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December 21, 2019

Wireless in 2020: The 5G Economy Roars to Life .

Wireless in 2020: The 5G Economy Roars to Life


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Tom Sawanobori
Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer

After a year of many 5G “firsts”, our industry has a lot to look forward to in 2020 when it comes to the next generation of wireless. Throughout 2019, we saw 5G spring to life across America with deployments from all of the major wireless providers. 2020 will build on those networks as new use cases, even more expansive network rollouts and innovative technology come together to create and build a 5G economy. Let’s take a look at some of the areas where 5G’s impact will grow in 2020.

Nationwide deployments.

2019 saw 5G’s first commercial deployments from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint in thousands of communities across the country, including the first nationwide rollout to over 200 million people. In 2020, the wireless industry is going to take things up a notch. We can expect many more deployments of 5G networks—including U.S. Cellular in Iowa and Wisconsin and expanded nationwide offerings.

Regional Partnerships.

Wireless providers are joining forces with cities and universities in regional coalitions to unlock more of 5G’s impact. In the Seattle area, T-Mobile has teamed up with the University of Washington and the city of Bellevue to open a 5G Open Innovation Lab alongside other technology leaders like Intel and NASA that will connect startups to 5G services. Sprint has partnered with Arizona State University to explore how 5G can improve regional infrastructure development, offer enhanced technology for students and enable IoT and blockchain research.

New devices.

Device manufacturers will continue to rollout 5G smartphones throughout 2020, building on the nearly 200 successful 5G device launches we’ve seen from manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Motorola and One Plus in 2019. There are more devices coming to market powered by chipsets and modems from companies like Qualcomm, Samsung, Intel and others.

In addition to smartphones, we expect 5G home broadband routers and tablets to be released in 2020. And 5G-enabled PCs are also expected next year, turbo-charging the ability to stream superfast video and downloads alongside low latency for PC gaming. We can also expect advancements in 5G wearables and VR/AR devices alongside expanded opportunity for industrial, automotive, medical and educational devices!

The fan experience.

Deploying 5G’s fast speeds and increased capacity at stadiums and arenas is helping provide strong connectivity to thousands of fans. Verizon is already connecting consumers to 5G inside arenas and stadiums across the country, including Madison Square Garden, and AT&T is letting fans test out fun 5G-enabled VR and AR features at the Cowboys’ stadium in Dallas. These 5G experiences are just the beginning and I expect AR and VR to continue to change the way fans interact with their favorite sports and entertainment figures—from making you feel like you’re sitting front stage at the show to showing you live stats and predictive data while you watch the game.

NFL teams are using 5G and combining physical and digital worlds to create a world-class experience for fans. Source: AT&T
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NFL teams are using 5G and combining physical and digital worlds to create a world-class experience for fans. Source: AT&T

Media and journalism.

Not only are AR and VR changing the sports experience, but wireless operators are partnering up with media organizations to explore how AR and VR can improve their operations. This next year will be an exciting time to experiment with the benefits of 5G-enabled journalism applications with AT&T and the Washington Post combining forces to bring 5G to the paper’s reporters, while Verizon and the New York Times look at how 5G can enhance how journalists craft a story in their 5G Journalism Lab.

Advancing manufacturing.

Bringing the next generation of wireless connectivity to factories offers the promise of making production lines more nimble and streamlined. With pieces of the production line operating untethered by the typical bulky cables and cords that crowd factory floors, manufacturers are able to be more flexible in adjusting production practices and factory flow, which in turn saves time and makes processes significantly more efficient.

Ericsson is running 5G-connected factories in Finland and will open a new smart factory in the United States in 2020 to produce 5G and Advanced Antenna System radios. Closer to home, Samsung and ATT are creating the first 5G Manufacturing Innovation Zone, exploring the use of 4K cameras and special sensors for improvements in semi-conductor manufacturing. Meanwhile, Nokia launched their 5G Future X Lab, which provides an interactive test environment to examine the opportunities including the use of robotics and unmanned aerial systems.

If 2019 marked the start of the 5G era, 2020 will be when it becomes a real force for good in our lives, helping people and industries use, experience, and enjoy wireless connectivity in totally new ways. This decade is set to bring about unprecedented wireless advancement—and the birth of the 5G economy—an unbelievably exciting time for this industry and our customers, and I’m thrilled to see where we go next.

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