CES 2017
Searching For Signs Of 5G Network Life

The hallmark of every CES is a never-ending battle for relevancy between what’s real and what’s merely promised technology. But looked at in another way, it’s often fun to focus on the future and consider how it promises to transform our innovation-hungry world.

From the moment you enter the vast parking lots that ring the Las Vegas Convention Center there are signs of autonomous (driverless) vehicles that promise to greatly disrupt not only the automobile world but also the drivers (including the ones from Uber) that inhabit the roads too. 5G is perhaps the most highly touted set of network technologies that is required to enable this bright, driverless future. And there are signs of 5G activities at CES, including sporadic demonstrations of high bandwidth for rich media traffic such as 4K video streams.


“5G of course enables greater capacity, faster connections and lower (network) latency,” said Shawn DuBravac, Chief Economist, Consumer Technology Association in a CES conference session. The CTA named 5G one of the five key technology trends for 2017, even though it is not expected to launch commercially until 2020.

What will all those (former) drivers do while autonomous cars are transporting them on smooth flowing (and crash-free) roads? With the advent of 5G, these passengers “will have time to watch video or listen to radio because they don’t have to pay attention to the car anymore,” said Hanno Basse, CTO, Twentieth Century Fox at a CES session on the future of 5G. “We want to capture that audience,” with high-bandwidth consuming media, he adds.

“2017 is the year when we’re just starting to get into real usage of this technology,” added Ulf Ewaldsson, CTO, Ericsson, also a player in this space.

Enabling 5G

One early sign of 5G life was found at Intel, which used CES to announce the world’s first 5G modem and discuss two versions of Intel® GO™ In-Vehicle Development Platforms for Automated Driving. The problem Intel aims to help solve is a need to transport massive amounts of real-time data that will flow in both directions between automated vehicles and the cloud.

With the advent of 5G, billions of previously isolated objects will join the Internet of Things and contribute valuable data to the ‘grid’ of human and machine understanding. But it will take unprecedented network speeds to harness this gathered information in real-time.

At CES it’s apparent that though the industry is eager to tout future 5G plans, the proposed 3GPP 5G standard is still several years away from possible adoption. Apart from scattered tests, particularly in local networks or laboratory environments, industry experts say that commercial deployments may not begin to happen until 2020 at the soonest.

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