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The 5G rollout and uptake has been rocky. What needs to happen to change the narrative?

The 5G rollout and uptake has been rocky. What needs to happen to change the narrative?

Examples of low latency's full effects, more C-Band availability and the advancement of private 5G networks could turn the tide, though some concerns might be overblown, members of the Braintrust say.

Good afternoon! The 5G rollout has continued to be at the center of tech and government these past few weeks as C-Band spectrum deployments have grabbed headlines. With today's Braintrust, we asked the experts to tell us what they thought needed to happen to move past some of the hurdles. Questions or comments? Send us a note at

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John Roese

Global Chief Technology Officer at Dell Technologies

It’s important to take a long view of 5G when evaluating initial rollouts. Early 5G was deployed mostly as an incremental improvement of 4G with more spectrum, better RF characteristics but otherwise not much of a difference. This means that the average user just saw a faster, possible lower-latency 4G experience. What most people don’t see is that behind the scenes the 5G and telecom ecosystem has been dramatically expanded to include technology companies such as Dell Technologies, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and many others who are accelerating innovation in the next 5G phase.

For example, we expect to see dramatic performance improvements as more spectrum is activated in areas such as C-Band. We expect to see the private 5G ecosystem expand with companies like Dell and others entering the market. We expect early availability of advanced 5G features such as massive machine type communications (mMTC) and ultra-reliable low-latency communications (UR-LLC) which will allow for optimized experiences in massive robotics, media and industrial/logistics use cases. We also anticipate the shift to standalone 5G cores will introduce more virtualized, software-defined and agile telecom foundations that will reshape the entire telecom stack.

Like all technologies as big as 5G, it takes time to roll out and generate an impact that the average consumer or enterprise can tangibly experience. Our view is that inevitably, the narrative will change, and 5G will become foundational for much of the modern enterprise and consumer experience.

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Ron Marquardt

Vice President of Advanced Technologies and Innovation at T-Mobile

With the recent headlines about 5G and the aviation community’s concerns, I can understand how someone might conclude that 5G rollouts have been rocky. But in reality, that’s far from true.

To change the narrative, two things need to happen.

First, it’s important to separate 5G from C-Band. While headlines talk about “5G,” the aviation concerns are only with one specific frequency called C-Band, which T-Mobile 5G does not use today. C-Band is one frequency within the category of mid-band spectrum. Mid-band spectrum is ideal for 5G, providing the perfect balance of both coverage and speed. T-Mobile acquired different mid-band spectrum through the merger with Sprint, making the company a leader in 5G coverage, speed and reliability.

Second, we should look at where 5G stands today and where it’s headed. 5G is a foundational technology that will create jobs, tackle the digital divide and fuel life-changing innovations. T-Mobile’s 5G network, which launched in 2019, is the largest and fastest in the U.S., covering 310 million people across 1.7 million square miles with Extended Range 5G. And it covers 210 million people nationwide with faster, mid-band Ultra Capacity 5G. Our 5G rollout has not been “rocky.”

T-Mobile is at the forefront of advancing 5G technology on a global scale, and the company’s focus on 5G is already making a difference. Today, T-Mobile 5G is fueling everything from connected cars to connected farms, and as we transition to a full 5G architecture we’ll see 5G reach its full potential across all industries.

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Stephen Stokols

EVP, Retail Wireless at DISH Wireless

It’s impossible to escape the hype around 5G. Wireless carriers have been blasting the public with dueling “best 5G” speed ads and 5G has been proselytized as a life-altering technology that will transform our daily lives — yet it’s never been made clear how or why.

A key benefit of 5G that hasn’t been marketed as much is its low latency (the delay between a call for data and the time that data actually transfers to a device) compared to that on an LTE network. On 5G networks, latency is reduced to incredibly low, almost imperceptible amounts. For developers working on applications where one-tenth of a second has real meaning, low latency is a game-changer.

Autonomous vehicles, remote health care and augmented reality and virtual reality are key industries that will take off due to 5G's low latency. For stakeholders in the automotive space, 5G will enhance auto-brake technology, weather condition adjustment and even suggest lane changes — not just the route — in order to optimize time. Telehealth’s 5G boost will appear in the form of 24/7, live-saving health monitoring where a person could be notified of an impending heart attack, low blood sugar or even receive remote surgery. As we’ve seen AR become a must for beauty brands in the past year, the super low latency of 5G could prove to be the missing piece for AR/VR’s integration into more consumer-friendly spaces.

With 5G there’s possibilities not even yet imagined, but very soon, the dreamers will bring us up to speed.

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Durga Malladi

Senior Vice President & General Manager, 5G, Mobile Broadband & Infrastructure at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

Changing the narrative requires aligning perception with reality. I've worked at Qualcomm since 3G, and the 5G adoption and penetration rate has been the fastest of any G. 5G networks have spanned low- and mid-band sub6 and high-band mmWave since 2019, with intra-sub6 carrier aggregation and standalone mode introduced in 2020-21, and now we’re bringing 5G standalone mode sub6-mmWave aggregation. It’s estimated that 450-550 million 5G phones would ship in 2021 — twice as fast as 4G in the same time frame. That said, just like every technology, adoption isn't universal or instantaneous.

