5G is almost here. In the US, the big four carriers will all start rolling out different bands of 5G networks in 2019 and 2020, and that 5G infrastructure will get faster and more advanced amid an explosion in 5G-enabled devices.
For now, carriers like T-Mobile are already rolling out low-band 5G networks and bands specifically tuned for Internet of Things (IoT) devices. T-Mobile gave PCMag an exclusive tour around its 5G Experience Truck, which demonstrates how 5G reduces latency and how the technology will power a future filled with IoT devices and smart cities.
We also got a closer look at some of T-Mobile’s 5G network hardware, which is being built by both Ericsson and Nokia (in this case, Ericsson):
A look at some of @TMobile’s 5G hardware, built by @ericsson. Exclusive video coming later this week on @PCMag pic.twitter.com/13wBWvcZcx
— Rob Marvin (@rjmarvin1) October 29, 2018
Before the demos, PCMag chatted with Tom Ellefson, T-Mobile’s SVP of NE Engineering and Operations. Ellefson detailed the various levels of T-Mobile’s 5G rollout plans, explained why low latency is so critical, and talked about the 5G applications and devices with the most potential.
PCMag: Let’s start with a quick explanation of what 5G technology is compared to the networks we have today, and what you’d say are the biggest benefits we’ll see in the next few years as it rolls out.
Tom Ellefson (TE): There are a number of benefits. 5G is truly the future of wireless communication. A couple of key benefits you’ve probably heard about are extremely low latency, and then extremely high bandwidth. The number of applications that we’ll start to see that are based upon those features will be incredible.
PCMag: Can you talk about the multi-stage process of how T-Mobile and other carriers are rolling out 5G across the country?
TE: Everybody’s got a little bit of different perspective; a little bit of a different rollout. At T-Mobile, we believe that 5G will reside in multiple spectrums and multiple bandwidths. So for us, we’re starting out primarily with a low-band rollout. We’ve actually got a new 600-band spectrum that we’re in the middle of rolling out. As a matter of fact, we’ve already rolled out 600-band in about 1,250 cities nationwide, but our initial foray will be to roll out a low-band national 5G network by 2020.
In parallel, we’re also rolling out other things. For example, in NYC where we are today, we’re in the middle of rolling out 5G millimeter wave as well. We see that 5G resides in every different spectrum, and there’s different functionality in each of those spectrums.
PCMag: So here in New York City, for example, what are some of the first applications 5G will enable?
TE: 5G low-band will give you the real benefits of low latency, which is probably the biggest advantage that 5G has today. So what we’ll see with low-band is speed that exceeds today’s 4G speeds, but the low latency component is what gives us many different features. We’re now rolling it out within NYC, as well the millimeter wave or 28GHz spectrum, which then not only gives us the incredibly low latency but the incredibly high bandwidth and high speeds as well.
PCMag: Right, but specifically we’re talking about how 5G technology can enable smarter cities, connected devices, and much faster processing.
TE: Absolutely. The latency difference between 4G LTE and 5G is actually very impressive. Not only do we approach 5G from a latency perspective. We’re also rolling out, and have rolled out, what’s called a narrowband IoT network. That will evolve into 5G narrowband IoT that gets into the smart city realm, where just about every device you’ll have is connected.
5G is all about connected devices. We’ll have literally hundreds of millions of connected devices on the low-speed to high-speed spectrum depending on what you’re doing. The narrowband IoT stuff is cool because you’ll have connected devices in anywhere from dog [collars] to shoes that have this extremely long battery life that will last forever and provide feedback and connectivity to the networks.
PCMag: That speaks to the bigger picture here. When you think about 5G, there are all these different levels of the network, each with its own class of applications and devices. At this point, are we just waiting on 5G-enabled devices?
TE: What we’re seeing at this point in the game is even though we’re rolling out millimeter wave and 5G stuff, we aren’t gonna be seeing devices until probably next year. But it’s not that far away, and I think that’s the cool part about this. We’ll actually have the network ready in many cases before we have the devices ready.
It’s been a huge focus for us. 5G is the tech of the future, and it’s been incredible to see as we go through its evolution. It will open up a wide variety of different features and functionality that doesn’t even exist today. We’re rapidly deploying it on the low-band realm, as I mentioned we have over 1200 cities today that are covered by our low-band 5G, and it will grow dramatically from there. We’re planning on and are committed to having a full nationwide low-band 5G network by 2020.
Check out PCMag’s look inside T-Mobile’s 5G Experience Truck below with exclusive videos on 5G latency, IoT, and smart cities.
What Does Latency Actually Mean?
One of 5G’s biggest benefits is dramatically lower latency. T-Mobile showed us what that looks like from 4G LTE to 5G. T-Mobile says lower 5G latency has huge implications for real-time translation apps and beyond, opening up real-time processing capabilities in a new generation of 5G apps.
Connecting the Internet of Things
This demo focused on how 5G can create a network of connected IoT devices, from luggage and dog collars to connected shoes and clothing, and how 5G enables more precise real-time location tracking.
T-Mobile also talked about its plans for drones. 5G networks reduce the need for Wi-Fi reliance and line-of-sight control, and the carrier sees possibilities in everything from drone package delivery to drones that can beam internet access to small geographic regions in the wake of a natural disaster.
The Future of Smart Cities
The carrier’s smart city demo showed how 5G can power everything from smart parking to emergency flood response.Think about IoT sensors beneath every public parking space in the city with an app telling you where to find an open spot, or sensors in a storm drain telling emergency response teams when it’s about to overflow during a flood.