LG Electronics opted to kickstart its CES 2019 keynote by drawing attention to a technology that's already poised to mark 2019 – the fifth generation of mobile networks. Before delving into the new smart home portfolio, the company's officials reiterated its commitment to 5G, confirming that its partnership with Qualcomm is still ongoing and will lead to 5G-ready Android smartphones in the near future. LG remains adamant to be among the first original equipment manufacturers to release 5G handsets this year and is describing its project as nothing short of "another revolution in the mobile industry." The South Korean firm described Qualcomm as a "key partner" on its wireless project, essentially confirming its first Android smartphone capable of communicating with 5G networks will utilize the Snapdragon 855 system-on-chip.
A lot of no-context promises
Much like the rest of the industry, LG is painting 5G as a technology that will allow consumers to benefit from significantly faster download and upload speeds, better video streaming quality, and higher-performing mobile apps though it's not attaching any specific timeframe to those promises. While initial 5G services are already live in a handful of cities throughout the United States and more will follow suit in the coming months, the technology still has a long way to go until it's widespread and developed enough to actually serve as a superior alternative to 4G, i.e. LTE. The main obstacle standing in the way of the next wireless revolution is the fact that the 3GPP's 5G New Radio specification — basically the "real" 5G — is largely reliant on millimeter-wave spectrum which by itself isn't particularly great at carrying signals over long distances and is prone to being absorbed by everything from foliage to rain. Despite its shortcomings, the high-frequency nature of this spectrum pool promises massive bandwidth improvements compared to existing wireless solutions and it's essentially out there for the taking seeing how no other technology is presently utilizing it on a significant scale.
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All things considered, 5G deployment is poised to be the most challenging mobile network update in the history of the industry but the wireless sector remains adamant the rollout difficulties will be worth it. Once fully launched, 5G services should enable unprecedented bandwidths and latencies, ultimately benefitting a broad range of technologies and enabling entirely new solutions which will in turn create new jobs and consequently prompt a global economic boom. LG is unsurprisingly eager to put itself at the forefront of that revolution in terms of the end-user part of the equation seeing how smartphones will be among the first consumer-grade devices to be able to communicate with 5G NR networks. On the other hand, the first wave of 5G-ready handsets will likely exhibit many issues pertaining to their build quality and battery life, not unlike what happened in 2011 when LTE devices were just entering the mainstream. That state of affairs is expected to prompt many consumers to circumvent the 5G-enabled smartphones that will be hitting the market throughout this year, meaning such gadgets will primarily be used as marketing tools, whereas their commercial potential should be somewhat limited.
Several months back, LG confirmed a wireless partnership with Sprint that will see the Overland Park, Kansas-based carrier launch one of its 5G devices at some point this year. However, that collaboration is still surrounded by many uncertainties, primarily those associated with Sprint's ongoing efforts to merge with T-Mobile by mid-2019 which might ultimately change the combined company's 5G plans. At the same time, Sprint isn't placing all of its eggs in one basket, having just announced it's also collaborating with Samsung on another 5G device — most likely the Galaxy Note 10 — planned to be released this summer. In the meantime, LG will be focusing on the rest of the consumer electronics segment and look to innovate beyond the mobile market where it found recent success over the last several years. Earlier today, the company announced a consumer-grade rollable OLED TV, promising to have the curious invention in stores in a matter of months. As for the wireless space, whether 5G helps LG revive its struggling Android handset division remains to be seen but even if it does, it's unlikely to prompt such success before 2020 at the earliest.