5G Around the World

This article originally appeared on IBC by Alana Foster.

As well as promising the faster delivery of programmes to mobile devices, 5G is expected to enable leaps in content creation through advances such as remote production.

The new technology and network standard will also mean new experiences possible in augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), connected cars and devices in the smart home.

According to research by GSMA, which represents mobile operators worldwide, 5G is forecast to account for as many as 1.2 billion connections by 2025, likely to cover one-third of the world’s population.

We take a look at some of the last 5G developments.

The United Kingdom

  • The UK government announced in July its intention to invest in a nationally coordinated programme of 5G testbed facilities and trials as part of its commitment to boost the UK’s digital infrastructure. It has set ambitious targets for full fibre and 5G development including reducing the cost of fibre broadband, remote rural prioritised for funding, full fibre switchover and increase the spectrum for innovative 5G services. The Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) conference last week united Government and Ofcom representatives with members including Vodafone and Sky to debate the UK’s 5G future after the announcement of the UK chancellor’s £250 million boost for broadband.
  • The UK’s largest mobile network EE announced this week its plan to launch 5G across 16 cities during 2019 and switching on the next-generation network in the busiest locations including London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester as phase one. BT Group Chief Executive said in a statement the increase in reliability and speed is another milestone. “We have an ambition to connect our customers to 4G, 5G or Wi-Fi 100% of the time.”
  • UK’s network provider Three signed an agreement with SSE Enterprise Telecoms earlier this year to connect Three’s network with BT local telephone exchanges as part of its 5G network preparation. Three estimated this partnership will enable its capacity to grow more than twenty fold. Three announced the promise of 5G would have the capacity to cope with demand of usage meaning households could save by dropping fixed-line home broadband. While its Chief Technology Officer Bryn Jones said: “Fibre is essential to the UK’s digital future and more needs to be done to improve its availability to ensure that the UK benefits from 5G at the earliest opportunity.”

The United States

  • Last month, at Magic Leap’s developer conference, AT&T announced plans to build a 5G zone at the company’s Florida campus. According to the telco “5G connectivity will give developers and creators the ability to test devices and applications on a 5G network right where the work is being done.” AT&T is the exclusive wireless distributor to consumers in the US of Magic Leap One, the glasses are a wearable computer that enriches real world experiences with digital content, otherwise not possible without the introduction of the 5G network.
  • US carrier Verizon currently offers 5G broadband internet in Houston, Texas, Sacramento, California, Indianapolis, Indiana and Los Angeles, California which launched 1 October boasting no data caps and as an initial 5G member perks include free YouTube TV three month trial, free Apple TV 4K or Google Chromecast Ultra as well as a free router when the 5G upgrade rolls out in 2019. Chief Finance Officer Matthew Ellis announced on Wednesday as soon as the global standards for 5G technology is rolled out the wireless carrier plans to target a broader audience for its new 5G home broadband product.
  • Providers in the US including AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Charter are forging ahead with the 5G race for delivery, all at various stages of commercialisation. Charter is yet to confirm a wireless offering while AT&T launched the 5G Evolution as groundwork for deploying complete 5G, with plans to hit 400 markets by the end of the year.

Chile

The largest telecommunication company in Chile, Entel, announced its partnership with Ericsson at the end of October to bring 5G wireless services to its customers with phases rolling out throughout 2018 and 2019. As the first Latin American operator to deploy Massive MIMO nationwide it is set to fully virtualise network services for voice, IP and enrich real-time communication services.

India

  • The Indian government has announced its plan to roll out state-of-the-art 5G telecom services in the next four years in an attempt to catch up to the pace of rollout in more developed markets. Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said in an interview: “We are not there yet,” adding that the complete roll-out of 5G will be done by 2022. “5G won’t be driven by supply, it’ll be driven by demand and the rest of industry needs to wake up to this.”
  • In September, the Department of Telecommunications asked equipment vendors including Cisco, Samsung, Ericsson, Nokia and Huawei to collaborate on 5G-technology trials across the country. However, the Indian 5G spectrum has not yet been allotted. Nokia Head of Marketing and Corporate Affairs Amit Marwah for the Indian division expressed concerns in an interviewof the nation being left behind in the adoption of 5G.

