson’s CEO: “When I look into Ericsson’s mobility report that has predictions till 2018, the majority of people having mobile broadband by 2018 will be on 3G.”

Last year, the world’s largest telecoms manufacturer Huawei condemned the global hype over 5G. More recently, Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei said that people overrate 5G’s capabilities because many technologies have not yet been tried out in real-world situations.

Senior figures in the telecoms industry have also expressed their concerns over 5G, saying that the vision laid out by many proponents doesn’t seem realistic.

Even the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has warned against premature 5G launches. According to the international body, legislators and mobile operators should only consider deploying 5G networks where there is a robust commercial case for them.

So if you are still wondering whether the 5G hype is justified… you might want to choose first what answer you’d like to hear and then approach the person most likely to provide it.•