If statements made by Vodafone Group's current CEO, Vittorio Colao, are anything to go by, there's an argument to be made that the mobile industry has gotten ahead of itself in pursuit of 5G. Citing an industry-wide obsession with "the technology definition," Colao said that technologies that can make use of 5G just don't exist yet. Because that technology won't arrive for years, it doesn't make financial sense to pursue it. There simply isn't a solid enough "footprint" in the market. Making matters worse, he continued, 4G LTE still delivers plenty of connectivity to serve consumers well beyond current needs. Colao went on to predict that 3G, but not 2G, would disappear alongside the advent of full-fledged 5G. The executive claims that 2G is still viable for some purpose but a proliferation of 4G would render 3G pointless, while 5G would eventually grow in presence to meet the demands of low-latency technologies.
Colao isn't at all alone in that sentiment. Although T-Mobile has already begun its own push for 5G, the company had previously indicated that next generation networks are just not required yet. As a result, the carrier explained, it won't make any difference in 2019 even if carriers can create widespread availability within that year. However, there are plenty of reasons why that wouldn't necessarily be the case. 5G is arguably among the most important technologies to both the upcoming self-driving vehicle industry and the IoT. In some cases, it might even be required to perform adequate testing and to commercialize those types of solutions. That would mean the new network itself effectively needs to be in place before a substantial portion of the footprint it will support can be built out. Most of the world's carriers appear to be approaching the upgrade to mobile connections in a similar light.
Bearing that in mind, the Vodafone exec isn't necessarily wrong, either. It's not typically good business to invest in and build tools for which there is no market. Even if smartphones become 5G-compatible in 2019, those won't likely use a significant amount of the potential presented by next-gen networks. In fact, 4G LTE is still more than fast enough and low-latency enough for the vast majority of purposes. So it may be too early to judge Colao's statements to be incorrect.