5G Takes Center Stage at Wireless Connect

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While 5G is getting a lot of hype, it’s a long-term play, according to wireless industry experts speaking Thursday at Wireless Connect 2019. Wells Fargo Analyst Jennifer Fritzsche said at the event held at the University of Maryland in College Park, the heart of the issue is whether people will pay more to get 5G connectivity.

“To ask the consumer to pay more, I think, is a hard ask right now,” she said. 

Unlike previous generations where the connectivity speed drove the use case, 5G  has “flipped the script,” she said, adding there’s so many projects in development that will become apparent later.

David Young of Verizon agreed, saying uses like Uber weren’t “obvious” when 4G was deployed. Verizon launched 5G in two cities this week, Inside Towers reported. He does believe it’s important “not to overhype” the technology. “Last year we launched our 5G to the home, which competes with cable modems and DSL services. This will be a multi-year build-out,” he said.

Vertical Bridge CEO and Co-Founder Alex Gellman told Inside Towers he also believes 5G is going to be a longer-term play, perhaps 10 years or so as carriers complete a build-out, see how that goes, and then plan the next deployments.

Some 300 attendees registered for the event, according to organizers. The show is an effort to connect various stakeholders of wireless eco-systems: Operators, Service Providers, Infrastructure Providers, OEMs, Policy Makers, and City Planners.

WIA President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein called 5G “a good news story.” He cited support from the FCC, Congress and the White House. 5G means the creation of 850,000 jobs, he said, citing data from Accenture. “We’re going to need a lot more workers to get this done,” he said, citing WIA efforts like WIA’s Telecommunications Education Center and TIRAP.

The WIA executive gave FCC Commissioner O’Rielly kudos for keeping things moving at the federal level, citing small cell reforms and the agency’s efforts to free up more spectrum for wireless use.  

FCC Commissioner O’Rielly gave attendees an update on where various spectrum auctions stand at the Commission. He said the agency “must keep up with market realities. My past efforts to get more spectrum into the marketplace are starting to come to fruition.” O’Rielly noted the FCC recently completed the 28 GHz auction and has a 24GHz auction underway, with more bands “still waiting to be teed up.”

“Most of my attention has been on mid-bands,” O’Rielly said. The CBRS band is likely to be the first mid-band spectrum available for 5G, however, “I’ve been informed it may take until next year” for PAL licenses to be auctioned. The 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum, “should be available shortly,” he said. Progress has been made in testing the spectrum sharing technology for the CBRS band, “including testing with Navy incumbents,” said O’Rielly. (We will be releasing Inside Towers Tower Talks podcasts from the event featuring interviews with Jonathan Adelstein, Alex Gellman and Jennifer Fritzsche.)

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

April 5, 2019

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