- Yoni Heisler
5G was a hot topic at the recent Mobile World Congress event, and while a formal definition of 5G is still pending, numbers like 1 Gbps are being tossed around. And, you know what? Such is indeed possible. More speed in wireless is a function of (a) appropriate modulation, antenna technologies, processor implementations and doing well with the requisite technical details, (b) keeping the distance between the endpoints as limited and line-of-sight as possible (smalls cells are, as ever, a very good idea), (c) network operator policies regarding how much throughput a single user might be entitled to, (d) the instantaneous statistical behavior of the radio channel, but most importantly (e) how much spectrum is available. That last point is the key, and also the most difficult. Large chunks of available spectrum at frequencies appropriate for mobility (ideally below 3 GHz, but certainly below 6 GHz.) are hard (and perhaps even impossible, given the long history of wireless and poor, again historically, regulatory policies) to come by. Aggregating smaller chunks is a viable if more complex option, but more spectrum is required regardless.
So offering per-user throughput at gigabit rates, or even applying a reasonable filter of one-third to one-half of that amount in terms of Layer-7 throughput, isn't going to happen. Given the shortage of spectrum, I expect the policy of not committing to any specific level of performance that most operators apply today will remain. Verizon, for example, continues to emphasize coverage, not capacity or throughput, in their 4G advertising, and, as a Verizon customer, I can tell you that throughput and even simple responsiveness are often terrible on their network. Of course, this might be due to the poor performance of the sites I'm accessing, but, regardless, the expected throughput is often just not there.
I suspect the reason for this is that many cellular networks are simply swamped as more and more people demand mobile data
services. And all of this leads thus to the conclusion that 5G, whatever form it might take, will follow the philosophy typical
in most enterprise Wi-Fi installations today: it's all about capacity, not speed.
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