Peggy and Chris Pearson, president, 5G Americas, dig into the topic of 5G—and how it is going to impact the IoT (Internet of Things). They discuss the three big use cases for 5G, how it is going to be transformative for society, and that it is a national priority for many countries across the globe. As a self-proclaimed traditionalist, Pearson also shares what he believes is coming after 5G.


Below is an excerpt from the interview. To hear the entire interview on The Peggy Smedley Show, log onto
www.peggysmedleyshow.com, and select 05/21/19 from the archives.

Peggy Smedley:
Welcome back. It’s been awhile, but I’m delighted to have you back. Let’s get to it. Let’s talk about 5G. It’s now starting to be deployed in the U.S. We’re starting to have so much discussion about it, but I guess how is it being deployed initially?

Chris Pearson:
It’s a great question. Initially, you’re seeing, we’ve had deployments usually in what would be considered kind of the higher band spectrum. I don’t want to get too technical on this, but we’re using radio frequencies that we’ve never used before for cellular technology communications. So we started out, if you look at some of the plans or initial deployments, they started out with the millimeter wave, and so it’s a lot of spectrum that you can use. So you can really get some great speeds or download speeds and other great capabilities. But it also doesn’t cover as much as people would necessarily be used to. So you’re starting to see those types of deployments initially, but it won’t just be about that spectrum. 5G is going to be much more than that, but that’s initially what you’ve seen from AT&T as well as Verizon, kind of the initial deployments have been utilizing their portfolio of millimeter wave spectrum.

Smedley:
Let’s talk about that, because maybe I should take a step back, because for people who really want to understand what is 5G, and maybe what is the difference from 4G, maybe we should take a step back and help people understand the difference right now.

Pearson:
4G was about trying to improve what we were doing in 3G to be more efficient, and also to really provide faster download speeds for data. We’ve seen this data demand, specifically in the U.S., but even around the world, really just be a rocket ship of demand. If you look at any chart, customers want more and more and more. So when you look at 4G, which is LTE technology, it was developed really to be more efficient and also address some of the use cases of the smartphone, which was the initial use case for it. So when you look at 5G, our standards organizations, which basically took the input of all the leading operators and all the leading vendors from around the world, said, “We got to look at 5G differently. It can’t be just about the smartphone, it has to be about other things.” So while we’re developing the standard and we’re in the first phase being done, we are looking at 5G more as a transformational technology to be developed for families of use cases.

Those families of use cases, there’s three of them. One is called an enhanced mobile broadband. That is part of the whole idea that more data is needed because of the demand. The second one is massive machine-to-machine communications, or you could think of it as massive IoT, and the third use case is something called ultra-reliable and low-latency communication. So that would be the third family of use case. So we’re designing 5G to be more transformational in what it can do for a customer or society, versus 4G if you look back, it was more designed for faster download speeds and improvement in latency, but not to be able to do the things that we’re going to be able to do in 5G.

Smedley:
When people talk about 5G, we talk about its capabilities are so immense. So when we think about things and we say it’s transformational in that idea, it really is. Because what 5G is going to be able to do when we talk about connecting so many things and devices, we really are talking about cars and lights and smart cities, that’s where all that transformational low latency kind of things really come into play.

Pearson:
Absolutely. You hit the nail on the hammer, I think, as they say. If you look at the areas that we want to move into, it is things like being able to support for IoT, not just hundreds of millions of connections, but billions of connections. So we needed a new network architecture for that, and we need the ability to have a battery life up to 10 years on certain sensors that aren’t going to be used much. With data speeds, we’re looking at, we wanted to be able to hit 10 gigabits per second peak data rates, and maybe 100 megabits per second as an average for a user.

Then finally what you just talked about, when you have a smart city and you also want to connect in autonomous driving cars, and you want to work on your traffic, but not by digging a tunnel and spending billions there, but actually by being more efficient with your roads and your traffic and everything connected, then you do need that low latency for vital communications. So we’re looking at very low latency, I mean like one millisecond, what’s called radio latency. So you’re absolutely correct. There’s a great opportunity here in society to help us do things better with 5G.

Smedley:
Are we making the progress, you know, when we talk about radio spectrum and all the things that you talk about here in the U.S. versus globally? Are we making the progress that we really need in allocating all the spectrum and the requirements that we need? Are we making the progress that’s necessary to achieve what you just described?