In 2019, some key 5G technologies were adopted first in the United States, like mmWave, while parts of Europe, Asia and Australia moved faster on mid-band sub6. In the end, every country wants to move toward nationwide 5G coverage using a combination of low-band and mid-band sub6.

Early 5G investments are now beginning to bear fruit. In addition to smartphones, new 5G use cases are emerging. In areas where high-speed internet isn’t available, fixed wireless access powered by 5G has been able to deliver Gigabit internet speeds to homes, enterprises, and schools. 5G-based laptops are enabling users to always be connected to the cloud seamlessly and securely. With 75% of all new cars sold by 2027 expected to be cellular-connected, 5G C-V2X technology can make roads safer, reduce congestion and eventually lower carbon emissions. Eventually we expect farmers will use 5G based real-time data to improve crop yields, manage livestock and minimize water and energy waste.

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Leticia Latino-van Splunteren

CEO at Neptuno USA, Corp

If one thing can be sure, it is that embarking on deploying a transformational technology like 5G won’t be achieved without its fair number of hurdles. What needs to happen to change the narrative? We have to recognize that there is a global race to 5G, and the U.S. is committed to winning it. One of the main challenges preventing a full-speed 5G deployment revolved mainly around spectrum availability, but with the completion of the C-Band spectrum auction, where America’s largest carriers spent an unprecedented $93 billion, one can be sure that any roadblocks to deployment will be cleared. The best proof is how the wireless industry is going above and beyond in its voluntary mitigation efforts to address the latest concerns brought by the FAA’s about aviation safety, and in fact, just very recently, the FAA issued an official statement that hints that all stakeholders are now working with a strong collaborative approach and that a resolution is on the horizon. Workforce shortage has also been a recurring challenge in preventing 5G deployments to go at a faster pace and having a skilled and broad workforce will be more important than ever to accomplish the industry’s work.

The enactment of the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will provide unprecedented levels of government support for infrastructure improvement. Due to this, it is expected that this year’s Carriers Capex spending on mobile networks will accelerate, creating a growth momentum. We will go from having just a few small 5G private networks projects to many significant ones, which will be the trigger for new and innovative business models, equipment production and new and emerging players in the 5G ecosystem. This is an exciting time, and we all should be thrilled to be witnessing this transformation as it happens.

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John Godfrey

Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Acting Head of U.S. Public Affairs at Samsung

I actually think the 5G rollout has been going well in the United States. Consider the big picture: The U.S. was first in the world to activate commercial 5G service, and according to CTIA, the first U.S. 5G network achieved nationwide coverage in half the time of 4G. All three major providers built nationwide 5G networks 42% faster than 4G, and 5G networks now cover 300 million Americans, or 90% of the country. 5G is available in a wide range of consumer devices, too. Samsung works to build 5G compatibility across our portfolio. We offer 5G in our smartphones (starting at $249.99) and in our tablet and PC lineups.

It is true that the U.S. activation of C-Band spectrum was not as smooth as it should have been. When setting the rules for C-Band operations, the Federal Communications Commission conducted its usual thorough investigation of potential interference, but the aviation industry and their regulators were late in bringing forward data, resulting in last-minute adjustments and a six-week delay in turning on most C-Band base stations. Now that the top leadership slot in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has been filled, I expect interagency coordination on spectrum policy will improve.

U.S. 5G is now poised for dramatic advancement in 2022. With mid-band spectrum such as C-Band now available for 5G, consumers are already seeing higher speeds. Samsung’s 5G network solutions, based on Virtual RAN technology, make it easier and faster for carriers to deploy 5G and to add new services quickly. The U.S. 5G future is bright.

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David Christopher

EVP and GM, Partnerships and 5G Ecosystem Development at AT&T

The assertion that 5G is off to a rocky start is not accurate. Let me put things in perspective.

We’re in the early years of the 5G decade. 5G is rolling out faster than 4G. Over 90% of Americans are covered with 5G, representing north of 300 million people. This is 40% faster to get to nationwide coverage by the three major carriers than in the 4G rollout. Customers are using more data like never before. According to CTIA, mobile data usage is 108x higher than it was in 2010 — and over that time period, speeds for the consumer also increased nearly 10x.

New capabilities of faster speeds, lower latency and massive connectivity from the internet of things will usher in incredible innovation across all areas including healthcare, retail, gaming, automotive, manufacturing … the list goes on and on.

5G is going to drive material innovation. Expect to see new devices delivering experiences that pull us out of the phone, such as AR glasses powering both consumer experiences as well as transforming businesses like manufacturing.

Gamers can already take advantage of 5G today by playing on any device via the cloud. The emerging metaverse and AR/VR devices will use 5G to its fullest and is just around the corner.

And there are many more examples, including remote health care, fully automated vehicles and medical training. High speeds and low latency are going to open up a world of 5G possibilities.

I couldn’t be more excited about where we’re taking customer experiences with 5G.

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See who's who in the Protocol Braintrust and browse every previous edition by category here (Updated Feb. 1, 2022).
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