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Telecom Firms Nearing Completion of 5G Rollouts, Shift Focus to ‘5.5G’ Initiatives

ByHuey Yee Ong

Mar 6, 2024
Telecom Firms Nearing Completion of 5G Rollouts, Shift Focus to '5.5G' Initiatives

Telecom Firms Nearing Completion of 5G Rollouts, Shift Focus to ‘5.5G’ Initiatives

As the world gradually adapts to the revolutionary changes brought about by 5G technology, the telecommunications industry is already setting its sights on the next big leap: “5.5G” or “5G Advanced.” This new phase in mobile internet evolution emerged as a focal point at the recent Mobile World Congress (MWC) held in Barcelona, Spain, sparking conversations among telecom giants about the future of connectivity. Despite the ongoing global deployment of 5G networks, which themselves promise significantly enhanced data speeds and connectivity over their predecessors, the industry is looking forward to the capabilities and potential of 5.5G to further transform digital communication.

The Promise of 5G

5G technology, the fifth generation of mobile internet, has been a significant upgrade from 4G, offering users superfast data speeds and more reliable network coverage. Since the launch of 5G networks in 2019 across various regions including China, South Korea, the United States, and Europe, the anticipation for widespread adoption and the technological advancements it would enable has been high. However, nearly five years into its rollout, the penetration of 5G among consumers remains below expectations, despite being the fastest mobile generation rollout to date. By the end of 2022, 5G connections hit 1 billion, with projections of reaching 1.6 billion by the end of 2023 and 5.5 billion by 2030, which would account for over half of all mobile connections.

The introduction of 5G was not just aimed at enhancing consumer experiences with faster download speeds; it was also positioned as a foundation for emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles and unpiloted air taxis. The lower latency of 5G, meaning the reduced time it takes for devices to communicate with each other, is crucial for applications requiring immediate data transfer.

The Transition to 5.5G

Despite the optimism surrounding 5G, telecom operators have faced challenges in realizing significant returns on their substantial investments in 5G infrastructure. This has led to the early discussions around “5.5G” or “5G Advanced,” representing the next iteration of mobile internet technology. 5.5G aims to not only offer even faster data speeds but also to serve as a catalyst for a broader range of technological innovations than 5G could enable.

At the heart of 5.5G’s promise is the potential to power more advanced applications beyond the current capabilities of mobile internet. This includes enhanced mixed reality headsets for immersive experiences, and the actualization of smart cities and industries through the Internet of Things (IoT), enabling functionalities like self-driving cars and intelligent manufacturing processes.

Understanding 5.5G

“5G Advanced” or “5.5G” represents the next evolutionary step in mobile internet technology, expected to significantly surpass the current capabilities of 5G in terms of speed and efficiency. Its development is guided by global standards to ensure technology interoperability worldwide. The development of 5G Advanced standards focuses on several key objectives to enhance the commercial and technological landscape of mobile networks. These objectives include:

  • Expanding Vertical Markets:
    • Targeting a broader range of industries and applications to increase the relevance and utility of 5G technology beyond traditional consumer markets.
  • Resolving Deployment Issues:
    • Addressing and overcoming the technical and logistical challenges encountered in the rollout of 5G networks to ensure smoother, more efficient deployment processes.
  • Continuing Technology Evolution:
    • Fostering the ongoing advancement of mobile technology to ensure that 5G networks remain at the forefront of digital communication capabilities.
  • Building a Bridge Towards 6G:
    • Laying the foundational elements that will facilitate the eventual transition to 6G, ensuring future compatibility and innovation.

These objectives are designed to not only enhance the capabilities and reach of 5G networks but also to ensure their long-term viability and success in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

The Path to 5.5G Implementation

The anticipation for 5.5G is building, with telecom equipment suppliers like Huawei forecasting 2024 as the year when commercial deployments of 5.5G Advanced will begin. This next-generation network is expected to deliver downlink speeds of up to 10 Gbps, marking a significant advancement in mobile internet capability. However, transitioning consumers from 5G to 5.5G will require telecom companies to effectively communicate the benefits and new applications enabled by this technology.

The potential of 5.5G extends beyond consumer applications, with a particular focus on enterprise solutions. This includes the concept of “private 5G” networks, which are tailored, nonpublic mobile networks designed for specific organizational needs, such as in smart factories or for remote medical procedures. The success of 5.5G in enabling these applications could open new revenue streams for telecom operators, shifting the monetization focus from consumer data plans to enterprise solutions.

Challenges and Expectations

While the industry is optimistic about the transition to 5.5G, there are challenges ahead, particularly in convincing consumers of the need to upgrade from 5G, given the incremental improvements experienced so far. Moreover, the telecom sector must navigate the complexities of global standards development, ensuring interoperability and the seamless integration of new technologies.

As telecom operators and equipment suppliers gear up for the rollout of 5.5G, the broader implications for digital communication and technology are profound. The advancement from 5G to 5.5G represents not just an incremental improvement in speed and efficiency but a significant leap towards realizing the full potential of the digital age. With the promise of enabling new applications and transforming industries, the evolution to 5.5G may well mark the beginning of a new era in mobile connectivity.


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Featured Image courtesy of rawpixel.com on Freepik

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.