Germany

  • In May this year, Germany successfully demonstrated Europe’s first 5G data connection over a live network using a Deutsche Telekom 5G cluster with more than 70 antennas which fully supported the new communications standard in real-world conditions.
  • Yesterday, the German government decided to release the entire 3.4 to 3.8 GHz band (C-band) making available all of the spectrum for 5G, showing Germany’s commitment as a global 5G leader. However, Deutsche Telekom Chief Executive Tim Hoettges warned earlier this month in a conference call the disaster on its home market if politicians botch the 5G plans on network coverage and buildout. He said: “I am not going to take part in the further inflation of targets. If we carry on like this, we will face an industrial policy disaster.”
  • Expected to start its 5G auctions in early 2019, senior German officials have announced a final plea to the government to reconsider using Chinese firm Huawei from building the 5G infrastructure with concerns this could compromise national safety. Huawei is set to open a new information security lab in Bonn this week to enable source code reviews ahead of the 5G auction. While the German government is keen to maintain its close trade and investment with Beijing based manufacturer without compromising its cybersecurity, officials are not convinced following the US and Australian governments ban on Huawei  constructing its 5G networks.

China

  • The world’s first 8K VR live broadcast was demonstrated by Chinese Mobile 5G innovation Centre along with manufacturer Huawei at the fifth World Internet Conference at the start of this month. The 5G network enabled increased display resolution for a true-to-life immersive experience according to Zhejiang Mobile who predicts VR broadcasting to rise as a new video format to be widely adopted.
  • Despite the 5G network not yet being in full swing, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology Head of IMT-2020 5G wireless working group Su Xin said in an interviewit will begin research into 6G development in 2020 with commercialisation launching in 2030 with the accelerated commercialisation of 5G, three major commercial mobile operators in China plan to achieve 5G pre-commercial use during 2019.

Sweden and Estonia

  • Swedish-Finnish telecom operator TeliaSonera, and Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson announced in January 2016 that Stockholm and Tallinn in Estonia would be the first cities to have the new wireless mobile technology, 5G, rolled out in 2018. Delivering on its promise the first 5G pilot network was launched at Tallin University of Technology in September demonstrating how 5G will improve traffic, communications and smart devices.
  • While 800 delegates in Stockholm saw demonstrations from manufacturers Telia, Ericsson and Intel who showcased the use of 5G to deliver AR using the low latency and high data rates of 5G. Per Narvinger, Head of Ericsson Northern and Central Europe, said: “5G use cases are moving from the realms of the imagination to the realms of reality.”
  • In other Ericsson news, the company launched a new division called Edge Gravity – a semi-autonomous unit within Ericsson that “operates a global edge cloud network that links together a core network of data centres with the last-mile networks of more than 80 partners that include cable operators, telcos and mobile service providers.”

Australia

  • Mobile operators Telstra and Optus have both committed to selling commercial 5G services next year with Vodafone following in 2020. Optus will launch its 5G services in Canberra and Brisbane in January 2019 with other major cities receiving coverage by March. While Telstra’s 5G Innovation Centre will help support the early commercial development.
  • The rollout of Australia’s 5G telco network has come riddled with concerns about national security according to Australia Signals Directorate Director General Mike Burgess who spoke about the opportunities and security risks in using China’s Huawei. He said: “The distinction between core and edge collapses in 5G networks. That means that a potential threat anywhere in the network will be a threat to the whole network.” Unlikely to impact the 5G rollout, Burgess’ speech has opened the dialogue on security and espionage.

The FCC is auctioning off the first block of mmWave 5G spectrum today

This article originally appeared on The Verge by Chaim Gartenberg.

5G is shaping up to be a big deal, and a huge part of that is mmWave technology — the radio signals that are much higher up the electromagnetic spectrum that are capable of carrying far more data at much faster speeds than our current LTE signals.

That’s why a key part of 5G’s success is going to come down to who controls the rights to use those bands of spectrum. Today, the first blocks of mmWave 5G are getting auctioned off by the FCC.

Things are kicking off with a 27.500–28.350 GHz band of spectrum, divided into two 425-megahertz blocks, with a total of 3,072 licenses up for auction to 45 undisclosed bidders. That’ll be followed by a chunk of 24 GHz spectrum with 2,909 licenses, as well as an auction for three more high-spectrum bands — 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz — set for 2019.

Whichever companies end up winning control of the spectrum bands, they likely won’t be using them immediately, considering the relatively early state of 5G. Several major carriers, including AT&T and Verizon, already have some mmWave spectrum in their possession, as noted by Fierce Wireless. But these auctions will be critical to watch due to the importance of having control of these spectrum licenses for building out future networks.

5G will let users ditch fixed-line home broadband, says Three

This article originally appeared on BBC by Leo Kelion.

5G mobile data will be so reliable and fast most homes will no longer need a separate home broadband connection, according to one of the companies planning to launch a UK service.

Three UK’s chief executive told BBC News there would be enough capacity on 5G to cope with demand, meaning households would be able to save money by ending their fixed-line contracts.

