5G 2021: Three Things To Look Out For

By Sharon Lewis and Monika Ghosh

5G failed to live up to its promise of a super-fast Internet by 2020. But with these developments coming up in 2021, it may finally begin to deliver.

With 5G pledging advanced connectivity, many industries and technologies stand to be impacted. But deployment of the latest cellular broadband network standard, which promises faster speed, has not been speedy enough.

Efforts to develop 5G commenced as far back as 2009, just two years after 4G LTE was launched. Along with superior speed, 5G brings with it lower latency and increased connection density. This means increased app response times and more devices supported per square kilometer.

The wins are coming in, but slowly. Currently, 5G costs big bucks, and is still struggling to beat 4G speeds. Here are five developments to watch out for next year that may help 5G inch closer to its promise.

These Asian countries are slated to roll out 5G

India and Singapore will be taking steps toward rolling out 5G in their respective geographies.

The Indian government will be holding spectrum auctions, where telecom companies bid for airwaves, in March next year. However, spectrum in the range of 3.3-3.8 GHz, which commercial 5G networks generally rely on, will not be included in the auction.

But Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani recently hinted that his telecom company Jio would be launching 5G services in the subcontinent in the second half of 2021, The Times of India reported. Jio rival Airtel’s chairperson Sunil Mittal, however, noted that the country was still two to three years away from 5G deployment.

Singapore, on the other hand, has unambiguous plans for deploying 5G. The government’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) announced in April this year that 5G networks will be rolled out at the start of the new year. They will also be moving toward nationwide coverage by 2025.

100MHz of 3.5GHz spectrum was allocated to Singtel and a joint venture consortium by StarHub and M1. The three companies had won IMDA’s 5G Call for Proposal earlier this year.

BMW to launch world’s first 5G-enabled luxury car

BMW will be launching the world’s first luxury car with 5G connectivity in 2021, the automobile maker has said. Its iNext all-electric SUV, to be launched next year, will come equipped with 5G wireless.

The tech, based on a built-in 5G SIM card, has been developed by Samsung and HARMAN. This means that occupants of the car will not need a separate 5G smartphone or tab, CNet reported. The report noted that it will be extending 5G networks to its other model ranges after the iNext goes into production.

The high-tech SUV comes with other features, such as its Personal Co-Pilot ability, an Intelligent Beam in the interior, and interactive surfaces.

5G-enabled devices and processors continue to go big

Driven by China, sales of 5G enabled smartphones in 2020 nearly met sales predictions for the year. China was the first country to be affected by the pandemic. But with its speedy recovery and people returning to work, the deployment of 5G networks and its adoption has not slowed down.

With the cost of 5G base stations expected to go down next year, Chinese telecom carriers are likely to build more than 1 million new base stations in 2021. This will further boost the sale of 5G-enabled devices. According to Strategy Analytics, the number of 5G smartphones is expected to more than double to 600 million next year.

Outside China, the uptake of 5G smartphones this year was slower, although the launch of Apple’s 5G phones iPhone 12 boosted the demand. Besides, the tech giant was reportedly working on its own 5G mmWave Antenna in Package (AiP). This would enable Apple to offer 5G connectivity in its devices other than iPhones. Therefore, its iPad Pro 2021 models could come with 5G technology, according to a report by Moneycontrol.

Besides, while 5G smartphone prices reduced this year amid reduced consumer spending, they are set to go lower next year. Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro lineup prices are on par with its last year’s models, despite the new models being equipped with 5G connectivity. According to media reports, Samsung is planning to launch several mid-range 5G smartphones in early 2021.

Qualcomm unveiled its latest chipset Snapdragon 888 which comes with an integrated 5G modem. The latest chipset is expected to power a major chunk of 5G Android phones in 2021. Qualcomm has already confirmed that 14 smartphone makers will use its chipset to build smartphones next year.

2020 was supposed to be the year 5G went mainstream. But the coronavirus pandemic thwarted the plans as lockdowns ensued and unemployment rose, reducing the spending capacity of consumers.

The pandemic is far from over. But with more countries rolling out 5G and the launch of affordable 5G devices, the technology may finally start delivering on its promise in 2021.

Header image by Jack Sloop on Unsplash

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