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5G's mmWave enterprise revolution derailed by COVID-19


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Enterprises are likely to initially see the most benefit from 5G mmWave technology, but the use cases have been largely paused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recall that 5G has two flavors, 5G mmWave and Sub-6 GHz. The former gives you blazing speeds over a short distance and work great in buildings, factories, airports and stadiums. The latter provides more coverage at lower speeds.

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Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg touted the company’s millimeter wave-based Ultra-Wideband network. He said:

We took a leapfrog with 19 more cities, and we are now 55 cities for mobility. We have 43 stadiums and 7 airports. We just continue to augment our Ultra-Wideband Network, which is just giving a huge, new experience when it comes to capabilities, when it comes to speed, latency and, of course, throughput.

Here’s the problem: Stadiums and airports are empty due to COVID-19. The reality is that few of us have experienced 5G mmWave.

Nevertheless, industry players are bullish on 5G mmWave, but the real wins are going to be in enterprises.

T-Mobile US President of Technology Neville Ray said the carrier will use mmWave when it makes sense, but it’ll be largely a business play.

We’ll use millimeter wave where it makes sense, and one of those environments is going to be in-building. And that’s a great way for us to attack 5G experience indoors, especially for the enterprise.

Qualcomm is betting that mmWave will have a big role in proving the 5G case, but Manish Tripathi, vice president of engineering at Qualcomm, noted that the rollout is ongoing.

According to Qualcomm, 2021 will be a big year for 5G mmWave deployments. “5G mmWave is compelling in a crowded area and the user experience you get across the board is unprecedented,” said Tripathi.

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Qualcomm

Note Qualcomm’s best areas for 5G mmWave include indoor enterprises, venues, transportation hubs, fixed wireless and industrial IoT.

Tripathi isn’t wrong, but airports, convention centers, stadiums and city centers are largely sidelined due to COVID-19. The best use case for 5G mmWave at the moment is industrial IoT.

Bottom line: The 5G mmWave business case will have to wait until the new normal post COVID-19 emerges.

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