Fiber optic vs. 5G wireless networks: A closer look at an emerging debate (Reader Forum)

DIANE BLOEMKER | February 20, 2019

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5G is the fifth generation of wireless networking. And while 5G doesn’t exist yet — and won’t be available for widespread use until the 2020s — the performance goals it promises are unprecedented for wireless networks. As a result, the projected performance of 5G has opened up a debate about whether fiber optic or 5G wireless networks will be better. But this debate is predicated on a false assumption: That, as 5G technology rolls out in coming years, it will replace fiber. Rather, 5G wireless networks and fiber optic networks complement each other, together offering a more cohesive internet experience across fixed and mobile applications than either could alone. Without 5G, fiber would lack mobility. Without fiber, the revolutionary goals of 5G would simply be impossible. In this article, we’ll define fiber optic and 5G wireless networks and explain how they complement each other. We’ll also briefly touch on how policymakers and business owners will influence the success — or failure — of the transition to 5G in the coming decade.

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