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5G technology pervades CES 2018

Notably, 5G – following the hugely significant approval of the first 5G NR specifications by the 3GPP in December – touched almost every product and application announcement at the show from health monitors to infotainment systems and autonomous cars.

The first Non-standalone 5G NR specifications were approved by the 3GPP after a week of meetings in Lisbon, Portugal in late December, with completion of Release 15 now expected by June 2018. It essentially means that 5G has just become real, and the industry can now turn its attention to developing the services and applications that promises. And CES 2018 provided a glimpse of what’s to come.

5G will blur the lines between broadband and wireless connections, described by Samsung at the show as like “putting fiber into your pocket”. But 5G will go way beyond mobile devices. It is set to impact everything, from personal devices and services such as video streaming, to mission-critical applications such as self-driving cars, the operation of smart cities and remote health monitoring.

According to many of the carriers at CES 2018, 5G is still in its testing phase, while hardware products remain prototypes rather than working products. But what was interesting to see were the different approaches being taken by some of the carriers at the show.For example, AT&T, which expects to offer 5G in 12 markets by the end of 2018, views the technology more as a low-latency play – which might allow autonomous cars to constantly communicate with traffic signals, other vehicles and the smart city.

Verizon, on the other hand, is focusing more on geographic footprint, and is plotting a broad 5G rollout throughout 2018 to residential first, then business and IOT, going head-to-head with cable companies.

While the carriers focused on 5G rollout, manufacturers were revealing their aspirations for 5G. Intel, for example, is re-positioning itself to serve the IoT world. It has already invested heavily in autonomous driving – with a 15% stake in leading mapping and open location platform provider HERE Technologies, and the December purchase of Israeli ADAS specialist Mobileye. But at the event it also outlined its plans to become a central player in connecting smart homes, buildings, lights, appliances and so on.

The event, of course, also showcased myriad startups and specialist manufacturers, all demonstrating products and applications that will rely on 5G to realise their promise, from remote surgery to remote machinery control and training applications.5G will also benefit VR and entertainment, and not just for gaming. Haptic VR, which lets users touch and feel what they're seeing, relies on 5G's low latency to detect where a user is in the virtual space and then provides physical feedback in real time. Of course, 5G will also enable a new wave of immersive entertainment experiences.

But while 5G pervaded this year’s industry showcase, tangible 5G working products and services were notable by their absence. The course of the next 12 months, however, is set to change all that with 5G finally becoming a ‘reality’. So it’s CES 2019 when we’re likely to see real demonstrations of what 5G can deliver – an exciting prospect for sure, but we are also anticipating deafening levels of hype at Mobile World Congress this year!