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Coronavirus and 5G: New devices are coming, but will networks be ready?

May 13, 2020 / JEREMY HORWITZ

Everything with COVID-19 has turned out to be more complicated than it initially seemed. Originally downplayed as little more than a flu variant with a short gestation window and a narrow ability to cause fatalities, the coronavirus has instead lurked in unknowing carriers for weeks, attacked victims of all ages, and all but shut down entire nations. Three of those countries — the United States, South Korea, and China — were among the world’s first to adopt 5G cellular technology, and their companies are critical to enabling device and network rollouts elsewhere in the world. What does that mean for 5G? Like COVID-19 itself, the pandemic’s impact on 5G isn’t easy to summarize. Pushed by major brands, smartphone and component factories generally resumed production quickly enough to guarantee 5G device supplies, but some testing and R&D initiatives were set back by months. On the network rollout front, some carriers and countries have suggested that nothing has changed, while others have at least modestly delayed individual or national rollouts.