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5G Technology Updates: 5 Things You Need To Know About 5G In 2020

Gina Narcisi

With countries and carriers on the battlefield to prove their 5G dominance, here's what you need to know about the state of 5G in 2020 so far.

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Race Is On 

5G, with its lightning-fast speeds and lower-latency, promises to turbocharge some technology use cases, such as IoT and autonomous vehicles. But the next-generation cellular technology is still very much in its infancy.

However, that doesn't mean the race to becoming a 5G leader is moving slowly. Carriers and countries are competing heavily, using different technologies, spectrums, and equipment to be first to the 5G market or to prove their wireless prowess. The battle between Huawei and the United States has even added a political angle to 5G's rollout on a global level.

Here’s where the industry stands with 5G and five 5G technology updates that you should follow in 2020.

Plot Thickens On Huawei 5G Struggle  

A report surfaced this month that said that the U.S. government is working with companies including Dell Technologies, Microsoft and AT&T to develop 5G network software that could provide an alternative to technologies from Huawei, the embattled Chinese equipment for high-speed 5G networks. Huawei has faced increasing scrutiny from U.S. officials who believe the company's products pose a national security risk. Huawei has denied the allegations.
The U.S. said that if Huawei owns 5G infrastructure, it's owned by China by default, which some officials believe could mean China could shut down the 5G network at any time. The U.S. government is also reportedly against the U.K.'s decision to allow Huawei limited participation in the building of its 5G networks and has been pressuring its allies to block Huawei from any 5G network buildouts.

AT&T's 5G 

AT&T is relying heavily on 5G to fuel its future revenue growth, in part because the Dallas-based carrier said that 5G device adoption will drive its upgrade cycle in 2020.

AT&T's 5G network covers 50 million people today and AT&T has targeted second-quarter 2020 for the deployment of a nationwide 5G network. After launching 5G in 2018, AT&T brought 5G to parts of seven additional cities in 2019, including Austin, Los Angeles, Orlando and San Francisco. Altogether, AT&T has 5G live in parts of 32 cities and its network largely uses low band 850MHz spectrum technology, which offers broad range but slower speeds.

Sprint/T-Mobile's 5G plans  

T-Mobile went about building its 5G network a little differently, using sub-600 Mhz frequencies that are better at reaching suburban and rural communities at lower speeds. The Bellevue, Wash.-based provider in December had its nationwide 5G launch, which T-Mobile said activated coverage across 1 million square miles of the U.S. to reach 60 percent of Americans.

Sprint, on the other hand, rolled out 5G to parts of several cities in 2019, including Atlanta, Kansas City, New York City, and Los Angeles. The Overland Park, Kansas-based carrier chose to use the mid-band 2.5 Ghz spectrum for its 5G strategy, which compliments T-Mobile's 5G on high and low bands.

Verizon's 5G  

Going head-to-head with AT&T, Verizon in 2019 rolled out its 5G ultra wideband internet. The carrier has since turned on 5G in parts of 34 cities -- including sections of larger cities like Chicago and Minneapolis, as well as smaller metros, such as Providence, RI. Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Verizon has plans to continue to roll out 5G in more cites in 2020, starting with San Diego.

5G can only be accessed on Verizon network via two 5G-capable devices right now —the Motorola Moto Z3 smartphone and A 5G-enabled version of the Samsung Galaxy S10. Verizon uses ultra-high speed but low mmWave technology in the 28 Ghz and 39 Ghz spectrums.

Global 5G Efforts 

The U.S. is just one of many countries competing to build out an all-encompassing 5G network. China is poised to have one of the largest 5G networks in the world this year, and large-scale 5G buildouts are happening across Japan and South Korea. The European Union said that its goal is to release 5G in at least one major city in each member state in 2020. 5G buildouts are happening across Australia, which is tapping the carriers Optus, Telstra, and Vodafone for the work. While most people do not have access to 5G yet in Australia, that's expected to change in 2020 and services will vary depending on which carrier is serving the area.

Gina Narcisi

Gina Narcisi is a senior editor covering the networking and telecom markets for CRN.com. Prior to joining CRN, she covered the networking, unified communications and cloud space for TechTarget. She can be reached at gnarcisi@thechannelcompany.com.

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