Pearson:
Yeah, we’re making very good progress. Luckily, we have a lot of really strong leading wireless carriers. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular, have big plans for 5G and also are very innovative in looking at their portfolio of spectrum and cell sites, and how they could deliver it. So overall in the U.S., from a federal government side, we’re a leader in really identifying and allocating and auctioning that high-band spectrum for 5G, and so that’s helped us in many ways really start moving into 5G early and be one of the leaders. We do have some work though to do, and that would be if you start looking at the key ingredients for successful 5G commercial networks, it’s going to be the ability to put 5G in low, mid, and high band spectrum. So the FCC’s done a really good job, or the U.S. has done a good job on the high band, but we need to keep working on the mid band and low band.

Then the second key ingredient really is the ability to have more cell sites or street furniture as we would call them, or small cells on a lamp post and things like that. That we need to continue to make progress as well. We’re making progress, but you need streamlined cell site processes so that you can easily put in more cell sites to help you with coverage for 5G. To do that, the cities, the municipalities, the states, they all need to understand how important this technology is to the development of the connected world in their towns and cities. So, yeah, we’re making progress on all fronts, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

Smedley:
So then in that case, cities and the states and the municipalities, we almost have a race then to get 5G. I mean is that happening? Does everybody recognize that the race is on to achieve 5G?

Pearson:
You know, I think it’s recognized by some and not recognized by others. Hopefully it’s a race that everyone can win, because you want to see success for 5G everywhere because it will help everyone, but it is a national priority in many countries, especially, or specifically the Asia-Pacific region, where you have already a pretty strong technology base and the countries really want to do well in 5G because they think it will help them.

Smedley:
We know urbanization is going to be a challenge. It’s going to drive a lot of that because the cities are going to need that. What’s going to be the underlying reason that’s going to push the most deployments in the U.S., then? What are we going to have to see?

Pearson:
What we’ve seen, and it’s a great question, the FCC has taken a leadership role in this, and they actually have put out what’s called a 5G, and they call it a FAST plan. Capital F, Capital A, Capital S, Capital T, and it is a strategy from the FCC, to facilitate America’s, they call it superiority in 5G technology, and the three key components that they describe … and because I think it’s a good kind of high level leadership in this area, is push more spectrum into the marketplace, promote the deployment of wireless infrastructure. and modernize outdated regulations.

If you look at those three areas, it’s very close to what I say, here at 5G Americans, as the key ingredients. You need more infrastructure, so you need to streamline those processes. You need more licensed spectrum, so that you can deploy 5G in the manner of the applications that it wants to address. It will take, collectively, as you say, citizens, and mayors, and governors. Everyone together, because the FCC can lead a lot of these processes, or put out their high level recommendations on some of them, but sometimes it will come down to the local municipalities, and those will take citizens that say, “Yeah, we want to be connected with 5G. We realize what it can do to help us, whether it’s traffic, or healthcare, or education, or smart cities and let’s welcome this, by having streamlined processes.

If it looks like a streetlamp type of deployment, then we should welcome those, to help us get the speeds and the low latency that we want. So it’s going to take everyone working together in the U.S., to do that. We’re different than some of these other countries, where it’s kind of like, in their culture, or possibly the way their government is set up, they can streamline processes quite quickly, by understanding that this is for the good of all, we’re going to do it, and we’re going to have more cell sites and more spectrum.

Smedley:
So, Chris, help me understand then, security. We get a lot of questions, “Is 5G secure? Do I have to worry about it with my health monitor?” We always say here on the show, there’s always the nefarious characters, should there be more or less concern, I guess, with 5G?

Pearson:
I wouldn’t say there should be any less, or any more. I think security, as your listeners have given you on their feedback, is paramount to any technology. Anyone that uses the internet today, or uses any type of application or services that use that, it’s obvious that security is front and center. So, it’s been, if you look at 2G, 3G, and 4G technologies, it’s been paramount to us, to make sure that our services are secure. If you look at 5G, we also are putting in, into the standard, as well as there’s proprietary security developments by private companies.

But in the standard, we’re doing more and more things to address security, to improve it, because we do understand that with 5G, and the three families of use cases that we address, and connecting or considering hyper connectivity of everything being connected, there could be, or will be more what are called threat surfaces. There are more points of pain out there, because you’re having to address and defend more areas. So yeah, security is as paramount to us in 5G, just like it was in 4G and 3G. We’re doing more for it, and there are also proprietary solutions from leading technology companies in the space that are also working on it.

So, coupled with the free market understanding that wireless carriers have to have secure networks, and secure services for their customers, it is vital to our industry and we are doing something about it.