He predicts consumers will use 13 times as much mobile data in 2025 as today.

But one expert warned against “hype”.

Three has said it intends to launch its first 5G services in the UK as soon as the middle of next year.

Its announcement coincides with news from BT’s mobile division, EE, that it has switched on nine 5G trial sites in London.

Vodafone and Telefonica-owned O2 have also bought spectrum to launch 5G services of their own in the country.

Higher capacity

In theory, 5G could offer download speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second or even 20Gbps – although these are unlikely to be attained for many years if at all.

Most handsets are not yet capable of pushing 4G speeds to their limits, so UK networks are under pressure to convince the public of the need to upgrade having spent more than had been predicted on the spectrum auctioned to date.

As part of its pitch, Three is making the case that 5G will offer a “genuine alternative” to fixed-line copper and fibre services.

“Maybe not for the whole country, but certainly a significant majority of the country, I strongly believe 5G can offer a good enough home broadband experience for people to effectively ditch their copper [or fibre] connection,” said David Dyson, Three UK’s chief executive.

“The challenge in terms of why we can’t do that today is that the mobile networks don’t have the capacity with 3G or 4G. 5G changes all of that.”

Capacity refers to the amount of data that can be handled at any one time rather than the speed.

Three already provides a 4G-based “unlimited data” home broadband service in London, called Relish, which it acquired last year.

But Mr Dyson said the business had to be careful how many people it signed up, to prevent its service degrading.

This, he said, would not be a problem with 5G.

But one industry-watcher said it was still unclear how reliable the technology would be.

“Stability is important for video streaming at HD and Ultra HD quality levels, and paramount for the gaming community,” said Andrew Ferguson, from the news site Thinkbroadband.

“Full-fibre services are going to beat 5G as you have a connection as stable as the one that will be feeding the mobile masts and thus the variables of signal strength dropping due to a bus passing the home are avoided.”

The government is currently pursuing a target of “full-fibre” broadband coverage to the whole UK by 2033, in which high-speed optical cables are used to bring data right up to buildings without having to rely on slower copper for part of the journey.

At present, only 5% of all properties have access to the full-fibre connections, according to the regulator Ofcom.

But Three’s chief executive suggested the cost involved could help make 5G a more attractive option.

“Fibre-to-the-home for the small number of customers who value it and need it will probably provide a faster speed,” Mr Dyson said.

“But I think for the majority of people, 5G will be a genuine alternative.

“It’s still quite unclear to me, as I’m sure it is to many people, what is going to be the price of all these fibre-to-the-home deployments when it actually arrives

“It’s expensive to dig up roads. It takes a lot of time and money.

“It’s much cheaper and quicker to provide that connectivity via a wireless connection.”

West Virginians abroad in 29 countries have voted by mobile device, in the biggest blockchain-based voting test ever

This article originally appeared on The Washington Post by Brian Fung.

Nearly 140 West Virginians living abroad in 29 countries have cast their election ballots in an unprecedented pilot project that involves voting remotely by mobile device, according to state officials.

The statewide pilot, which covers 24 of West Virginia’s 55 counties, uses a mixture of smartphones, facial recognition and the same technology that underpins bitcoin — the blockchain — in an effort to create a large-scale and secure way for service members, Peace Corps volunteers or other Americans living overseas to participate in the midterm elections.

West Virginia is the first state to run a blockchain-based voting project at such a scale, state officials say. And if adopted more widely, the technology could make it easier to vote and potentially reduce long lines at the polls. But many security experts worry that the technology may not be ready for broader use — and could even contain vulnerabilities that risks the integrity of elections.

By the end of Tuesday, election officials expect more votes to roll in digitally from as many as five additional countries. Voters have already submitted ballots from Albania, Botswana, Egypt, Mexico and Japan, among others, said Michael Queen, deputy chief of staff to West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner. Warner’s son, who is in the military and stationed abroad, has also participated in the pilot, Queen said.

“It’s already been very successful,” Queen said. “We’re very pleased with the participation.”

As many as 300,000 U.S. voters located overseas requested ballots in the 2016 elections but failed to submit them, said Queen, a figure that suggests many Americans face difficulty participating in the democratic process.

West Virginia sought to solve the problem by turning to Voatz, a company that in January received $2.2 million from Medici Ventures, a blockchain-focused investment firm owned by the online retailer Overstock.com.

The Voatz app has been used on a limited basis in a number of other settings, such as student council races and West Virginia’s May primary. But Election Day represents the company’s biggest test yet.

