"Fake 5G?" Consumers Will Not Care; They Will Buy

If you remember the nomenclature wars when 4G first was launched in the U.S. market, you will not be surprised at the amount of hype or controversy “pre-5G” or “early 5G” is going to generate.  As U.S. mobile operators begin to deploy “pre-5G” platforms, some are going to quibble, arguing those deployments “are not really 5G.” Fixed deployments likewise, will not be considered “true 5G.”

All that has a logic. And none of it will matter. Sprint says it will deploy 5G in late 2019, using the 3GPP New Radio standard and Sprint’s 2.5GHz spectrum.

AT&T likewise earlier pointed out that 5G-NR radio interfaces would allow faster deployment of 5G using a virtualized network core, compatible with 4G, as early as 2019, to provide faster speeds and lower latency (both of which are features of 5G).

T-Mobile US, for its part, touts its coming 5G availability starting in 2019, promising “real 5G.” Purists are going to say none of those claims is entirely and fully correct, as they rely on 5G-NR radio interfaces, which are formally pre-5G, as the full standard is not yet finalized.

Verizon, meanwhile, is launching its own pre-5G services in 11 metro areas in 2017, albeit in fixed, rather than mobile mode. It is fair to characterize all those efforts as falling short of the full 5G standard.

As was the case with 4G, it will not matter to customers. Faster speeds and lower latency, with or without many new services, when marketed as 5G, will still be bought, because there is a value proposition that makes sense.

No matter how much observers or participants argue about “fake 5G,” there will be enough marketing differentiation to matter, from a customer standpoint. In the end, the early period of the transition will not matter, as it did not matter, in the end, for 4G.

Customers will hear about, and will want, the additional value “5G” is said to provide. They will buy. The standards will be fleshed out and the full implementation will happen over a few years.

The point is that it will matter--commercially--when the mobile operators start to market 5G. Our “inside baseball” arguments will not be a factor.
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