While benefits of 5G are well documented, commercial roll out of 5G in the United States has been relatively slower than expected over the past 8 months. Constraints delaying faster roll out, as listed by major service providers include:
Signal and Health related Hurdles
A major hurdle is the nature of the 5G signal itself. 5G networks operate on millimeter waves, which typically are high radio frequencies but limited in terms of range (often to less than one square mile and about less than 2% of 4G signal’s range). This in turn demands multiple smaller antennae to overcome the issue with signal blockage from common objects such as buildings, trees and other structures.
A key challenge towards rapid installation of towers stems from the need to deploy fiber optic cables which is often a costly and time-consuming process, more so in the non-urban localities.
Perception of health-risks associated with 5G-induced radiation remains a major deterrent to a rapid deployment, more so in the absence of studies which either confirm or downplay effects of radiation.
Spectrum related challenges
Federal and market induced challenges continue to delay licensing of spectrum which can be licensed to network providers. The process involves co-ordination of local, federal and international communities towards agreements on parts of the spectrum which could be used for 5G-based transmission.
5G spectrum standards need to support multi-bands to ensure interoperability of devices across multiple regions and nations, increasing the device complexity. A lack of universally accepted standards is currently resulting from a lack of coordination of 5G frequency bands across multiple nations.
Cost-related entry barriers
For all its promise, deployment and rollout of 5G is not cheap. Mobile network operators run up against steep cost-related entry barriers such as spectrum licensing fee, deployment of hardware needed to power networks, deployment fees as demanded by local and federal governments, and the costs incurred towards hiring and training technicians responsible for deployment, rollout, repair and maintenance.
Security and Privacy Constraints
The need to integrate an ever-increasing number of mobile devices, a compulsion to bridge legacy and new technologies, and mandatory compliance with local and federal regulations dictates criticality of incorporating security and privacy standards in 5G universe.
The possibility of precisely tracking a user’s geographical location has triggered privacy concerns among early adopters of 5G and privacy advocates. The dominance of Chinese players in the 5G infrastructure arena has led to concerns about the country’s ability to spy on the traffic passing through 5G systems.
The onus of ensuring privacy and security on 5G network platforms rests with everyone involved – the Federal Government, network operators, device manufacturers, and even the end users themselves.
Industry associations (such as CTIA) are working with regulatory agencies and device manufacturers towards incorporating enhanced privacy protection into 5G standards. An example of this effort is the encryption of a device’s IMSI or the unique user identifier.