To cast a ballot, voters must first register through the app by uploading an image of their driver’s license or other photo identification. Then the app instructs them to submit a short video of their own face. Facial recognition technology supplied by a voter’s iPhone or Android device matches the video against the photo ID, and the personal information on the ID is matched to West Virginia’s voter registration database. Once the verification is complete, voters can make their selections and confirm their ballot by fingerprint or facial recognition.

Hilary Braseth, Voatz’s director of product design, said that in addition to using technology for verification, the company also has human workers manually reviewing the submitted information. The company does not store the personal data once a voter’s identity has been confirmed, she said.

Votes are stored on a private blockchain — essentially a database where records are secured using complex computational algorithms — and unlocked by county clerks when the polls close.

“When they take the votes from the blockchain, it will immediately print onto a paper ballot — just like the same look and feel of what voters are physically voting with on Election Day,” Braseth said. “And then those paper ballots will be fed into the tabulating machines on the ground at the state level.”

Overseas voters who used Voatz will receive an anonymized copy of the ballot that they submitted remotely; another copy will be made available to Warner’s office for auditing purposes. Several independent, outside auditors are expected to spend the following months performing an assessment of the pilot project, and with a report probably due by mid-spring.

Two voters so far have reported difficulties using the app, Queen said, but the process has otherwise proceeded smoothly. In response to questions about security, Queen said West Virginia has no plans to extend mobile voting beyond its relatively small overseas population.

“Secretary Warner has never and will never advocate that this is a solution for mainstream voting,” Queen said.

Voting with Voatz is probably more secure than submitting absentee ballots by email, said Maurice Turner, an election security expert at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington think tank. And because the system relies on facial recognition tech produced by Apple and other vetted devicemakers, the verification method seems sound. But, he said, it remains far less secure than submitting a paper ballot in person.

Even though human workers may be analyzing the photo identification and user-submitted videos, that does not prevent someone from trying to impersonate a voter by digitally manipulating the photo ID before uploading it, Turner said.

“That’s not authenticating the voter. It’s authenticating the person who’s using the app,” he said.

Other security experts have said that simply by introducing an Internet-connected mobile device into the process raises the baseline risk of hacking or interception.

And despite the current use of cryptography to keep remotely submitted ballots secret on the blockchain, future technologies that could defeat that protection may end up unmasking voters’ identities and choices.

Still, Turner said, as many aspects of consumers’ lives go digital, it’s no surprise that voters might expect the same from their engagement with the civic process.

“We’re coming upon a time where the average voter is someone who grew up with digital devices,” he said. “If we can accept that, then we can plan for it accordingly. If we make the assumption that voters will move to mobile devices, we can start thinking about what are the policies, what are the regulations to put in place, to make sure it can happen — and what security measures need to be designed into those platforms.”

In 20 Years, the Internet Will Have Swallowed You, So Nothing You Do Will Be Private

This article originally appeared on New York Magazine by The Editors.

“In the year 2038, computers won’t matter any more,” Paul Ford says. “That’s because they’ll be everywhere — small and cheap embedded in everything. And all the little rituals I do to get through my day will be unnecessary — like swiping a MetroCard or buzzing into the office. I might still use a desktop computer, but mostly I’ll ask my earbuds to play music, and those earbuds will also serve as a wallet. Or maybe I like carrying a wallet, that’s fine, too — it’ll have a little screen on it. My shoes will talk to my earbuds and the song will speed up if I walk faster. I’ll be just a little walking cloud platform with lots of hard drive space, all talking to the internet.”

In the latest episode of 2038, Intelligencer’s podcast about the future, the author of What Is Code? talks with Max Read and David Wallace-Wells about the true meaning of the “internet of things” — when everything is a computer, and everything is connected, everything is also being surveilled, constantly. Including you.

How are we going be charging all of these computers?
This is a wonderful question, because I think that actually the future is battery technology. I want to take my children aside and say, get into batteries!

It’s the plastics of 2018.
This is why Elon Musk is actually interesting, when he’s not losing his mind on Twitter.

I really do think that this is a killer problem and nobody has solved it. As things get smaller and smaller, it gets more and more ridiculous to have these giant adapters that you have to plug into. So who knows? Maybe they’ll be like a little basket and it’ll be like the smart-charging basket. Or nano drones come and plug in your ears for five minutes during the course of the day because you signal to them the batteries were low.

But I’m charging basically everything on my body at this point, right?
You’re not going to have much choice. Your sweater’s going to be smart. Your glasses are going to be smart. Your suppository will be need to talk to your buds. All that needs juice. Maybe there’ll be some biotech thing going on — maybe that solves America’s obesity problem. That’d be cool. If we could figure out a way to make fatties like me into battery sources, and then I could just hook myself up to a server, I could be the future of cloud platforms.

