Andrew Cole of InMyArea On How 5G Technology May Improve and Impact Our Lives
An Interview With David Liu
5G’s high-band wave frequencies provide better connectivity in dense urban environments, while its low-band frequencies reach deeper into rural areas with few cell towers. So, no matter where you are, you are likely to experience a better and more consistent signal when on a 5G network. Just because you’re at a concert with a crowd around you doesn’t mean you will have to fight for bandwidth. Plus, “fixed wireless” 5G is starting to compete with traditional DSL or cable internet, allowing customers to use cell signals at home instead of cable modems. These services are already capable of rivaling many wired internet options you have access to now in terms of speed and affordability.
5G infrastructure is being installed around the world. At the same time, most people have not yet seen what 5G can offer. What exactly is 5G? How will it improve our lives? What are the concerns that need to be addressed before it is widely adopted?
In our series, called, How 5G Technology May Improve and Impact Our Lives, we are talking to tech and telecom leaders who can share how 5G can impact and enhance our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Cole.
Andrew Cole is the managing editor of InMyArea.com. Andrew has been writing and editing for almost a decade, including hundreds of articles on the internet, streaming media, and moving. He is an expert in maximizing home service value, writing insider guides on everything from low-income resources to hidden fees on your internet bill. Andrew has been a writer and editor for almost a decade, with his work published on guide websites like Ask.com and BroadbandNow.com. With past roles analyzing websites for Google and building gaming computers, he brings expertise in both consumer needs and technical requirements. Andrew earned degrees in History and Anthropology from North Carolina State University.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Writers always start with a story: their own. So, in many ways, writing for me started with a childhood in the middle of the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. My dad, my grandfather (or “Pawpaw” as I called him), and many men of my family ventured into the recesses of the mountain’s deepest caverns for coal. One of my earliest memories is of them coming home, covered from head to toe in carbon soot from a day’s hard work. From my family, I learned the value of persistence and perseverance, dedication and determination, subsistence and sustainability. While I never ventured down into the coal mines myself, I have always attempted to embody these traits in my own life and work.
Being out in the rural countryside of the mountains, contact with urban landscapes and the common amenities of the city was as foreign as the surface of Mars. That’s why technology became so important to me. Through the internet (even though it was on a rather slow 56K connection), I connected with people, places, and ideas that I wasn’t familiar with before. Education, computer literacy, and writing became a preoccupation of mine as I grew older, each enabling me with the ability to reach out beyond my surroundings and grasp a dream of my own.
As a teenager, I moved to North Carolina, where I started to intersect more often with people from different backgrounds, each with a diverse history attached to their story. Living in denser cities, individuals are closer together and more intimate, not separated and dispersed like in the tiny towns of my youth. This fascination with culture, human history, and the interweaving of society culminated in my bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology and History from North Carolina State University.
From there, I took everything I learned about grammar, syntax, tone, style, and the Pax Romana stemming forth from the reign of Augustus (okay, maybe not that last one so much), and I immediately started writing and editing as a freelancer. Freelancing gave me the freedom to choose my own projects, decide my own hours, and establish my own goals. Over the years, I have worked with numerous clients on a variety of topics, each one providing a unique challenge in terms of direction and purpose. Now, as a Senior Analyst, writer, and editor for InMyArea.com, I utilize my past experiences, work as a freelancer, and love for all things technology to help people navigate their choice for internet services so that it may connect them to the wide-open world I discovered when I was younger.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Working as a freelancer means you have to stay on your toes and be willing to accept new opportunities as they arise. Walking around with preconceptions about projects or the types of subjects you’re willing to engage in will only lead to you stifling your own ability to succeed.
Once, I was messaged on LinkedIn by a company’s representative to discuss with a small group about some work I did previously relating to search and user intent. While I was initially skeptical about this out-of-the-blue message from someone I had never interacted with before, I told myself, “Why not?” While the discussion was meant to be impromptu in nature, where we would go over some aspects that were lacking with their website, I decided it was best to make a presentation of the information I had gathered.
