The past few years we’ve seen an increased speculation and interest in the rise of 5G and it looks like 2018 will be the year that this technology becomes reality.
AT&T announced that they would introduce mobile 5G to a dozen select markets by the end of 2018. Meanwhile, Verizon, is partnering with Samsung to introduce fixed 5G to a handful of cities in the second half of this year, beginning with Sacramento, CA. Other carriers, like Sprint and T-Mobile are making plans of their own, promising to bring 5G to mobile in 2019 and 2020. 5G wireless service has even been included as an infrastructure priority in a national security report published by The White House.
It’s clear that 5G is a priority for many parties, including the U.S. government, and the service providers hoping to harness the technology to outpace the competition. Wondering what all the hype is about? Below we break down the promise of 5G and get into the implications this technology will have for the future of digital.
What is 5G?
5G is the fifth generation of cellular technology (the “G” in 3G, 4G, 5G, etc. stands for generation), following the 4G standard that rolled out back in 2011.
A formal standard was established in December 2017 which laid out the specifications for 5G. In short, 5G will outperform the current 4G and 4G LTE standards when it comes to download and upload speeds by up to 100 times. 5G will also reduce the latency problems (delays in processing data that lead to lagging connections) that exist in current networks. The result will be a faster and more reliable mobile connectivity which powers the next wave of technological advances.
What are the implications of the rise of 5G?
Faster speeds are, of course, desirable alone, but 5G will have more meaningful and far-reaching implications for consumers and businesses than just speed.
Autonomous Cars & IoT
The roll out of 5G will allow autonomous cars to become more efficient, safer, and more enjoyable. 5G’s low latency will enable autonomous cars to remain in close and constant contact with other connected devices (ie; other autonomous cars, and smart city infrastructure such as traffic lights), not to mention the ability to stream endless entertainment wherever your vehicle takes you.
The increased number of connected devices that we’re currently experiencing puts a strain on the existing 4G LTE networks. 5G will help make the IoT faster and more efficient because it allows for a quicker transfer of large volumes of data produced by the vast amount of connected devices. Because bogging down the network will no longer be a concern, it will be possible to have even more devices connected at once without sacrificing performance. Better overall performance will help drive even greater adoption of connected devices.
Faster mobile internet will also lead to a boon in mobile innovation because 5G will enable technological leaps in terms of what’s possible from a mobile perspective. This means higher quality augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) experiences, as well as the introduction of other unimagined mobile experiences which can’t be sufficiently supported on the current 4G technology.
Current smartphones can’t run on 5G, but as 5G service is gradually rolled out over the course of the next two years we can expect to see compatible devices begin to hit the market. In fact, ZTE has already announced that they plan to bring a 5G phone to market at the end of this year or early in 2019.
5G will also help alleviate the current strain on the 4G infrastructure, which won’t be able to support the weight of an increasingly mobile-connected population. It will also make peak time connection issues a thing of the past, which means no more interrupted communication during busy times of day or at crowded events.
Fixed 5G is predicted to see broader initial roll out than mobile 5G, which means at-home internet access will experience the benefits of 5G first. Other than fast speeds and low latency, a major selling point of 5G is that it doesn’t require massive investment in new infrastructure the way installing fiber optic cables does. 5G home internet will be truly wireless, connecting consumers to the internet via a router that receives signals wirelessly from their service provider.
The Future of 5G
After years of speculation and much anticipation in the tech community, 5G is expected to begin making an appearance by the end of this year. Some of the implications of the rise of 5G, like benefits to autonomous cars, connected devices, and improved mobile experiences, are recognizable. In the long term, however, 5G technology will help usher in a new era of digital innovation, powering many changes and ideas that we can’t yet conceive.