If we’re already wearing sweaters and sneakers and jeans that are computers, we’re getting closer to putting them under our skin.
You can see it happening with Apple already. They’re super into your heartbeat. Every part of you that throbs, Apple would like to pay attention to.

But if literally everything about your life down to your heartbeat is being sucked up by some corporate entity or government entity — I mean, it does open a huge set of questions about surveillance and what gets watched and how that gets processed.
I know. But my wife and I track each other now on Google maps, because it’s so convenient! We are a surveillance.

Now the internet is everywhere, but our devices are kind of passports into it so we can kind of elect to be participating in the surveillance state. If the internet is everywhere and literally wired into you, there’s no opting in and no opting out.
Listen, I have nothing but bad news on this one. Machine learning is getting really smart. We all have faces. Those two facts alone are pretty bad. There’s going to be screens everywhere. They’re going to be incredibly cheap. They’re going to be connected to the internet and there’s going to be live footage of everybody’s face. And the minute one system can correlate one face to a token in a database, that face is kind of on record forever.

Do you think there’ll be a hacker culture in some way?
There already is. People have hairstyles and makeup that will block facial recognition. But the average human is already fully opted in. It’s going to be total surveillance at all times.

The Dangers of the Internet of Things (Infographic)

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur by Matthew McCreary.

Your connected devices can get hacked — here’s how to make them safer.

According to an infographic by Cyber Security Degrees, 62 percent of Americans own at least one smart device. The most common of these is a smart TV, which nearly half of American adults own. These devices, like a smart watch or a connected car, can sync with the internet or your mobile device and make your life easier.

However, they also come with plenty of risks. This infographic breaks down some of those dangers, which include:

  • Malicious endpoints
  • The Mirai botnet attack
  • The Senrio devil’s ivy attack

By making yourself aware of these pitfalls, you can secure the devices that mean the most to you and make sure that others can’t take advantage. Check out the infographic to learn more about the dangers involved with the internet of things and how you can be safer.

Faster, safer and more efficient: How 5G will change tomorrow’s cars

This article originally appeared on CNET by Antuan Goodwin.

The high-speed wireless technology isn’t just for your phone — it promises to change tomorrow’s vehicles and roads for the better.

Most of the hype about 5G wireless networks centers on faster data speeds for phones and laptops. But there’s a whole range of internet-connected things out there that stand to also benefit from this faster, more robust connection of the future, perhaps none more so than tomorrow’s cars.

While the major US carriers will activate their 5G wireless networks in 2019, widespread automotive adoption is probably a few years away. But when 5G does hit the road, the benefits in cars will be similar to those for smartphones: bringing data into the car for passenger and driver consumption and sending more data out at a faster rate.

Bringing the web on the road

More and more of today’s modern cars boast some sort of local area Wi-Fi hotspot feature that allows passengers’ mobile devices to share an onboard 4G LTEconnection. LTE can be pretty fast, but it also can get bogged down when everyone in the car or nearby is using smartphones and tablets to stream music, video and data. That’s where 5G comes in: Its manyfold increase in bandwidth and speed means that every seat in a seven-passenger SUV could stream a different HD (or 4K) Netflix show without breaking a sweat. OK, so the kids won’t be watching the scenery on a car trip. But as they’re glued to a screen, hopefully they won’t ask, “How much longer?”

If you’re a driver too busy keeping your eyes on the road, you can still see the benefits of 5G in the car. Automakers will be able to take advantage of that bandwidth to bring rich media and more information into the dashboard. For example, the Byton K-Byte concept’s massive dashboard display is betting heavily on 5G to power its connected media, health monitoring and social tech. As more of the web seeps into the cockpit, automakers will follow.

Connecting the car to the web

A 5G connection works both ways, and there will be benefits to both the driver and the automaker from being able to draw more data out of the car, including better remote monitoring and faster remote control of autonomous cars.

If you’ve ever used a phone or smartwatch to remotely unlock your car, you’ll know that the time between tapping the app and getting a response on the car can be anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes on 4G. There’s a similar delay when, for example, you remotely request battery status on a plug-in hybrid. The reason for the lag is that both tasks require a lot of information to be sent over a wireless connection. But 5G will be a low-latency technology, meaning that it can process more information with little delay. The result is that in addition to a minor increase in convenience, 5G could mean that your phone replaces your key fob completely, allowing web-authenticated locking and unlocking that’s less fiddly than NFC and more secure.

This will almost certainly become the case as alternative ownership models — including car-sharing services, vehicle subscription services and corporate vehicle fleets — begin to grow and cloud-based driver profiles allow drivers to move seamlessly from car to car. One day, you could park your Audi at LAX, land in New York and hop into another Audi, unlocking it with an app over 5G while instantly downloading your seating position, contacts and favorite playlists.

