The fourth Connected Virtual Tech Event kicked off on Wednesday with “Future of 5G and 6G for Buildings” panel. While talk of 6G might seem premature given wireless carriers are still working to perfect their 5G networks, panelist Alex Lawrence, Managing Editor of 6GWorld insisted that’s not the case.
“There aren’t any definite decisions about what 6G would be or look like yet, but I think (the 6G movement) is coming out of hope and despair,” Lawrence said. “On the hope side, people are looking to 2030 and getting to a system that is beyond 5G, maybe building upon 5G’s capabilities. Maybe moving something like (virtual reality) from simply sight and hearing into being able to engage all of your senses. You could take a virtual journey to say, Berlin and inhabit a robot with your senses.”
On the despair side meanwhile, Lawrence noted there’s a feeling with 5G that a lot was done right with the technology, but there’s also things that have been missed. For example, a number of industries and stakeholders that were meant to be involved with 5G weren’t until much later in process.
“They weren’t really defining it,” Lawrence said. “As a result we have organizations that are asking for a next generation (of wireless networks) that would build in simplicity to use and manage in the bedrock in the next generation. It would potentially mask the all of the complexity of the teleco network and make it as simple to manage and install as Wi-Fi.”
Lawrence is not alone in his 6G forward thinking. The U.S National Science Foundation recently announced it’s partnering with a number of federal agencies and private enterprises to form RINGS (Resilient and Intelligent Next-Generation System) program, Light Reading reports. The newly formed initiative’s goal is to accelerate research in areas that impact Next-Generation networking and computing systems.
The Department of Defense Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and National Institute of Standards and Technology are among the federal agencies to join RINGS. Apple, Google, IBM, Qualcomm and Microsoft are just a few of the private enterprises that will take part in the program.
Connected Real Estate Magazine CEO and Publisher Rich Berliner moderated the panel. Adam Gould, Inseego Senior Vice President Product Management, T-Mobile Senior Manager of 5G Smart & Indoor Coverage Luke Lucas, RSRF CEO Sina Khanifar joined Lawrence in the discussion.
Current state of 5G wireless
Wireless carriers are still in a tense race to deploy their 5G network across the United States. Verizon put its desire to secure the 5G crown when it spent more than $45 billion for 3,500 licenses in the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Auction 107 earlier this year. AT&T also spent big ($23.4 billion) to gain a little more than 1,600 licenses. Despite their efforts, T-Mobile remains confident that it is the currently the 5G leader.
“Even with the C-Band auction in the rear view mirror, T-Mobile is still going to hold a generous mid-band position on the spectrum,” Lukas said. “We started in December 2019 deploying our 600 band, our lowest frequency to make sure we could get into anywhere and everywhere and the goal still continues today.”
As far as the advancements 5G technology, phones in particular, Lukas likened the situation to traffic—the freeway lanes are wider and the speed limit has been increased. Now, it’s up to individual users, enterprises and the government to decide how they want to leverage this newfound opportunity.
“If you’re a student, maybe it’s just Internet access speed,” Lucas said. “But if you’re a logistics partner, you have a dimensioning tool that says, ‘How can I run my business more efficiently?’ ‘How can I get effective cost savings?’ It’s enabling that challenge to say what could you do better, faster and quicker with more availability. That’s going to be the end of the game for each person to determine what that roadmap is.”
Why is so much coverage being built outdoors?
Currently 80% of wireless voice and data is generated indoors, but that has not stopped companies from building a vast amount of coverage outside. Khanifar and RSRF have put more attention on wireless coverage indoors, but recognize that in a lot of ways 5G in-building coverage is still in its infancy.
“5G is becoming a bigger and bigger part of what we do, but it is still relatively early days for in-building 5G,” he said. “The way the networks works is they roll everything on the marco side outdoors first and then indoors comes next. (Getting indoor 5G) is about having a clear upgrade path for when the carriers make the technology available for us to roll out real in-building 5G.”
Khanifar noted that when RSRF talks to CRE owners about their 5G needs, they often point to smart buildings. When building owners are choosing a DAS (distributed antenna system) today, they’re building the infrastructure for what’s going to support the next decade of connectivity, according to Khanifar.
“You’re building it for people’s phones and handsets; that’s the main case today, but you’re really building it for the thousands of IoT (Internet of Things) devices that are going to be deployed inside that smart building over the course of the next decade. Thinking ahead to how that infrastructure you’re installing and how it can support that kind of technology is critical when it comes to deploying wireless systems inside buildings today because the landscape is changing.”
Connecting people without traditional coverage
One challenge carriers are trying to solve in their 5G deployment is getting coverage to remote areas that might be lacking in cell towers. Gould and Inseego’s solutions help bring coverage to those areas, but question still remains on how to best bring that outside signal indoors.
“That’s an issue always to some extent because the data speeds you get are related to the signal strength,” Gould said. “Therefore that indoor to outdoor migration is really important. You need a variety of solutions to make sure that coverage comes inside and not all buildings are made the same, it’s important to have a portfolio of devices to solve the different types of problems and maximize that signal.”
Check out next week’s Connected Real Estate Magazine newsletter for more coverage on this week’s Connected Virtual Tech Event.
Joe Dyton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org