Jan 7, 2019

The tech industry is already thinking beyond 5G


Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Tech people like to use "G"s to signify the next generation of technology, especially in the wireless world. There was 2G and 3G, today's 4G LTE and now we are on the brink of 5G.

Yes, but: Marketing people are always getting ahead of the technology people, jumping the gun to get an edge on rivals. It happened with 4G as T-Mobile and AT&T started putting the 4G label on what was essentially a speedier flavor of 3G. The same thing is happening with 5G, as AT&T is slapping the label "5G E" on existing devices that run on its latest 4G network, which it calls "5G Evolution."

Reality check: True 5G will require new devices to run on the new networks that are only just beginning to show up. The first true 5G smartphones are still a couple months away and will only support 5G in a handful of cities that carriers have picked for their first deployments.

But wait, it gets worse. Today, the research arm of the cable industry, known as CableLabs, is announcing a technology called 10G.

  • No, it has nothing to do with strapping two 5G phones together.
  • Rather it's the industry's term for 10-gigabit networks, the next generation of cable broadband due to start field trials in 2020.

Full disclosure: I'm part of the problem. Later this week I'm moderating a panel on 6G, exploring the use cases and technologies that will eventually prompt the industry to look beyond 5G, which we've barely started implementing.

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