Every electric car is a connected car

More and more, the cars of the future will move toward electrification — whether it’s full-battery electrics or plug-in hybrids — and almost every electrified car needs to be connected to the web in some way. There are just too many benefits for them not to be: from remotely monitoring battery levels and charging status to searching for charging stations and smart route planning. 5G promises to streamline today’s sometimes clunky connections.

The same low-latency benefits mentioned above apply here. A 5G connection between the car, the web and your mobile device could allow more granular monitoring of battery level when, for example, you’re plugged into a public charging station. Instantaneous updates could help you catch that annoying neighbor who keeps unplugging your EV in the act.

While on the road, a faster connection to infrastructure and traffic monitoring can help smart EVs plan efficient routes that maximize range. Meanwhile, more robust connections to charging networks could mean an end to arriving to a charging station only to find it occupied.

The road to autonomy

In the short term, autonomous vehicles will have to share the road with human drivers. So onboard processing will be more important to self-driving cars than cloud computing. They’ll have to be able to react to unpredictable driving conditions, even in areas where connectivity isn’t so great. However, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any short-term benefits to 5G-connected self-driving cars.

Udelv, for example, is testing self-driving delivery vehicles in California. Per state law, a human “safety driver” is required during testing phase to aid in tricky situations like construction zones. Eventually, the startup hopes to use low-latency networks and remote safety drivers that can command the trucks from a central data center.

A 5G connection would, in theory, allow a few humans to monitor a fleet of autonomous trucks with the zero input lag that’s necessary for safe remote control. No doubt autonomous tech companies like Waymo and Uber, automakers and other self-driving startups are eyeing 5G for this very reason.

The truly self-driving car and beyond

Looking further down the road to a day when truly self-driving cars are more widespread, 5G connectivity will begin to play a much larger role.

Autonomous cars that can communicate with each other (V2V) and the infrastructure (V2X) have the potential to pull off all sorts of neat tricks. Platooning, for example, allows self-driving car or trucks to move together in formation, reducing aerodynamic losses on the highway and drastically reducing traffic inefficiency in urban areas.

The next time you’re at a traffic light, watch how the cars start moving one after another when the light turns green and how much time is wasted waiting for (often distracted) driver to react. Now imagine every car in a column taking off simultaneously the instant the light changes. This would only be possible with a no-lag connection between the cars and the traffic light, the sort of connection promised by 5G.

Meanwhile, every one of those autonomous cars will be packed to the gills with sensors — cameras, radar, lidar and more — collecting petabytes of data every day. Collecting even a fraction of that data is invaluable to improving everything from city planning to just making self-driving cars smarter through distributed computing, but doing so will require a beefy data connection.

From here to the future

From more efficient and entertaining commuting to smarter self-driving cars, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface are the trucking industry, fleet management, logistics companies and mega retailers, all busy brainstorming ways that big data — perhaps backed by robust 5G wireless connectivity or whatever lies beyond — can change the way we move people and goods around the world and into the future.

FCC Proposes Significant Spectrum Compromise To Enable 5G In The 3.5 GHz Band

This article originally appeared on Forbes by Fred Campbell.

After wrestling with the issue for several months, Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has proposed a significant compromise to resolve licensing issues in the 3.5 GHz band: to issue spectrum licenses in the band on a county-by-county basis rather than the smaller “Census Tract” areas sought by wireless internet service providers (“WISPs”) or the larger “Partial Economic Areas” sought by the mobile industry. Though it’s unlikely to fully satisfy anyone, the compromise proposal appears to be a workable, good-faith effort to balance competing demands for use of this valuable spectrum resource.

The controversy stems from the 3.5 GHz band’s utility for different use cases. The band has been internationally harmonized for the deployment of fifth-generation mobile technologies (“5G”), and the U.S. mobile industry wants to deploy 5G networks using 3.5 GHz spectrum. At the same time, WISPs in the U.S. want to use this spectrum to provide fixed wireless broadband connectivity to homes and businesses in rural and suburban areas.

The previous FCC decided to license the spectrum using “Census Tracts,” which often consist of a couple city blocks, based on its views regarding the the development of the market at that time. Licensing by Census Tracts is a novel approach that supports the business case for many WISPs but is incompatible with mobile network deployments in urban areas (which also happens to be where mobile providers lack adequate spectrum for new 5G services). When the race for 5G leadership started heating up, the current FCC asked whether it should change its licensing scheme from Census Tracts to “Partial Economic Areas,” which typically include several U.S. counties each. The FCC has a proven track record of success with offering multi-county spectrum licenses to mobile providers, but lacks any experience with licensing spectrum on the basis of Census Tracts.