That meeting, which we had only really allotted an hour for originally, turned into a three-hour dialogue about search, editing, writing, and the landscape of the internet and Google. Impressed by my tenacity and willingness to engage on this level for them, the group extended a full-time job offer to me. This opportunity is how I went from freelancing as a writer and editor to working with InMyArea.com, where I work today. If a door opens for you, walk through it. You never know what could be on the other side. It may just be your next big chance at success.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A personal adage for me has been, “Be meticulous, but not ridiculous.” As any writer or editor will tell you, it’s easy to obsess over perfection when working on a piece. You start thinking to yourself, “Well, if I add a little more here…” or “What if I change this analogy?” This type of thinking just becomes a bottleneck in the writing process. Perfection isn’t truly obtainable in writing due to its subjectivity. Even what you think is perfect may not be in another person’s eyes. At some point, we have to ask ourselves, “Is it worth all this extra time just to improve something ever so slightly?” Usually not.
This saying also applies to life in general, not just writing and editing. Many of us hold ourselves and others to such high standards for even the most mundane tasks. Rather than worrying about everything being perfectly straight, spotlessly clean, or exactly the way we want it, we should instead focus on what needs to be accomplished and how much effort needs to go into reaching that goal. Many times, this exercise means defining, “What is the goal?” If the goal is to mow the lawn, does that goal necessarily incorporate the mowing pattern, trimming the bushes, and moving patches of grass from one area of the yard to another? Not necessarily. It’s okay to be meticulous and have attention to detail, but we also should strive to set clear and achievable goals, so we don’t end up chasing a never-ending target.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people along the way to success that it can be difficult to pick just one. However, I want to thank my mom for helping me get to where I am today. As a single mother, she always sacrificed money, time, emotions, and even her own aspirations to help support my education, well-being, and future. From getting her GED and going back to college while I was a kid to working the third shift at a bus factory and filling out paperwork for low-income programs, she stopped at nothing to provide for me. Even when we didn’t have it, she always found a way to make sure I got what I needed, whenever I needed it, to ensure I could follow my dreams.
Now, as I put together content advising people on how to get low-cost internet and apply for low-income internet programs, I think back to how this advice could have helped people like me and my mom. It is my responsibility as an individual and a professional to recognize my origins and reach down and assist those who are also struggling in their time of need. The resources are out there to help underprivileged and disadvantaged groups, but people need guidance to get access to those resources. It amazes me that my mom did all that on her own. So, I know I definitely haven’t said it enough, but, “Thanks, mom, for everything.”
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
While it’s essential to be a multifaceted individual capable of embracing holistic approaches toward work, for me, being adaptable, adventurous, and outspoken are the three character traits that I found most important and pivotal in my road to success.
- Let’s start with adaptability. The difference between getting a position and keeping it many times has to do with your ability to adapt to new situations. It’s like evolution, those who adapt will survive, and nothing has been more true in the world of SEO, content, and marketing. When I started working as a writer, the world of SEO was about keyword density, article lengths, and similar aspects, anything that could check a box and appease the great Google algorithm. However, as time progressed, Google grew smarter, the algorithm more complex, and their ability to assess writing for its quality, rather than its quantities, moved to the forefront. This change in the SEO ecosystem meant I had to change and adapt to remain marketable and desirable. Today, at InMyArea.com, we focus on creating articles that focus on the needs of the user and producing high-quality content that helps people find the home services they need. This approach keeps us at the forefront of the discussion and search engine innovation. If we stayed in the past, stuffing articles with keywords and chasing archaic SEO concepts, then we would have fallen to the wayside a long time ago.
- Next, to be successful, you have to be adventurous. For me, that meant stepping out of my comfort zone and taking a risk when it was necessary. I used to work in retail for several years for a major franchise location. I was great at upselling the customer and pushing their preferred products of the month. I enjoyed the process of persuading people and convincing them of my perspective about a particular product. However, I realized that working in this space wasn’t furthering my goal of being a writer. It wasn’t getting me the pay that I thought I deserved. It wasn’t satisfying my innate desire and drive for a challenge. So, I quit and moved on to tackle new obstacles. Sometimes in life, we have an anchor holding us to one stage in our progression and development. Maybe it’s a job, a bad habit, a person, or any number of other things. Once we let go of that anchor and venture outside of our comfort zones, then we are truly free to experience the world and reach for greatness. It’s never too late to set sail on your own adventure.
