CES in Las Vegas is generally dominated by home entertainment, the smart home and the future of automotive. This year at CES there was an air of 5G spread all around the show as every brand tried to incorporate it into their roadmap, as an enabler of things to come.
What we learned from CES is that 2019 is the year 5G becomes a reality. In Australia, over 200 sites are 5G ready on the Telstra network with a large scale rollout planned through 2019, including upgrades to current 4G networks.
In a hotel suite of the Wynn, Telstra CEO Andy Penn, addressed Australian media to announce that in the first half of 2019 we will see 5G smartphones exclusively available through Telstra. The key here is that we are talking about more than one device.
It could be assumed we would see one from Samsung, Huawei and LG however Andy would not comment on brands involvement. It was clear however that LG representatives were aware of the Telstra meeting taking place, and with a Samsung 5G device on the show floor one can only assume.
During the meeting with Telstra, questions were raised around 5G vs the NBN. While it would be unwise to suggest one can realistically replace the other some interesting thoughts came out of it.
Firstly, a 5G network in your area may be sufficient enough for your needs with home internet and whether it is a wireless hotspot device, or a 5G enabled smartphone or tablet, this could meet your needs.
Secondly, a 5G antenna could be installed on your home to provide a more reliable and stable connection for a 5G home internet connection.
Lastly, Telstra may consider adding 5G backup in your NBN configuration should your link ever go down.
During the meeting, I raised a question around smart cities and “things” that would live on 5G, as the benefit to 5G isn’t simply for smartphones to watch 4K movies.
Andy was able to comment that the lower latency of 5G and longer range that it can provide from a tower has immense benefits in a rural environment and in the mining industry for “things” as devices could be deployed further away, livestock could be monitored and autonomous mining trucks could have greater reliability on 5G.
When I met with HERE Technologies, who are focusing on autonomous vehicle technology and providing services to car makers, they commented that while 5G is not mandatory for smart cities and vehicles, it does enable instant communication among things so that cars can share data with each other and the infrastructure of the city faster which could mean a safer and more efficient operation.
In many ways, the true benefits of 5G will only be realised once we have it. For many, it needs to be experienced before you think of ways to use it.
For companies like Telstra, they will need to focus on how they convince customers that switching to their network for 5G is worth the money and you cannot do that on faster Netflix streaming alone.
The exclusive phone deals will be interesting to see and while a Samsung Galaxy S10 with 5G would be amazing to experience, what premium will that command, compared to the 4G version on Vodafone? With 5G so new to Australia, will it even be available in the areas you spend the most time?
Last thought – with the iPhone normally announced in September, and no rumour yet of there being any 5G model announced this year, we can conclude 5G mightn’t be as big in 2019 as hoped.
If history has taught us anything, a lot of change follows when Apple embraces it. Before that, it’s a bit more unknown.
Geoff travelled to CES in Las Vegas as a guest of HERE Technologies.