If the FCC wants to maximize the use of 3.5 GHz spectrum for 5G, licensing the spectrum using Partial Economic Areas is the safest and surest option. Based on my experience in formulating spectrum policies that helped the U.S. lead the transition to 4G technologies in the late 2000s, that’s the option I preferred for the 3.5 GHz band (see my contributions to Forbes here and here).

Though I favored the use of larger license areas, I cannot say the FCC’s decision to license the 3.5 GHz band on a county-by-county basis is unreasonable. There is merit to the FCC’s concern that the use of Partial Economic Areas could disproportionately favor mobile use cases as compared to the fixed use cases of smaller WISPs.

The FCC chose to license the band using county areas because counties are neither too small to enable efficient mobile deployments nor too large to preclude efficient WISP deployments. Just as mobile providers were rightfully concerned that the previous FCC’s choice of Census Tracts was biased toward the use cases favored by WISPs, the current FCC is concerned that choosing Partial Economic Areas could tip the scales improperly toward mobile use cases. Commissioner O’Rielly’s decision to choose county licensing areas represents a reasonable middle ground that is intended to enable a neutral market mechanism—an open and transparent auction of the spectrum licenses—to decide which use case will best serve the public interest on a county-by-county basis.

There is no spectrum license area that fits all potential uses cases perfectly. The FCC’s job is to choose a license area size that will reasonably accommodate the most likely use cases based on the current market and foreseeable future. The agency’s decision to compromise on county licensing areas meets that job description in the circumstances of the 3.5 GHz band. Parties on both sides of the issue would do well to embrace it.

Why we need a national 5G infrastructure plan

This article originally appeared on The Hill by Colby Humphrey.

Faster and more reliable Internet connectivity is well on its way to becoming reality, thanks to a new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order, which lays the groundwork for a national 5G infrastructure plan. Significant investment will be needed for the technology to reach its full potential. As such, the order proposes that the FCC place caps on attachment and application fees of $270 and $100, respectively, potentially saving telecom companies $2 billion in burdensome fees from local authorities and freeing up capital for investment and jobs.

While the FCC maintains that these caps “will mean more broadband for more Americans, particularly in rural communities,” the plan has encountered some substantial criticism. Nonetheless, the order is an overall positive step in expanding Internet access to rural communities and should be welcomed by community leaders and advocates.

One point of contention among critics of the plan are the (very real) technical and financial limitations that render 5G expansion into rural America challenging. Current 5G systems require a network architecture of numerous small cells that, while possible in densely populated cities, is not feasible in more remote areas. Additionally, these wireless sites need to be connected to a fixed landline, meaning rural communities still face the hurdle of laying fiber throughout their communities to obtain the speeds touted by 5G’s proponents.

These technical and economic limitations have tamped down the enthusiasm and expectations for 5G rollout in non-urban areas, with critics warning the new technology will increase the digital divide. The federal government has spent billions of dollars – through various grant programs and partnerships – to get rural communities online. Yet, these areas are still twice as likely as their urban and suburban counterparts to never use the Internet. With such limitations in mind, what are the realistic expectations for rural Americans for 5G?

For one, 5G can aid in bringing Internet access to rural town centers and other clustered areas that can take advantage of the new technology. While not providing blanket coverage to every home, these investments could complement current broadband efforts and bring high-speed Internet to rural education centers, hospitals, and business centers.

Providing access to these areas alone would be a benefit to the country. The Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) found that Internet expansion in rural areas brought economic growth, enhanced educational and vocational training offerings, and improved healthcare outcomes through telehealth practices. Considering the educational struggles and poor healthcare outcomes in rural America, expanding access to these communities is no trivial matter.

Additionally, while current 5G technology is best suited for urban environments, its rollout will improve speeds over existing systems, and the limited structural barriers in place could make installation easier in rural communities as the technology advances. What’s more, research indicates that the use of wireless services enhances profitability and productivity, enabling farmers to not only keep the country fed but remain competitive in the global market, therefore benefitting America’s agricultural sector.

While 5G may not replace home broadband, other telecom investments are bringing Internet access to rural areas with current technology. Companies such as Rise Broadband are using fixed wireless services that provide home services broadband speeds up to 50 miles away. Though not fiber speeds, the services meet current FCC broadband definitions and aid in bridging the “digital divide” in America.

Preparing the country for the 5G economy should remain a top priority for public and private sector leaders alike, but any hype must be tempered with the realities of implementation in urban areas and in the more isolated regions of the country. 5G may not solve the digital divide on its own, but creating a hybrid network that uses the new technology with current systems should play a role in bringing high-speed Internet to all Americans.

