Fisking Frost & Sullivan’s 5G Cars release

The thorny question of what 5G will be has been a hot topic for years now. However, in all the definitions, we haven’t seen many as, well, limited(?) as this press release from Frost & Sullivan.

It seems the analyst has produced a report called The Global Advent of 5G in Cars. Not having stumped up the $6,500 for this report, Inside5G will not pass judgement on the actual report, but the press release advertising the report doesn’t instil confidence.

Let’s start with the first line:

“The world will soon see 5G emerge as a blend of pre-existing technologies such as 2G, 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi to allow higher network coverage, availability and density.”

Er, no. No. 5G will not be a blend of pre-existing technologies. And certainly not a blend of “2G, 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi”. A blend of those technologies is where we are right now, and in no way will such a blend be able to address 5G use cases. 5G will be formed of new technologies, most of them – certainly the air interface bit – with no backwards compatibility at all.

5G is about enabling use cases that existing technologies cannot address. That is the whole point. And yet F&S seems aware of these use cases as it states, “With its key differentiator being greater connectivity, 5G will act as an enabler for autonomous vehicles, machine-to-machine and machine-to-infrastructure services, and the Internet of Things. It will also penetrate the over-the-air (OTA) updates space as level 3 or 4 automation requires a massive amount of data processing to occur in real time. Through 5G, the OTA updates space will be able to improve the customer experience and save on recall spending.”

Hey, F&S, try doing autonomous vehicles on networks formed of a blend of 2G, 3G, 4G and WiFi. Good luck with that. Also, let’s see how the OTA updates of massive amounts of real time data gets on.

And yet, it seems F&S has even identified the problem, because it says, “the biggest challenge for network service providers is to enable 5G to provide end-to-end coverage and achieve latency less than one millisecond”.

So, F&S has identified a couple of key 5G requirements (latency, ubiquity) and it knows that the global automotive market needs 5G to service things like autonomous vehicles. It just doesn’t seem to have figured out what 5G is. FYI, 5G requires a new air interface(s), new control and signalling technologies, not to mention a bunch of architectural changes. None of these will be formed by blending previous “G”s. To support 5G use cases we are also likely to see deployment of some other stuff (NFV, SDN etc) that might, just might, be described as 4G – in that they can equally be applied to 4G networks as 5G – so there’s nothing inherently 5G about them. So if that is what F&S was referring to then maybe we should cut it some slack.

Even so, it is a little surprising to see a large analyst company produce a report dedicated to 5G and have, seemingly and at first glance, a dodgy grasp on how 5G networks will be developed. As we said, we haven’t read the report, so perhaps it is just the press release that appears to be a little wonky. Let’s hope so.