9 Comments

Summary:

Samsung has become the latest company to play fast and loose with 5G. It may have produced some impressive technology but it’s doing itself a huge disservice by conflating its accomplishment with technology that doesn’t yet exist.

On Monday, Samsung made a big news splash with the revelation it has successfully tested a “5G” network in its labs, delivering a 1 Gbps connection over airwaves that were previously useless for mobile communications.

From what few details Samsung has released about the tests, the feat sounds impressive, and its adaptive array transceiver technology could very well make it into the future networks we’ll one day call 5G. But for Samsung to call its technology 5G today is very disingenuous. Quite frankly a huge global vendor vendor and researcher like Samsung should know better than to play so fast and loose with media and technology perceptions. Samsung is grubbing for headlines, and it appears to have succeeded. A search of Google News for “Samsung” and “5G” yielded 97 separate stories.

The fact is, 5G only exists as barest concept today. Groups like METIS have just started investigating the technologies and network architectures that will comprise 5G networks a decade down the road. There is certainly no standards-based definition of 5G, and anyone who claims other is frankly making crap up.

Yet we’ve been witnessing a growing number of companies and tech media outlets start tossing the term 5G about, just as we saw the industry warp the definition of 4G years ago and are seeing carriers abuse the term LTE-Advanced today. Samsung certainly isn’t the first or worst offender. Broadcom attached the term 5G to its 802.11ac Wi-Fi gear — which isn’t even a mobile cellular technology – over a year ago. But Samsung and the rest of the industry aren’t doing anyone any favors by adding to the confusion.

Samsung 5G testsThat said, Samsung appears to have done something impressive in these tests. Packing 1 Gbps into a millimeter-wave transmission (A minor technical point: Samsung calls it millimeter, but the 28 GHz Ka-band frequencies it uses straddles the millimeter and microwave bands) is nothing new. Backhaul specialists for years have been cramming loads of capacity into broad swathes of high-frequency spectrum. The problem is those frequencies have been useless for mobile communications because they have no range. Shorter wavelengths can’t propagate at the power levels used for cellular transmission.

Samsung, however, seems to have solved that problem by using a boatload of antennas – 64 to be exact. It’s the same principle behind the MIMO antennas used in our Wi-Fi routers and LTE phones: if instead of a single high-powered transmission, you send several low-power transmissions that reinforce one another, your signal will propagate farther. Samsung claims that by using this technique it’s produced a link in the 28 GHz band that can travel 2 km and deliver a connection speed of just over 1 Gbps.

If Samsung and the mobile industry can commercialize this technology for cellular, it could open up whole new hunks of spectrum for wide area network use. There are plenty of obstacles to making such technology viable, not the least of which is shoving 64 antennas into a mobile phone, but it’s a start.

So kudos to Samsung for pushing the bounds of wireless technology, but shame on Samsung for conflating that accomplishment with its ridiculous pretensions to 5G. “Adaptive array transceiver” may not have the same ring on a press release as “5G”, but at least it’s honest.

Pinocchio image courtesy of Shutterstock user neven

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  1. Byron Scott Jones Monday, May 13, 2013

    Just because a technology hasn’t been approved as an official standard doesn’t preclude it from being called a next generation technology. Having kinks that still need ironing out doesn’t preclude it either. The G only stands for generation, and this work by Samsung certainly qualifies as something beyond LTE.

    1. Hi Byron,

      This may be forward looking tech, and Samsung has every right to call it that, but the “Gs” are very politically loaded terms used by really lazy marketers to inflate the perception of their companies in tech. If Samsung claims to have a jump on 5G, then other vendors will respond in kind. The problem is that actions like create a marketing arms race. Before you know it, everyone starts labeling whatever technology they’re working on as 5G, and then the term becomes absolutely meaningless.

    2. The problem with labeling the solution “5G” is that current LTE solutions are still 3G solutions. The products being marketed as “4G” solutions are not actually “4G” solutions from a technology standpoint.

      This is a big marketing kerfuffle. Because they inaccurately labeled 3G products as 4G, they can’t call 4G products that, so they call them 5G.
      It’ll get really interesting when 4G (technology wise) products get an upgrade like 3G did with LTE, and the marketing folks will start calling that 6G. Then when 5G products actually come about, they’ll have to call them 7G

      What Samsung demonstrated qualifies as a 4G product.

  2. The last company we want “inventing” something like 5G is Samesung. They would just abuse it like they do with so many of their other patents.

  3. We all know Samsung as a company and entity has not morals. They buy users to pay for recommendations, they make stuff up, 5G is a great marketing tool, but realistically 1gb down would be when you are the only one in the area, with a capable phone , accessing the first tower…most likely we will see 100MB cause the carriers will lock it down and even chage us the tier data and tier speed.

  4. Srihari Yamanoor Tuesday, May 14, 2013

    Thin ice, and mostly looks like you need to stand sideways and check the length of your nose first. Throw in stuff about glass doors and stone throwing as well.

    Or, is the real problem that you are you pissed that it wasn’t Apple BSing us about this first?

  5. Samsung uses 4G modems bought from Qualcomm and they are talking about innovating in 5G.. funny people..

  6. Kevin, what would you suggest they call it?

    1. Txpatriot,

      They should call it exactly what it is. They can make up a new name for it. I don’t care, as long as they’re not preying upon the gullible, trying to convince them Samsung has suddenly developed 5G.

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