2019 was the year that the world saw 5G networks launch, but there's still a long way to go before we can all enjoy the benefits. Despite the seemingly slow rollout, Qualcomm is still really heavily invested in 5G connectivity going into 2020.
Detractors of 5G like to moan that there's not enough coverage, because it's only available in a handful of place - often big cities like London. But that's not an issue according to Christiano Amon, President of Qualcomm, while speaking at the Qualcomm Summit in Hawaii. He pointed out that the 4G rollout was exactly the same, and since 5G has only just started it's unrealistic to think that there would be the same level of coverage at this early stage.
Qualcomm has estimated that there will be 200 million users subscribing to 5G services by the end of next year, and by 2025 there will be 2.8 billion. Part of that will involve the launch of sub-6 GHz + mmWave 5G networks, which the company describes as "real 5G". It also helps combine both coverage and capacity, which will be key to getting people connected to 5G networks.
For those interested sub-6 GHz is the kind of 5G that's launched in the UK. That offers better opportunities for 5G coverage, though not the bandwidth and capacity for all the benefits we've been promised 5G can offer.
But it doesn't mean 4G networks will be going anywhere, and the low-band LTE networks that have been expanding in the past few years will be crucial to 5G expansion. Networks have been working on making their networks denser over the past few years, rather than focussing on coverage (though UK networks are obligated to increase landmass coverage, as part of Ofcom's 5G spectrum auctions).
Using Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (or DSS) networks can use the low-band 4G networks to launch 5G in a way that makes it easier and flexible to expand their coverage. In fact, it's key to ensuring an accelerated rollout of 5G services. So in other words, there's still a point to improving 4G coverage and capacity even if 5G is starting to take its place.
Qualcomm estimates that 1.4 billion 5G smartphones will ship by 2022, and by claiming its goal is to cover the world in 5G there might actually have a network to use them on.