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Will 5G Carriers Bring Robotic Surgery and Driverless Cars to 2020?

Verizon and 5G.
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Big Moves in 2020
2020 is poised to be a big year.  The U.S. presidential election, Summer Olympics in Tokyo and we may get more insight into potential life on Mars.

There are plenty of meaningful changes coming in the world of business as well.  One thing you’ve likely heard about is the rollout of 5G cellular networks. 

  • What is 5G?  If you are like most people, your knowledge of telecom infrastructure is probably limited to the signal bars on your iPhone.  So in plain English:  5G is the next-generation cellular network that is currently being rolled out across the globe.  5G is expected to be up to 100x faster than 4G LTE (what your phone likely uses), have less latency (lag time) and vastly increase the capabilities of data networks.


The Implications
Wireless carriers including Verizon (VZ) and T-Mobile (TMUS) have invested billions of dollars to build out the physical and virtual infrastructure necessary to accommodate 5G. They believe these networks will open the door for use cases such as “smart cities,” ubiquitous driverless cars, and robotic surgery.

  • But not everyone is convinced:  Research analysts at Moffett Nathanson believe that many of the 5G use cases are overhyped and monetization of the network upgrades will be challenging. 
  • Moffett claims that data consumed per mobile device has increased 89x over the last decade, but revenue per device has actually decreased by 13%.  Carriers will be keen to turn that trend around with 5G.


It’s Political
Monetization isn’t the only issue – the buildout of the 5G network has created some real political drama.  One of the main producers of 5G technology is Chinese tech giant Huawei.  Earlier this year the United States government issued a ban on Huawei doing business in the U.S. because of its “close ties to the Chinese government and military apparatus.”    

The Inside Scoop
Yesterday the WSJ Journal published a story about how the rollout of 5G in South Korea (the country with the most users) isn’t going as smoothly as planned.  Many customers are frustrated with dropped calls as the network vacillates between 4G and 5G service.  Others simply can’t tell the difference.  For now, it seems, 5G has a lot left to prove.

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