We’ve all had it happen: You dial a number on your cellphone, but it doesn’t connect immediately. Sometimes you have to wait 10 or even 15 seconds before the other party’s phone starts ringing. If you’re like me, you curse at your phone, then at Verizon, and say, “They can put a man on the moon, but I have to wait 15 seconds for a phone call? This is an outrage!”
Well, help may be on the way in the form of 5G. We’ve all heard plenty about 5G lately. Some companies are likely to be using 5G this year, but not commercially. The first commercial 5G services probably won’t be available until 2020.
But behind all the hoopla, what does 5G mean to us and our industry?
The main thing to remember is that the switch from 4G to 5G is exponentially different than the move from 3G to 4G. The transition from 3G to 4G meant a 10x increase in speed; 5G will be at least 1,000 times faster than 4G. Some carriers are claiming that we’ll be able to download an HD movie in less than 10 seconds. (For reference, the 3G–4G upgrade cost billions of dollars worldwide. No word on what the 4G–5G switch will cost.)
So, it’s kind of a big deal. What does it mean for you and your customers?
A lot of people I’ve spoken with—designers, fabricators, and assembly providers—aren’t sure what it’s going to mean for their companies. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of PCB companies are just going to wait and see how things shake out. It’s difficult to build a roadmap around a technology that hasn’t been implemented yet.
Many of us will be watching the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo for more than coverage of gymnastics—NTT DOCOMO of Japan plans to launch commercial 5G services for the games. NTT DOCOMO is partnering with companies like Samsung, Huawei, Nokia, and Ericsson to have 5G up and running in two years.
Most companies working on 5G have formed alliances with other tech companies. These firms all realize that they can’t implement something of this scale without strategic partnerships. Maybe our industry should try that approach more often.
To read this entire column, which appeared in the May 2018 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.