I know I have written about this more than once this year, but it deserves repeating; 5G is going to be something to watch as solutions are developed leveraging its power and speed. What’s more, if you attended Mobile World Congress this year, you heard all the buzz surrounding 5G. I’d go as far as to say that 5G is hot right now. Many companies are chomping at the bit to tell us all about how they’re going all-in on 5G.

In fact, at MWC, Qualcomm’s show slogan was “5G is here,” and it seemed like most manufacturers were out to prove that they’re either ready or actively getting ready for 5G. I too can admit to getting more than a few emails from companies wanting to prove they have something to say about 5G. Perhaps the real question we need to ask then is 5G really “here?”

On my radio show this week we addressed the “Is 5G here” topic, but for the sake of this column, we will take a deeper dive into the topic of the “here.”

In our feature article this month on Connected World, we also addressed the connection between 5G and autonomous vehicles. Many experts gave us their thoughts on a question, which asked whether or not 5G connectivity is necessary for an autonomous future, and interestingly exactly half of them wholeheartedly declared “yes.” And then, half of them answered “no” to the very same question.

There is no doubt that everyone has an opinion and 5G is controversial, especially when you consider how it will or will not impact AVs. Another point of contention within the space when it comes to 5G is when exactly it will be “changing the world” as we know it.

Data tends to plot a steep growth curve for the 5G market in the next decade. GSMA Intelligence says the U.S. will experience one of the fastest migrations to 5G in the world, and, by 2025, 5G will be the leading mobile network technology in the country. More specifically, the research suggests there will be 100 million 5G mobile connections by 2023 and more than 190 million 5G connections by 2025.

These 190 million 5G connections will make up about half of the total mobile connections, so we have actually answered part of the big question of “when.” And the answer seems to be 2025. That’s six years out.

Of course, if you ask wireless carriers, though, they will tell you sooner. For instance, Verizon says the 5G era is already underway. The company launched 5G home, a commercial 5G service, in October last year. And this year, Verizon plans to launch its 5G Ultra Wideband Network in 30+ cities. Other industry players with vested interests in 5G will also tell you that 5G is moving or has already moved to commercial reality in the U.S.

5G Americas says expect 25-30 5G commercial deployments globally in 2019, with North America and Asia Pacific leading the way. When you talk to people who are a little bit more neutral about 5G, they tend to be less likely to say 5G is “here.”

One common timeframe we hear is five years, which is close to what GSMA’s research suggests. Some others are more cautious and say 5-10 years.

Actually, everyone is right. Go figure. I’m going to say that everyone is right, in a way. The folks who are saying “5G is here” are basing their claims on a different definition of “here” than the other folks who are saying 5G is 5-10 years out.

There has been substantial progress made with respect to 5G smartphones and other cellular devices. After all, the cellular part of 5G is more of an evolution from 4G technology than a revolution, not really, but to some degree.

More importantly, the key here is how will 5G affect the IoT, and that’s where we will all need to be a lot more understanding since it is going to take some time. And, yes, this is where we are talking 5-10 years just might be a more realistic timeframe.

A new market research report from MarketsandMarkets says the 5G IoT market will grow from 0.7 billion in 2020 to 6.3 billion by 2025. Based on this outlook, we can expect the adoption rate of 5G connectivity in IoT devices to really ramp up starting next year and then continuing for the next five years.

In this digital age, we all get pushed so much information. So with that being said, is 5G “here?”

Some say yes, some say no…. Is it ready, or is it not? Perhaps it’s not that simple. Everybody is saying something different about 5G and perhaps the bigger question is how do you want to define your needs for 5G? Some stakeholders just define “here” and “ready” differently than other stakeholders.

If you’re saying 5G is here and what you mean is that the hardware is here—antennas, for instance—then yes, those 5G antennas exist and they’re being deployed.

If you’re talking about devices that technically could take advantage of 5G networks, then yes, that is a reality as well, especially after all the announcements made at Mobile World Congress.

But if you’re talking about 5G IoT—those super high-speed, low-latency networks that could enable new models for healthcare, smart cities, and so on—then no, we can’t really say that those applications of 5G are “here.”

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