State of the 5G Nation

Tuesday 7/16/19 09:00am
Posted By Ana Schafer
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What’s new for developers on the 5G front?

A few weeks ago, I posted your 5G wake-up call, with hooks for 5G in the ConnectivityManager class in Android Q. As 5G rolls out and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. (QTI) tells that story, we’ll continue to post developer-oriented background and information.

eMBB coming first

We’re in the initial phase of the global rollout of 5G. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is the industry body that drives the definition of 5G specifications. As part of that work, the mobile industry has broadly agreed on and defined three main categories of 5G services:

  • Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) — 5G will not only make smartphones better, but it will also usher in new immersive experiences, such as VR and AR, with faster, more uniform data rates, lower latency and lower cost-per-bit.
  • Mission-critical control — With highly reliable, highly available, low-latency links, 5G will enable new services — such as remote control of infrastructure, vehicles and medical procedures — that can transform industries.
  • Massive Internet of Things — By scaling down data rates and power consumption and by providing mobility, 5G will connect a massive number of embedded sensors for extremely lean, low-cost solutions.

I’ll go into each of those in later posts. Meanwhile, keep in mind that the eMBB category is the focus of 5G deployments in this first phase of 3GPP 5G specifications (Release-15) rolling out now. That’s why, in the near term, you’re likely to see more eMBB-related announcements about boosting capacity and providing a faster and cooler user experience, which is where our developer community comes in.

As part of the second phase in Release-16, currently due for completion in 2020, you’ll hear and read more about the other two categories: mission-critical control and massive IoT.

500+ Mbps download speeds

When Verizon launched 5G service in Chicago this spring, our Ignacio Contreras tried out the first commercial 5G phone (a Motorola moto z3 with a 5G moto mod) and network. Of interest to developers is the low latency and the potential he noted for 5G to bring applications like cloud-based gaming, 360 video streaming and augmented reality gaming into the mainstream. Not to mention the speed. Downloading a movie at more than 500 Mbps, he described watching 4K video with virtually no buffering or lag.

Side-by-side 4G vs. 5G tests showing ~10x speed improvementSide-by-side 4G vs. 5G tests showing ~10x speed improvement

In the U.S., the main carriers are commercializing 5G throughout 2019 and beyond. Verizon has rolled out mobile 5G in parts of Chicago and Minneapolis, with plans for up to 30 more cities. AT&T has live 5G networks in 19 cities. Sprint, too, is live with 5G, and T-Mobile just launched 5G services in six US cities.

Carriers all over the world are upgrading their networks with 5G. The next-gen wireless technology is up and running with EE (UK); Telstra (Australia); Vodafone (UK and Spain); SKT, LGU+ and KT (Korea); and Swisscom and Sunrise (Switzerland). And before the end of year Chinese operators –China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom— are scheduled to deploy 5G.

Besides speed, 5G has been designed around flexibility and scalability, as a kind of unifying connectivity fabric ripe for invention and innovation. As a developer, thinking in the context of that fabric will help you come up with new ways to use 5G in your applications.

We’re bringing hardware to the party

The main hardware components from QTI that you’ll see in 5G announcements are the Snapdragon® Mobile Platforms and 5G modems.

Snapdragon 855, the industry’s first commercial 5G mobile platform, includes resources for AI, image processing and video that you can use to make your apps smarter and more responsive. The Snapdragon 855 platform features the Snapdragon X50 5G Modem and QTI’s RF Front-end solutions with support for mmWave and frequencies below 6 GHz. All of this powers most of the first wave of 5G devices arriving this year, including phones from all major Android OEMs who are either selling or have announced flagship 5G phones.

The company’s second-generation Snapdragon X55 5G Modem and 5G RF Front-end are scheduled to arrive in commercial devices late this year. The new modem is engineered with added support for up to 7 Gbps download speeds and LTE peak download speeds of 2.5 Gbps.

Next Steps

As we work on tools you can use to take advantage of 5G, I’ll continue to post developer-focused updates about the technology itself. Next month, look for a post examining spectrum in 5G. Which bands does it use? Why? What is mmWave technology? What’s the difficulty in taking it mobile?

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