More than 30% of nations now have access to 5G. It’s truly becoming a global technology—one that’s changing how things are done across all industries. 5G is more than a speed upgrade, it’s rapidly connecting millions of devices at high data rates, making IoT (Internet of Things), AI (artificial intelligence), edge computing, and VR/AR (virtual reality/augmented reality) more accessible for more applications than ever before.

In 2020, wireless carriers like Verizon say they hit the brakes on marketing 5G to consumers by avoiding showcasing use cases in public places, including airports and stadiums. And while 5G progress still happened in 2020, it didn’t happen at the speed it would have had the world not been hyper focused on the pandemic.

In IoT, however, projections for 5G growth are still strong for the decade. A new report from ResearchandMarkets says the 5G in IoT industry will exceed $272 billion globally by 2026, growing at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 17.6%. 5G and IoT-enabled smart machines will present a $2.9 billion global opportunity by 2026, the firm’s research says, and application revenue for edge computing in 5G will exceed 52% of infrastructure spending by 2026.

One important opportunity for 5G moving forward is high-performance, reliable indoor connectivity. Corning, a leading innovator in materials sciences, recently moved the needle toward this goal by introducing new high-performance cellular solutions that can help network operators offer reliable 5G connections indoors using cost-effective small-cell radio nodes that are very simple to install.

Corning’s next-gen Everon mmWave indoor small-cell systems are designed for small- and mid-sized high-density environments like office buildings, factories, hotels, hospitals, and schools. They operate at commonly used frequencies (28 GHz, 39 GHz, etc.) so that carriers and enterprise network operators can leverage these systems to bring 5G indoors—which is where Corning says up to 80% of mobile traffic originates or terminates.

With such a high percentage of mobile traffic occurring, originating, and/or terminating indoors, it’s a problematic reality that some 5G frequencies don’t fare as well as other frequencies when met with walls and other physical barriers inside a building. As work, school, and other aspects of life begin to return to normal in 2021, the demand for high-speed, reliable 5G connectivity indoors has grown along with this shift. Corning says its new in-building cellular products are part of a suite of optical network components for enterprise deployment called Everon Network Solutions. The company plans to launch additional products that will add to the portfolio in coming months.

Other companies, like Ericsson, are also working on solving the indoor-connectivity issue. Ericsson’s report, “5G and Wi-Fi: Charting a path toward superior indoor connectivity” acknowledges that 5G isn’t the only technology capable of addressing the need for advanced connectivity indoors. Whether a service provider chooses Wi-Fi 6 or 5G depends on reliability and latency requirements specific to the use case. Ericsson submits that both Wi-Fi and 5G can play important roles in indoor connectivity. However, if the use case is critical—meaning connectivity must be very reliable—then 5G is typically the best fit.

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