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CES 2019: What to expect

09 January 2019 IHS Markit Technology Expert

All eyes at this time are turned once again to CES, the planet's biggest consumer electronics show held annually in Las Vegas. Among the areas generating the greatest buzz this year at CES 2019 are 5G, TVs, display screens, and automotive.

Our own IHS Markit analysts, available for commentary on a wide range of subjects, weigh in below on some of these hot and trending topics. IHS Markit will also host and judge the Innovation Awards at ShowStoppers, honoring ground-breaking achievements in tech categories including augmented reality/virtual reality, home audio, personal entertainment, robotics and drones, and smart home and appliances.

The 5G debate rages on

For Stéphane Téral, executive director for mobile infrastructure and carrier economics and part of the IHS Markit Mobile & Telecom research service, the breathless coverage of 5G in this year's CES recalls the same extravagant attention lavished on 4G in the past.

"Basically, this CES is a remake of CES 2011 that I called 'Shoot-out at the 4G corral' to illustrate the misleading 4G marketing claim and fight among the top four US mobile operators, and CES 2019 is shaping up to be 'Shoot-out at the 5G corral,'" he said.

Eight years ago, Téral noted, everyone bragged about being able to offer 4G. Yet 4G at that time was, technically, still 3G. Verizon had deployed plain LTE, which was clearly 3G; while AT&T was running 3G W-CDMA HSPA+ and calling it 4G in response to T-Mobile US, which had rebranded its HSPA+ network as 4G. For its part, Sprint was on WiMAX, but it, too, billed its technology as 4G.

This year at CES 2019, Verizon is calling LMDS 2.0, its fixed wireless access offering, as 5G. Meanwhile, AT&T has upgraded its LTE-Advanced (technically 4G) with the latest features, which AT&T is designating as its mobile 5G. With T-Mobile US, the operator is rolling out the 600MHz spectrum for coverage and calling it 5G. Rival Sprint is rolling out massive MIMO in the 2.5GHz band, which is the closest to 5G that we can get at this point, Téral added.

One crucial difference between then and now: In 2011, demand for the 4G/LTE smartphone was exploding, while demand now for smartphones is tanking in the run-up to the 5G era. And because we're now all done with smartphones, Téral said, the 5G debate has, in fact, become irrelevant. Case in point? Talk on 6G has already started.

Even so, the arrival of 5G will have important implications. Maria Rua Aguete, executive director for media, service providers and platforms, believes 5G will revolutionize the way events, especially live sports, are recorded.

Not only will the new mobile standard open more sports for potential capture, it will also reduce overhead for events across the board, said Aguete, part of the IHS Markit Media & Advertising and Mobile & Telecom research services.

8K and rollable TVs to broadcast new advances

Paul Gagnon, executive director for TV, consumer electronics and devices, says 8K will be a key theme in TVs at this year's show, continuing a trend started at CES 2018 but with more consumer-ready announcements from major manufacturers this time around. Expanded support in virtual assistants for Google Home and Amazon Alexa will tie TVs into the smart home more effectively, while TV brands strive to keep their personalization of smart TV platforms, added Gagnon, who is in the Displays research service at IHS Markit.

New form factors for TVs will be showcased, including rollable OLED displays as well as refinements of tiled micro-LED displays for TV applications. "We are also keen to observe how AI improvements to image-scaling solutions will tell how consumer-ready first-generation 8K TVs are. Upconverting lower resolutions to fit 8K is not easy," Gagnon added.

Implementation of HDMI 2.1 will be a key factor in the adoption of 8K, he added, since current HDMI standards do not support 8K at full 60Hz frame rates and 4K is limited to 60Hz, rather than 120Hz as found in HDMI 2.1. Because of this, at least a few announcements of TV products supporting HDMI 2.1 are expected, he said.

Advanced displays for various devices to dazzle

For David Hsieh, senior director for displays, CES 2019 will showcase better-quality displays, along with faster connectivity, smart operation systems, and innovative human machine interfaces. In automotive displays, for instance, flexible OLED screens will be available, and the screens will also be bigger and brighter. In smartphones, foldable screens will be a new display form factor, following in the wake of flexible panels. In TVs, panels will sport super-high resolutions, such as 8K.

High-resolution displays will also be a critical factor in wearable displays for viewing virtual reality and augmented reality apps, said Hsieh, who is part of the IHS Markit Displays research service. This will be true whether the wearable device uses LCD, OLED, or micro OLED as its screen technology.

For Stacy Wu, principal analyst for small and medium displays as well as automotive displays, a key theme this year will be automotive, as the industry continues to navigate wrenching change. For one, there will be more demos at the show this year depicting various usage scenarios relating to the L4 and L5 autonomous driving levels. Display panels utilized in the car's interior will also be redefined, involving industry players of every stripe. The participants will cover the gamut from century-old automakers to tech giants to game-changing rising stars. In concept cars, fully digital cockpits with multiple giant-sized flat-panel displays will be a standard feature, added Wu, also part of the IHS Markit Displays team.

Car makers are expected to adopt various display technologies, including AMOLED, DLP, and micro-LED, for windshield displays and for projecting images onto the road to communicate with drivers and pedestrians. "We are excited to see how display's role is extending from infotainment to become a part of interior design that accommodates the physical condition of occupants, elevating the vehicle to new heights of sophistication as well as functionality."

IHS Markit Technology Expert
Posted 9 January 2019

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