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MWC 2019: are you excited about 5G?


The Mobile World Congress (MWC) has been taking place in Barcelona this week. For any attendees, it was outstandingly obvious that 5G was the most popular topic, far overshadowing any other topic presented at the Congress. Understandably, everyone is excited about this as it represents the next major milestone in mobile and connectivity technology.

Huawei unveiled their Mate X handset – the world’s first 5G foldable smartphone. In its unfolded glory, the Mate X features an 8-inch screen. When folded, the larger screen measures 6.8in while the smaller phone measures 6.6in; both are larger than that of the iPhone XS Max. When closed, the phone is 11mm (0.43in) thick. The Mate X is expected to go on sale from the middle of this year and will be sold at a starting figure of 2,299 euros (equivalent to £1,996).

Huawei were expected to stage further press meetings at MWC to showcase a variety of their 5G business applications and experiences however, these were cancelled. The only showcase was that of the Mate X.

The development of 5G is undeniably exciting but is the enthusiasm premature? The 5G rollout is far from happening overnight. Switching from 3G to 4G took over a decade to implement so it’s not unreasonable to assume that we are facing a similar timescale with the transition from 4G to 5G.

This is something that we alluded to in our TV Transformers project when we explored 5G and High-Bandwidth Connectivity. The biggest challenge that we identified was that of the infrastructure. For 5G to be fully realised, the infrastructure would need to be considerably upgraded. In addition to the potentially decade-long timescale, a lot of funds would have to be invested to make this happen. Operators have already spent a lot of money to be able to transition from 3G to 4G and one may suspect that they are wary about parting with so much money again especially as they are still recovering from the large investments.

We also noted that 5G will be easier said than done to implement and that we risk placing a gap between consumer expectations and reality. While consumers may expect 5G to be a polished technology that can be fully harnessed from the beginning, the reality is that we will need to allow time for the infrastructure to fully evolve to show what 5G is truly capable of.

Hopefully we’ll be able to find out more about how a future with 5G may look sooner rather than later. Digital Catapult, the UK’s leading innovation centre for advanced digital technologies, is teaming up with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to investigate 5G further. Their partnership is part of the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme. They will be aiming to develop use cases and also to show how 5G can benefit the UK industry. For more information on their partnership, click here.

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Written by DTG Team

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