- Lastly, it’s crucial to be outspoken. Many people have certain feelings or ideas about topics that are valid and worth sharing, but they let the fear and anxiety of saying something stifle their input. If you truly believe something, you have to speak up and let the world know what you think. Otherwise, you may miss out on opportunities to show other people the depth of your thoughts and the worth of your ideas. At one point, I worked for a major captioning and transcription company as an Operations Manager after spending a significant amount of time editing and transcribing audio files myself. Once I was promoted, I realized just how low the company was paying people for doing these tasks. On one hand, saying something could have jeopardized my position, as I would be stepping outside of my responsibilities. On the other hand, if I didn’t say something, I would be contributing to and benefitting from a structure that profited from exploiting people’s labor. Eventually, I brought up the disparity in payment to my manager, and we had a discussion that resulted in the regular editing and transcription rates rising much higher than previously established. Being outspoken doesn’t just mean speaking a lot; it means saying what needs to be said when the time is right.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects? How do you think that will help people?
Currently, we are working on two major projects that I think will offer a tremendous benefit to people everywhere. First, we are canvassing and collecting major tax categories for every state in the United States on the state and county levels. In addition, we are looking at these tax categories from a historical perspective as well. Taxes are complicated, especially when you consider aspects like income tax and property tax, where it’s never clear exactly what you’re going to have to pay at the end of the day. We are building an all-encompassing resource through this project that will place all of this information into one easy-to-use location that will encourage transparency and inform the average American about what they can expect when moving to another state or when tax time comes around.
Second, we are collecting information about public utilities for a page that will offer everything you need to know about utilities, from the average monthly cost for the major categories per state to how to set up your utilities when moving. Utility prices and intricacies are a lot like taxes in this regard. When you move from one area to another, it is hard to know what your electricity, natural gas, water, or internet bill will be in the new location. We aim to clear that up with this information, and users will even be able to input their ZIP code into a search bar to find the options immediately available to them. Both of these projects are exciting to me as they will assist people in saving money and making better decisions when it comes to selecting certain home services.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Like 4G, 5G has many different facets, and I’m sure many will approach this question differently. But for the benefit of our readers can you explain to us what 5G is? How is 5G different from its predecessor 4G?
5G is the next generation of wireless technology. It stands for “fifth generation,” with brick-style 1980s cell phones being the first generation. 1G phones used analog radio signals, which were undependable and not very private — today, nobody would want their personal conversations beamed out like that! Still, it was a major technological breakthrough, first appearing in Japan in late 1979 and coming to the U.S. in 1983.
That brings us to 2G networks, which powered most cell phones in the ’90s (like Mulder and Scully’s iconic flip phones on The X-Files) and the early ’00s (remember when BlackBerry ruled the mobile landscape?). It was the first digital mobile standard, allowing users to send and receive emails, but 3G is really where mobile internet really took off. If you were an early iPhone adopter, it felt revolutionary to surf the web and use turn-by-turn navigation (though, it still wasn’t very fast or reliable). The main difference between 3G and 4G was speed, and 5G is an even bigger leap in that category, surpassing 4G by over 10 times its max download rate.
Beyond speed, which many people will point to as the most significant difference between 4G and 5G technologies, 5G surpasses 4G technology in capacity, energy consumption, and specialization. In terms of capacity, 5G networks can handle many more devices at a time than 4G. 4G networks tend to slow down under heavy load when multiple devices are attempting to connect in one area. In contrast, 5G uses multiple frequency bands to expand the number of people that can use one network space at a time.
Something not talked about as much is how 5G is much more energy efficient than 4G. 5G networks are built on a backbone of devices focused on energy efficiency, making it several times more economical in this category. In addition, since 4G networks have slower response rates, devices connecting to those networks must have larger, bulkier batteries in them to process data directly. With 5G, the network can do the heavy lifting, lessening the burden on each device in terms of processing and energy consumption.
4G was more of a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to providing data, whereas 5G networks will have the capacity to specialize data for particular devices and necessities. Using multiple frequency bands, 5G can commit high-band radio frequencies to devices that need immediate responses (robotics, cars), mid-band radio frequencies to moderate necessities (smartphones, tablets), and low-band radio frequencies to low-end priorities (smartwatches, mobile telecommunications). Through network slicing, 5G networks can tailor the connection to the users’ necessities and devices in that area, making it more efficient, fast, and effective.
