When the Pentagon pours money into its own 5G shop and the Moscow mobile industry shakes hands with Qualcomm for a network roll-out deal, it's time to sit up and take note of the role 5G is already playing among geopolitical movers and shakers. This past week also saw more US local government issues piling up as municipalities continue their uphill battle to collect utility fees from leading service providers. But none of that stopped three countries from kicking the tires on new 5G networks, including Ireland, which switched on its first one.
So kick back and catch up. We're keeping tabs on tech's hottest topic with a quick run-down on the most important developments this week in 5G.
- After the FCC ruled 5G technology safe last week, it moved this week to greenlight the $26.5 billion merger between Sprint and T-Mobile with a supportive draft order. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said it "will bring fast 5G wireless service to many more Americans and help close the digital divide in rural areas." All the same, the FCC got slapped back when a federal court ruled that the agency couldn't bypass environmental regulations on 5G small cell sites. It's a win for residents like those in Costa Mesa, California, this week who are still concerned over health risks. Where's the concern coming from? The debate over 5G radiation.
- This week the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) said for the first time there are more than 100 devices now 5G compatible.That's a lot to keep track of, but we put together a round-up of coming-soon phones (and here's a look at 5G notebooks). But we're not buying the hype just yet. Not even when it comes at half the price. We already know Apple has decided 5G isn't ready for prime time.
- The 5G buzzwords of the week are "network slicing." What is it? Something that could ultimately determine the success of failure of 5G wireless.
- While Nokia pulls back the reins on the Sprint 5G rollout, and Verizon admits their low-bands will be more like "good 4G," at least one Bay Area startup is already using 5G technology to offer high-speed wireless broadband at a low-cost.
- The Department of Defense is dumping cash into 5G because, as it says, it's "struggling to become the flee on the tail of the telecoms' dog." So the Pentagon's setting up a 5G shop with a new director, and might offer its bases up as tech test beds. Two reasons to hold our horses here: a federal 5G cybersecurity assessment is pointing out major vulnerabilities, and President Donald Trump's tariffs could tamp down on the 5G cell and antennae trade. Speaking of the Trump administration, Huawei started hedging bets this week by pushing South America to get on board with 5G and is already researching 6G in Canada.
- On the digital divide front, 5G has local governments in an uproar. It's old news that 5G pits big carriers and government against small towns, but this week another wave of cases washed ashore. A township in Michigan is fighting to implement 5G antenna fees (the same kind Verizon is suing Rochester to avoid), while some in Indianapolis complain they're flat out ugly. Florida's not happy about getting steamrolled, and neither are county superintendents in California.
5G around the world
- School just started but global 5G report cards are already out. We'll need a new one in December if Beijing gets those 10,000 5G base stations they're aiming for by year's end.
- Who got turned on this week?: 1.) The Irish got their first 5G network this week via Vodaphone (robotic surgeons and farm drones, here we come!), and Austria's flagship Smart Region got up and running. But the big move was in Moscow, where Tele2 claims it's turned on the first 5G zone following its deal with Ericsson. 2.) A Russian state agency cautioned that the country won't be quick on the 5G uptake, but that didn't stop Russian President Vladimir Putin from reserving a key slice of 5G frequency for military use. Did Qualcomm not get the memo? Because they announced this week they've been partnering with the Russian mobile industry for a mmWave 5G network in Moscow.
- Who's on deck? For one, Vodaphone (a.k.a. Vodacom Group) is pushing South Africa to start allocating 5G spectrum, but India's a bit further ahead. It's on the verge of inviting telecom majors to conduct trials for the upcoming network, but is flirting with not inviting Huawei to the party. Ouch. And it looks like 5G retrofitting could kick Aussies in the wallet, as consumers face higher public costs. We wouldn't expect a 5G commercial spending surge either if we're to believe the new Australian research revealing "fewer than half (46.9%) 'would seriously consider buying a 5G phone.'"