The current top-of-the-line wireless technology, called 4G (for 4th generation cellular technology) ushered in an era of smartphone apps and capabilities like none before. It also ushered in an estimated $125 billion in revenue for U.S. companies who had the leadership and foresight to embrace it. AT&T and Verizon were two such leaders, and having this sort of technology available enabled everything from fast video downloads to the advent of Snapchat – simply because the app makers had the network technology to experiment with.
5G promises to deliver much, much more. And more than ever, to the technology leaders will go the spoils.
5G is what will make the future possible, and will be even more transformative that prior iterations. From self-driving cars to movies that download to your phone in seconds… not to mention true virtual reality and long-distance (remote) medical operations… all will be made possible by the embrace of 5G.
Consumers will only notice once they’ve upgraded to 5G compatible phones, which won’t become widely available until 2019 or 2020, but when they can, they’ll enjoy nearly instantaneous data travel nearly “fast enough to mimic human reflexes” (to help self-driving cars avoid accidents).
Telecommunication firms could be impacted too when download speeds are so fast that they can legitimately compete with wired systems like cable and internet providers that need to plug wires into homes.
With 5G, peak download times improve by a factor of one hundred times that of 4G, according to The Wall Street Journal. Thus, important implications like…
- Downloading a two-hour movie that currently takes six minutes will take 4 seconds
- Self-driving cars will be able to “talk” to one another with human-reflex responsiveness
- You’ll get smoother, seamless virtual reality experiences
- Remote patient monitoring in healthcare can become a reality, as well as remote-surgery through connected health-care devices
- The IoT: 5G will allow anything from your sneakers to heart monitors to be internet-connected. It is predicted that trillions of devices could be connected in the next decade, enabling smarter homes, cities and energy grids. (Begging the question among cynics of course of… What could possibly go wrong?)
The key to all this lies with which countries and companies get there first. According to the Journal’s Stu Woo, the leaders today include the U.S., China, South Korea and Japan. AT&T and Verizon plan city-by-city 5G launches later this year. China predicts national coverage by 2020.
In the end, the patent holders may be the biggest winners of all. Qualcomm, InterDigital, Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson are all major players. Each represents a different nation, and all are vying for dominance. But it’s safe to say that in the end, all consumers will be winners too. The pace of change today isn’t just getting arithmetically faster, it seems – it’s getting logarithmically faster.