Can you share three or four ways that 5G might improve our lives? If you can please share an example, for each.
First and foremost, 5G will improve our lives by providing download speeds up to 1 Gbps (gigabits per second), whereas 4G averages up to 30 Mbps (megabits per second) on major carriers in the U.S. With 5G, you will experience less buffering and lag when streaming movies, listening to music, or playing video games. Gone will be the days when going out in public will make you wish you had downloaded that file or offline map because your connection isn’t quick enough to download on the go. While 4G was limited in terms of speed when the device was moving, with 5G you will be able to continue your daily activities around town without interruption.
As for coverage, 5G’s high-band wave frequencies provide better connectivity in dense urban environments, while its low-band frequencies reach deeper into rural areas with few cell towers. So, no matter where you are, you are likely to experience a better and more consistent signal when on a 5G network. Just because you’re at a concert with a crowd around you doesn’t mean you will have to fight for bandwidth. Plus, “fixed wireless” 5G is starting to compete with traditional DSL or cable internet, allowing customers to use cell signals at home instead of cable modems. These services are already capable of rivaling many wired internet options you have access to now in terms of speed and affordability.
But most importantly, 5G could be the key that finally unlocks the Internet of Things for everyone. As Verizon puts it, “Think of 5G as the doorway to making driverless cars, cloud-connected traffic control, and other advanced applications that depend on instantaneous response to live up to their potential.” Take augmented reality glasses for instance. On 4G networks, these glasses required bulky batteries to do the device-side processing as 4G wasn’t agile enough to handle the incoming requests. On 5G networks, augmented reality glasses and other applications such as this one mean you could be engaging in an interactive environment fueled by internet inputs. Imagine seeing the price of a product in front of your eyes by picking it up off the shelf or seeing a review for a restaurant on the street before walking through the door. These out-of-the-box concepts are possible with 5G networks, and the only limitation will be our imagination, not the network.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this 5G technology that people should think more deeply about?
Actually, “Black Mirror”-style paranoia is a drawback, specifically the rise of 5G-related conspiracy theories, as nearly a quarter of the population believes at least one of them. The most common conspiracies are that 5G causes cancer and COVID-19. No valid research has shown any link between 5G and the coronavirus, and as effective vaccines bring transmission rates down, this dangerous myth will fade, hopefully.
A far more legitimate concern about 5G is basic infrastructure. While all 50 states now have 5G coverage from at least one carrier, it can still be a patchwork outside major cities and towns. Plus, most Americans don’t even own a 5G-capable smartphone yet. For Apple fans, you’re out of luck with any device older than the iPhone 12. Over 70% of Americans haven’t made the switch to 5G coverage. But this landscape is changing rapidly as 5G becomes the new normal. The next time you buy a new phone, chances are you’ll get 5G capability.
Some have raised the question that 5G might widen the digital divide and leave poor people or marginalized people behind. From your perspective, what can be done to address and correct this concern?
That’s a valid concern. Fortunately, phone carriers are making a considerable effort to address it. T-Mobile has announced its #5GforAll initiative, which includes a free upgrade to a Samsung Galaxy A32 5G phone with any trade-in, plus a “massive commitment to bring 5G to rural America,” along with $25 million in community grants. They are essentially flipping the script to say that 5G will lead in helping people access the internet. Likewise, Verizon has committed $3 billion to its responsible business program — which invests in rural and underserved communities — and AT&T has committed $2 billion to bridge the digital divide.
Moreover, all of these companies participate in the federal Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which provides low-income Americans with a $50 discount on their phone service, plus a $100 discount for a phone, laptop, or tablet. These commitments aren’t just talk; they are genuine efforts by the leading 5G providers to recognize and address digital divide concerns utilizing 5G networks.
Excellent. We are nearly done. Let’s zoom out a bit and ask a more general question. Based on your experience and success, what are the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career in the telecommunication industry?
- Much like fiber internet, which sends data at the speed of light, the telecommunications industry moves quickly. If you want to be successful in this rapidly evolving business line, you need foresight, creativity, a well-rounded team, communication, and positivity.