Smedley:
So, what are we saying, then? 5G is here, and then we should throw the baby out with the bathwater, and 4G LTE is kind of like, you don’t need it, or I mean, what’s going to happen to 4G LTE in the next few years? I mean, it’s kind of like we keep moving forward and putting the pedal to the metal, and we abandon what we’ve had in the past.

Pearson:
Yeah. Definitely not going to be abandoning LTE, because it continues to improve, and be extremely innovative in its roadmap of innovation, is what I would call it. What they have done with LTE is just fascinating, as far as the companies that are developing the standard at Third Generation Partnership Projects. So, LTE has started with a standard, and they have what’s called releases, just almost like a software release. But the standard started in release eight, and now we’re up to release 14, and through that process, we’ve just continued to improve the capabilities of it, somewhat dramatically.

We will see a continuation of LTE growing, throughout the world. In fact, if you look at global LTE subscriber forecast, from one of our partners, Ovum, a research firm, you’re going to hit six billion, that’s what it’s going to be, six billion global subscribers in 2022. Even in North America, you’re going to continue to grow, all the way to 2020. You’ll see 473 million subscribers. What we’re doing with LTE is just continue to innovate and enhance it. We’re now at what’s called LTE Advanced, and LTE Advanced Pro, being deployed throughout the North America, in many markets.

Smedley:
So, you just described the standards. What you’re saying is, there’s going to be a lot of support, and it’s a different time, different era, different kind of industry, because we’ve got a 5G standards process that you’re going to continue to go looking at.

Pearson:
Yeah. And we had standards processes for 4G as well, and 3G, and what we’re seeing now, though, is just the continued importance of the integration of the technologies, as you go from one evolution to another.

Smedley:
And that’s what makes it interesting, because of the technology, and we see these exponential changes in all of these things, when we see terms like AI (artificial intelligence) and virtualization and we see all of these network slicings. How do they all become a part of 5G? How do you see this all coming to be transformational in the cellular piece of the pie, so to speak?

Pearson:
Yeah, all those will be very much technology enablers. When you start to look at what will happen in an operator’s network, and how do you manage that network when you’re dealing with a couple of hundred million sensors on one side that only tap into that network once in a while. It’s maybe a meter reading, or a garbage pickup monitor. Then on the other side, someone’s car is basically autonomously driving down the road, needs to get traffic alerts about which way to go, safety alerts, all these things. When you start to think about the processing power, and the intelligence that’s needed, automated intelligence, edge computing, network slicing, which will be part of the standard in 5G, all these things come into play because they’re going to be needed to really help that network operate efficiently. There’s a lot of technology enablers that are being developed to help 5G be a success that it’s going to be.

Smedley:
How long before we really are embracing 5G where we talk about autonomous vehicles or truly smart cities? I mean, we see pieces and slices of these things, but how long before we can truly say we are embracing these things to do what we’re talking about?

Pearson:
It’s hard to forecast exactly on the application side, the services side. Partly, it’s not just the technology increasing and capable, but it’s also even the moving into areas like automobiles, or healthcare, or education where there’s a lot of regulations in these vertical markets. I do think, if you look at the forecast of 5G subscribers in North America in 2022, you’re going to be over a 100 million connections in 2022. Globally in 2023, you’re going to hit over a billion connections, so it’s coming. Then the applications and services of some of the things you talked about, I think, some of them, like smart cities, you already see some of that with LTE. Then with 5G, I think you’ll be taking it to a new level. I think that will come sooner than later.

Smedley:
If we look at what the GDP $500 billion, the boost in annual, you see that happening contributing to the GDP, 3 million jobs, or more?

Pearson:
There’s been different studies. And one study, Peggy, is that they’re looking at plenty of input to the economy because of the 5G. They’re talking 3 million jobs, 275 billion private investment, 500 billion in economic growth. Yeah, I think those are statistics from studies that are very important to helping everyone understand the importance of 5G. Because again, 4G did very well for the United States a lot of people recognize that and 5G has the potential to do very similar things as far as helping our economy.

Smedley:
What comes after 5G then?

Pearson:
Well, I am one of those traditionalists that really thinks that since we are on the very tip of the iceberg, and the beginning of 5G deployments, there’s only eight deployments around the world right now that we’ve tracked, I think we stick to 5G for quite some time. I realize that actually there is academic research being done on something that some people are calling 6G, because they say, “Well, it takes 10 to 12 years before it moves from academic, or research, and science, and then gets going.” I’m kind of a traditionalist. I mean we’re at the beginning of 5G, there’s so much great stuff. I look at LTE release was eight and now we’re at 14. With 5G we’re at release 15. I expect a lot more development on 5G. I would consider that’s what’s next, just continue to innovate with 5G.