What is 5G Technology & Why is Everyone Talking About it?
What makes 5G stand out from the other technology is what comes to everyone's mind when they hear about this technology. From a technical aspect, how 5G networks are an upgrade to the 4G is that in 5G technology, service areas are broken down into cells that represent small areas and the 5G devices connect to the network using higher-frequency radio waves through a cell’s local antenna. However, the existing 4G-enabled devices cannot use 5G networks as the latter requires devices which are 5G-enabled.
It is projected that by 2025, 5G networks will garner over 1.7 billion subscribers around the globe. 2019 saw an explosion in news covering the worldwide adoption of 5G as a replacement to the existing 4G networks. Two years later, what’s the progress though? Let’s take a look.
5G Rollout: How is it panning out world over?
At the lead currently are South Korea, China and the United States with quite a few EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) countries not far behind. While the UK was one of the countries in the lead up to mid 2020, the security concerns of Chinese Huawei Technologies deploying 5G in the country caused furore, leading them to step out of the running.
To get a better understanding of 5G rollout globally, let’s examine it continent-wise, starting closer to home.
A few Asian countries have already jumped on board the 5G bandwagon and embraced the technology.
Vodafone Idea was one of the first providers in the country to announce its idea of preparing for 5G back in 2017. Reliance Jio seems to be on track to provide 5G and their own line of 5G-compatible handsets by later this year. BSNL has an MOU in place with Ciena since early 2019 to make its network 5G ready.
Other South Asian countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are in preliminary stages of 5G deployment, with no dates for commercial release in place yet.
- South Korea
The 5G rollout in South Korea was spearheaded by the collaboration of three of the leading telecom companies in the country, making its debut in April 2019. However, it hasn’t been released for use of the general public and is currently restricted to select users only.
5G experimentation in Japan began back in 2010, pre-launched in September 2019 and finally debuted its launch in public by May 2020. A Japanese service provider Rakuten Mobile has 5G plans live since late September 2020, however the usage is restricted to a few areas only.
Three network service providers in China had launched 5G by late October 2019 but they do not have widespread coverage yet and are restricted to major cities only.
Hong Kong, on the other hand, seems to be on track to avail 5G services sometime this year territory-wide after its initial launch in April 2020.
StarHub and Nokia partnered up and worked on 5G in Singapore back in 2018 and this is currently in use across half the country. All of the mobile network operators in the country have adopted 5G.
While other South-East Asian countries like the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand have begun 5G deployment, other countries like Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia do not lag too far behind with significant milestones made on the 5G front.
Touted to being one of the first countries to deploy nationwide 5G coverage, Bahrain’s three providers provide the technology for both mobile and home use, the earliest being put in place back in July 2019.
It is believed that a Qatar-based telecom company called Ooredoo was the first company to grant commercial 5G access. The country has already adopted 5G by offering unlimited plans available from various telecom providers compatible with a few 5G phones.
5G services have begun in Kuwait from two network providers
So far, three telecommunication companies in Kuwait have launched 5G service.
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Since late May 2019, 5G has been available in the UAE from their top two cellular networks (and a third added, being a subsidiary of one of the two) with 5G-compatible phones available for purchase.
- Saudi Arabia
Though the coverage does not extend across the country, 5G has been around in Saudi Arabia since June 2019. Their use is limited to home routers and companies in the country are looking to extend to mobile compatible options soon.
Israel, Iran and Turkey are on the right track when it comes to receiving the approvals when it comes to advancing towards 5G adoption, with no major milestones yet.
Already live in most European countries, 5G is believed to be adopted continent-wide by 2025.
- United Kingdom
UK’s 5G was first launched in May 2019 by EE, compatible with several commonly available mobile devices and is currently in operation in several cities and towns country-wide. Other network providers in the UK followed suit not long after.
In August 2019, Vodafone piloted the 5G network in a few Irish cities and have been on the right track towards rural expansion. Other networks began 5G services not long after.
Finland’s Elisa Oyj is believed to be the first to launch commercial 5G globally, back in June 2018. The Helsinki Airport has also, since late 2018, deemed to be the first 5G airport in the world.
The 5G rollout in Germany began with Deutsche Telekom in September 2019 with access in major cities at the moment, with most other major networks jumping into the bandwagon shortly after. However, Germany plans on covering larger populations with milestones set for 2021 and 2025. 5G-compatible phones are also available for purchase for interested users.
Italy’s 5G deployment began with 5 cities and compatibility with several phones, back in June 2019. At present, three service providers have 5G rolled out in the country covering more cities.
So far, 90% of the Swiss population enjoys the 5G network from Swisscom and is compatible with several phones, which can function using a special mobile subscription called InOne. Other network providers were quick to follow up on 5G adoption too.
Norway, France, Belgium, Czech Republic, Spain, Monaco, Denmark, Estonia, Poland, Croatia, Sweden, Hungary and Bulgaria have already initiated their 5G deployment and are on the path to effective use by the end of 2021.
Other European countries like Greece, Austria, Russia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania are other European countries that are all on the right track to meet their country-wide 5G deployment goals by 2025.
Several African countries have already adopted 5G technologies, while others seem to be in line to follow suit.
South Africa, Madagascar, Uganda, Togo and Lesotho have initiated 5G deployment in several parts of the country (not at a commercial level, though) and shall expand their footprint in the years to come.
Morocco, Tunisia, Kenya, Congo, Nigeria, Senegal and Egypt show promise in adopting 5G soon, however, no significant developments have been made on that front yet.
- North America
5G network adoption is patchy at present across North America, but significant investments have been indicative of a change to come.
- United States of America (USA)
Broadband 5G is available in a few locations in the US from three network providers while mobile 5G is operational in a few cities from three cellular network providers.
5G rollout in Canada began in early 2020 with coverage across 130 towns and cities.
- South America
Brazil has a working 5G network in place since mid 2020, but service is limited to certain areas of the country. Chile has partnered with Ericsson and Aruba with Nokia to begin 5G deployment and testing and trials for 5G have begun in Colombia, Puerto Rico and Argentina. 5G deployment has not been initiated so far in Mexico, Honduras or Paraguay, but the rollout of 5G is anticipated soon.
5G rollout is already in motion in the major Oceania countries since 2019. Australia leads the way with both home and mobile 5G deployment in several cities and three network providers on board.
In New Zealand, home 5G plans are functional and mobile 5G just kicked off late 2020 in a few areas of the country, with compatibility on a few phones. Guam is not far behind in the adoption of 5G technology.
A trend that has been noticed is that the countries looking for a top spot in the competitive global economy are the ones trying to get ahead in the race to embrace 5G. The race is not just to develop these technologies, it is to validate and deploy commercial 5G networks as soon as possible.