- Foresight is essential in telecommunications because the industry is always changing from internet connection types to devices and even the ways people use the internet. Foresight means having the ability to predict where trends are going in enough time to get there early enough to set the discussion surrounding new topics and ideas. 5G is one of these categories where we at InMyArea.com can see it’s going to revolutionize how devices interact with one another and the ways that people connect to the internet both inside and outside their homes. Knowing this fact means we must create content about 5G and guide the consumer before other publications set the tone and determine the direction of these types of new technologies.
- If you want to set yourself apart from the telecommunications field, then you have to embrace your inner creativity. Creativity can manifest itself in a variety of ways, but for my work in internet journalism, creativity means communicating ideas in unique and enticing ways. Simply regurgitating the technical specifications of internet connection download speeds, data caps, and installation methods is great and all, but it takes a special person to transform these details into content people actually want to read. At InMyArea.com, we aim to make reading and learning about internet an enjoyable experience, where the user stays engaged with our content from start to finish through the use of analogies, metaphors, puns, and more. Everybody needs internet, but researching your choices doesn’t have to be boring. As the famous quote from Hellen Keller goes, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” Success in telecommunications demands a well-rounded team of individuals working toward a common goal. Interestingly enough, telecommunications itself is a portmanteau of the words telephone and communications. In the same way, it takes the combination of people from multiple backgrounds and disciplines to join forces holistically to make a publication like InMyArea.com a reality. Without the help of graphic designers, developers, product managers, publishers, copyeditors, writers, freelancers, and many more professionals, we couldn’t dream of putting together the quality of content we strive for now. Rather than trying to do it all yourself, success in telecommunications means embracing the skills of others and ensuring the right people are in place to make an idea become a reality.
- Going hand in hand with having a well-rounded team, communication is essential to success. Imagine watching Oceans Eleven and seeing Danny Ocean put together one of the finest teams imaginable for a heist, and when it’s showtime, nobody knows what the plan is. Successful telecommunications teams don’t work in departmental silos; and instead, they encourage cross-department communication and dialogue. Through this discussion and dialectic, everyone can get on the same page and understand the best path to reaching a particular goal. At InMyArea.com, most of us are remote workers. It’s easy to become internet hermits, of sorts, but we constantly fight that tendency and propensity by scheduling group video meetings, collaborating on shared documents, analyzing test results together, and sharing details about ourselves in fun social gatherings.
- Lastly, you have to stay positive. Once negativity seeps into your operation, it will stifle and poison the morale of everyone involved. For InMyArea.com, sometimes we set goals related to research studies, data collection, and updates that may seem gargantuan and overly ambitious at the onset. No matter the size or scale of the objective, you have to believe that your team will succeed and remain positive at every step of the process. Optimism is the fuel that pushes projects forward.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
In this day and age, where people are getting a new phone every two years, upgrading their computer monitors more frequently than ever, and purchasing new types of at-home electronics, we need to be aware of the amount of electronics waste we are creating. According to the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, “To manufacture one computer and monitor, it takes 530 pounds of fossil fuels, 48 pounds of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water.” Given all the resources that go into these devices alone, it’s crucial we are careful to buy electronics with a sense of longevity.
If your smartphone, monitor, speakers, printer, or other devices outgrow their usefulness for your purposes, then donate them to a worthy charity such as Goodwill or a computer recycling and refurbishing service such as PCs for People. Putting devices in the hands of disadvantaged individuals can help them reach new opportunities for themselves and their families.
Alternatively, we are also notorious for discarding millions of tons of electronics into waste facilities every year. These devices have rare Earth metals and recyclable parts that facilities around the United States can salvage and reuse. It’s as simple as going to your local electronics store or recycling facility and dropping them off. They help you clear your house of clutter, and you can help our environment stay clean. From Instagram and TikTok to online video games and Netflix, we all love technology and the enjoyment it gives us. We all need to be a part of the movement to prevent that same technology from becoming a blight on our planet.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Readers interested in my work can stroll down to InMyArea.com to find the latest internet, TV, and utilities content. Whether you’re looking for research related to these categories, the latest prices, or you want to call in and make a service purchase after your recent move, we have everything you need from information to the ability to schedule your next install. You can also follow us on social media on Facebook or Twitter!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.