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  • Writer's pictureElisabeth Nebster

5G Technology in the US and Canada: What’s New in 2021

5G is in the hype cycle. Deployment is going to be slower than people think. Yes, you’ll get faster internet, but that’s not a breakthrough.

Mohan Sawhney, a professor at

Kellogg School of Management

For several years now, the world has been waiting for a full-fledged "arrival" of 5G. Companies are rushing to make loud promises, release devices with 5G support, and frantically buy mid-band frequencies at auctions. But what is the result?

Let's consider how the activities of 2020 have affected US and Canadian 5G service providers, what we have in 2021 and what to expect next.

5G in the US: Victories, Failures, Challenges

Today, the biggest competitors in the race for 5G are Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, that own limited parts of low and high band frequencies.

At the last US Federal Communications Commission auction this winter, they acquired most licenses from the regulator to use frequencies and install towers.

Following Forbes, we are talking about the following amounts spent:

  • Verizon purchase is more than $ 45 bln,

  • AT&T spent almost half less - about $ 23.5 bln,

  • and T-Mobile acquired only 142 licenses for $ 9 bln.

To date, two of the three players, namely T-Mobile and AT&T, claim to provide nationwide 5G coverage. To do it, they use the lowest and the lowest frequency: T-Mobile (600 MHz), AT&T (850 MHz). They need to build a limited number of towers to spread it. But because of the narrow bands for data transmission, a nationwide 5G quality leaves much to be desired.

Last fall, Washington Post journalist Geoffrey A. Fowler compared 4G and 5G speeds in different parts of San Francisco, including home, where people spend the most time today. The results were disappointing. It turned out that 4G is faster. It is sad news for happy owners of 5G-enabled devices because the last ones run at their minimum power.

To “catch” 5G, you should stay outside and hold the phone in a certain way. Any wrong hand movement - no speed.

Telco representatives react to such a reality, saying that it is only the 5G beginning. They say that 5G at the initial stage works almost the same as a well-developed 4G.

Well, it also has its logic. Most likely, because of the low speed, operators have not yet charged for 5G usage. Maybe, they test how the technology works. However, everyone who wants to feel the real 5G even for a second needs to buy a new generation device. And this pleasure will cost $ 500-1500.

However, operators don't abandon attempts to accelerate the 5G spread. They do not only build towers but also create ecosystems with startups from different domains. For example, every year, T-Mobile selects new projects for these purposes. In 2021, the following became:

  • Condense Reality (application for transmitting surround video in real-time),

  • Everysight (technical vision system),

  • Flow Immersive (product for data presentation),

  • Kai XR (multifunctional app for children),

  • Longan Vision (auxiliary application for firefighters), Matsuko (product for holographic communication), (robust solution for working with video),

  • Prisms of Reality (educational system).

For all years of such activity, T-Mobile managed to work with 67 startups.

So, despite the difficulties in implementation, expected that the new generation level the height. 5G service providers will actively use their recent purchases to switch to mid-frequency. This step alone will make it much more convenient to take advantage of the technology.

5G Spread in Canada. Key 5G objectives

2020 was the year of 5G network deployment in Canada. Rogers, Telus, Bell, and other telecom leaders have begun to push ahead with fast 5G access to 160 cities like Ottava, Monreal, and Vancouver.

SpeedTest research shows that 4G speeds in Canada are slightly above 55 Mbps, while 5G operates at 169 Mbps. It's about the 3x best performance! But this is not the limit.

Companies are in a dynamic competition. That's why they announce powerful alliances or multi-million dollar profit reinvestment in 5G technology now and then. For example, last year Rogers announced a partnership with Shaw Communications to bring quality 5G coverage across the country. Telus representatives noticed their intention to invest $ 1 bln from the company's shares sale in 5G development. All of these significant events for Canada will take place already in 2021.

As you can see, it is not so difficult to implement 5G for northern neighbors. Although, there are still challenging moments in this story.

To spread 5G in Canada, Samsung will provide Telus with a wide range of user devices, 5G network equipment, and an AI platform to analyze operations data.

Stephen Wiktorski, a Senior Director,

Network Business at Samsung Canada

It concerns 5G infrastructure and third parties involved in this process. All of the above providers have chosen Samsung, Nokia, and Ericsson as partners for these purposes. It is no coincidence that we didn't mention a Chinese Huawei here.

All Five Eyes states, except Canada, have already banned Huawei services because of its close cooperation with the Chinese government. The latter has cold relations with Canada after the detention of Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei's founder. Litigation for her extradition is still ongoing. However, the government has not yet established a clear position on the permission or prohibition of Huawei's activities in the country.

According to the Globe and Mail, Huawei's ban will not save Canada, as the government does not have a single set of strategies for ensuring cybersecurity in the context of the 5G development.

The Bottom Line

No matter how things are with Canadian information security, it is still bypassing the United States in all parameters concerning the 5G implementation. On the other hand, it won't take long. By 2023, 5G will work like a Swiss watch on the North American continent. Businesses must be ready for it. The constant demand of the fast code platform to digitize new products and services fast will rise. This could keep your company competitive with the 5G advent.


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