The War For The World’s 5G Future

This article originally appeared on Forbes by Arthur Herman.

Today America is locked in a struggle for high-tech supremacy with China. The battlefields range from lasers, hypersonic weaponry, and advanced unmanned systems for the military, to artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computers and even driverless cars in the civilian sector. One is transparently clear: whoever wins this struggle will become the dominant superpower in the 21st century; and one of the most decisive contests will be over 5G wireless.

Fifth-generation or 5G technology is much more than the future of global telecommunications, offering more bandwidth than anyone ever imagined (think of downloading entire movies in a few seconds) and enough to make the Internet of Things a daily reality. The rollout of 5G also demands billions of dollars to install the fiber-optic networks needed for these high-capacity systems, and billions more to operate them. Which companies and which countries design and invest in this new infrastructure, will have a hefty say in not only how 5-G transmits information, but also how others are to access the system. If it’s China, the results could be bad not only for American and European companies used to dominating telecommunications, but for freedom itself.

On October 4 Vice-President Mike Pence spoke at the Hudson Institute and warned, “Through the ‘Made in China 2025’ plan, the [Chinese] Communist Party has set its sights on controlling 90 percent of the world’s most advanced industries, including robotics, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence, ” including 5-G; as part of Beijing’s plan to emerge as the dominant superpower in the 21st century.

The same day Pence spoke, Bloomberg broke a story regarding a California-based company called Supermicro, where Chinese subcontractors have been stealthily installing back doors in mother boards for advanced hardware systems for years. It’s a sobering warning of what can happen if China’s telecom giants, who operate at the behest of the Chinese military-intelligence-complex, dominate the future of 5G.

That dominance already happening. As noted, 5G relies on fiber-optic networks which are very expensive to install and require an infrastructure investment of tens of billions of dollars. Here comes China, offering to build and install those networks at bargain prices, with workers and engineers eager to help. This allows bidders in government auctions of bandwidth for 5Gs to overbid, knowing that Chinese vendors will not only build the networks for bargain prices.

The result is a growing number of countries who are adopting or at least rolling out Chinese versions of 5G while the US fails to act.  To date at least one telecom operator in 48 countries has an agreement or has announced testing of gear made by Chinese IT giant Huawei, which has notorious ties to China’s military and intelligence agencies. Ten countries have announced deals to starting using Huawei gear in their 5G networks, including the UK, Portugal, Italy, Mexico, the Philippines, and most recently, Saudi Arabia.

In Italy’s case, the government conducted their 5G spectrum auction and raised a surprising $7.6 billion. The reason was bidders were willing to overbid knowing that not only would Chinese contractors build the network cheaply, but they could get Chinese financing to complete the deal.  In short order Huawei emerged as the clear winner, working with Italian mobile operator TIM and broadband provider Fastweb. On September 25 Italy’s deputy prime minister “cut the ribbon” for TIM and Fastweb’s first 5G base station for commercial use, featuring Huawei’s end-to-end (E2E) 5G equipment.

What happened with Italy could well happen with Britain, where Huawei has secured three contracts to build 5-G “test” networks. Another American ally in Europe, Germany, could be next.

It is worth remembering that controlling how data is moving through these expanded broadband networks, as Huawei’s E2E equipment does, makes it a relatively easy step to controlling what gets moved—and to whom. The Supermicro story suggests that one unwanted destination might be China’s spy agencies. And if 5G really is the key to development of the Internet of Things, that development could well be held hostage to the priorities of Chinese companies as well as those companies’ hardware, and to their ultimate masters in Beijing—with fewer and fewer countries able to escape their grasp.

Given the Chinese success in spreading their 5G technology, there may be very little time to get the rest of the world to shift direction. Right now only the US and Australia have an outright ban on using Huawei (Canada still has not joined the ban). By the time the World Mobile Congress meets in late February, it may be already too late.

Fortunately, there is still time for the US to make its move. It can end the current impasse on 5G standards and practices which has stalled out further technical and commercial developments, and it can mobilize our domestic telecoms—AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and the like—to rally behind a new plan on how to divide 5G bandwidth so that it can made affordable and accessible without relying on Chinese sub-contractors to provide the price break. Otherwise our telecoms will face the same unpalatable choice our allies are currently facing: either jump on the China bandwagon or get left behind.

Time is short; but the agenda is clear. The US needs to put pressure on allies, including the EU, and our own telecoms, to come up with a better plan for building 5G—before the future of wireless carries a single brutally simple  message:  “Made in China.”