The impending super-fast 5G network is rapidly coming into fruition across the United States. While other countries like South Korea and Russia have quickly jumped ahead to set up their own networks, the United States remains slightly behind the curve in implementing this new technology. Verizon, ATT and T-Mobile are now making strides with Verizon likely the frontrunner in creating a more widespread network.
We’re about to see a new revolution in the way we interact with technology that has the potential to change our lives. I’ve listed out 3 possible changes, but the list is much longer and we are only beginning to understand the future implications of 5G and how it will improve the consumer experience and businesses alike.
What is 5G?
5G is the latest technology aimed at providing devices from the world of IoT, cell phones and smart cars with lightning fast connectivity. Techworld describes 5G as the “fifth generation [of mobile networks] and refers to the next and newest mobile wireless standard based on the IEEE 802.11ac standard of broadband technology.” Looking at this chart you can see just how fast this network really is:
What does it mean for me, the consumer?
1. Wicked Fast Downloads and Ultra Long Battery Life
If you’re the kind of person who likes to watch YouTube on your commute or download your Spotify playlist so you can listen offline, your life will be changed. Once our smartphones begin to carry these 5G enabled chips we are going to see our lag times eviscerated and these downloads will be carried out nearly instantaneously. At 1Gb per second (or more), you’ll be downloading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quite literally before you can finish saying The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Waiting for your video to buffer will be a thing of the past! The technology is also ultra low-latency, meaning a stronger and more reliable connection. Less downtime means IoT devices can be retrieving data faster and more often, thereby enhancing the accuracy of their readings. Devices in the healthcare and automotive industry can use this reliability to improve their services and ultimately our safety.
For battery life, the network uses a near fraction of the latency as mentioned previously and this means your devices uses less power. Verizon CEO Lowell McAddam claims these new 5G devices might only need charging once every four weeks! This is a bold claim, but something I am personally really excited about as I constantly run out of battery before making it home. IoT devices will see these same benefits and that is great news for the advancement of this technology as an estimated 30 billion connected devices will be among us by the year 2020. Some have even estimated closer to 50 billion devices by 2020 but we’ll keep a more cautious outlook.
2. A Potential Change to Your WiFi Plan
Why would you use 50MBps WiFi when you have 1GBbps cell service? If we use tethering from our cell phones to provide internet to our laptops we’re no longer in need of a WiFi plan. This makes me believe that carrier networks are going to see another boon and cable companies are going to see another bust. After cutting cords on our TV’s and WiFi we’ll be scooting along the super highways of 5G glory on all of our devices. I can imagine a new emergence of 5G enabled laptops that we carry around without worrying about where the nearest Starbucks is, we’ll be more concerned about where good cell reception is and it’s likely that if you’re in a major city it will be pervasive. Hopefully telecom companies will quickly expand this into more rural areas and provide high bandwidth to the masses. When more of our rural communities see these high speed connections we can level the accessibility of online resources and that might translate to an increase in overall productivity across the country as communication lines improve. Unfortunately, this could also mean a new threat of cyber terrorism, as hackers tap into the cell towers to scrape our data or worse. Hackers always seem to be one step ahead and I don’t see this any differently. We will need new ways to secure our devices over these networks and cybersecurity companies will need to step up their game to thwart these potential threats.
3. Another New Wave for AI
As we continue our push to the cloud, the 5G network will provide artificial intelligence services with a boost in productivity. Machine learning models are known to use gigantic data sets that take even fast processors some time to compute. With 5G enabled we can start to see more practical use cases for AI to improve our interactions with services like Google Now or Alexa. Running through scenarios and calculating odds will be rapid, which will improve the predictability of say another car possibly crashing into you or maybe even predicting a goal being scored before it happens as it analyzes players positions on the field. My knowledge in this field is admittedly limited, but the potential to change our lives by improving AI shows promise and I’ll look to industry experts to lead the way on what can be done with 5G capabilities.
This sounds great! When is this all happening?
The reality of all of this excitement is that 5G is still in it’s infant stages. Qualcomm has recently begun mass production of their new 5G enabled chips with major deals settled among about 18 companies including LG and Sony. Some devices are already 5G enabled. AT&T has announced it’s list of the first cities where they will enable the service, so has T-Mobile and Verizon. It may start in 2018, but we can expect bigger moves in 2019 and I can only assume a widespread network in place by 2020. Until then we’ll be sadly waiting for our videos to load, but the future is coming and it’s coming really, really fast.