Pentagon Warns Blind mmWave Pursuit Could Spell Disaster In 5G Race

The United States Department of Defense warned the domestic wireless industry about overreliance on any single technological approach to the fifth generation of mobile networks, suggesting the sector should be looking to diversify as much as possible less it risks falling behind in the global race toward large-scale adoption of the new telecom standard.

A 33-page report on the 5G ecosystem authored by Pentagon's Defense Innovation Board summarizes the current pursuit of a long-term successor to 4G (LTE) networks, paying special attention to the fact that the U.S. appears to be the only true pioneer in the segment whose largest carriers don't appear to be particularly interested in sub-6GHz implementations of the new wireless specification.

Much like 4G, 5G encompasses a rather varied range of telecom solutions, all of which are meant to improve on the previous best option in wireless. The next generation of networks is consequently expected to be even more diverse than what's been the case so far, both in terms of individual performance metrics such as capacity and latency, as well as in the context of ease (de facto cost) of deployment.

Apart from T-Mobile whose 5G efforts are presently focused on its 600MHz holdings acquired a couple of years back, none of the other stateside telecom giants are presently making significant investments in sub-6GHz 5G, even though the 3GPP's first implementable non-standalone specification completed over a year ago details plenty of such applications, specifically describing them as the easiest entry point into the world of next-gen wireless connectivity.

Instead, the largest mobile service providers in the country are more interested in pursuing millimeter-wave frequencies as means of deploying their new infrastructure, which is the very definition of a long-term bet and may see them struggle to keep pace with foreign rivals in the coming years, the DoD's newest report indicates, though it's far from the first one to do so.

An even more worrisome scenario is one wherein sub-6GHz 5G becomes the new "LTE," i.e. the dominant industry standard that will dictate the state of the consumer electronics industry and other tech branches moving forward. And while that would certainly be a disastrous turn of events for American operators, it's unlikely to happen.

As things stand right now, sub-6GHz 5G doesn't even come close to theoretical limits mmWave bands promise in the context of the new wireless era and while the latter spectrum category is much more demanding to work with and will hence likely resist "taming" for longer, there's hardly a serious wireless forecast circulating the industry right now that isn't full of optimistic predictions about such high-frequency networks.

What they lack in range and penetration capabilities mmWave networks make up in extremely low latencies and heightened capacities, both of which are a crucial component of any wireless generation switch, let alone the largest one in history. Even as the influx of small cell stations isn't without its own issues and certain activists are already protesting such massive rollouts until more research into their potential health effects is done, the stateside wireless industry is now moving toward large-scale 5G deployment in a rather confident manner. Its mmWave fixation may be unconventional but that kind of risk-taking is what allowed the U.S. as a whole to prosper more than any other nation in history over the course of the last two centuries, and so long as it continues investing in 5G in any shape or form, it should be fine because the new wireless specification is here to stay for much longer than LTE due to its unprecedented flexibility and virtually limitless upgradeability.

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Dominik Bosnjak

Head Editor
Dominik started at AndroidHeadlines in 2016 and is the Head Editor of the site today. He’s approaching his first full decade in the media industry, with his background being primarily in technology, gaming, and entertainment. These days, his focus is more on the political side of the tech game, as well as data privacy issues, with him looking at both of those through the prism of Android. Contact him at [email protected]