5G: Are We Asking The Right Questions?

personal health

The promise of 5G is bright – it holds a host of possibilities for the world in everything from medicine to autonomous vehicles to entertainment.  Indeed, it is the talk of the technology world these days. So far in 2018, both major industry trade shows – CES and MWC – highlighted a number of advances in 5G technologies.  It seemed you could hardly move without bumping into a sign about the latest promise of unfettered access and a super-fast IoT.  In the US, AT&T and Verizon have both announced the rollout of 5G networks in 2018, and while they haven’t given specifics around speeds, they have likened performance to wired networks and promised vast improvements over 4G LTE products.

So what will life on 5G be like?  Greater speeds and greater bandwidth mean that things like remote medical operations will be possible; instant super-high-def entertainment will be an everyday occurrence; fully functioning driverless cars and maybe even aircraft will be the norm.  It also opens up the door for a host of less dramatic but still impressive feets – massive enhancements to the Internet of Things that will result in new levels of connectivity.  But perhaps the true promise of 5G is how it could change the very fabric of innovation.  The increase and speed and bandwidth that 5G brings is so critical that it has the potential to alter the way we design everything from apps to networks to operating rooms.

To provide some context for 5G speeds, the average internet speed in the US today is 6.5 megabytes per second.  At MWC last year, Samsung showed off a new 5G router with speeds of 500 megabytes per second (4 gigabits per second).  This is the equivalent of moving from an economy driven by horses and steam engines to one driven by internal combustion and jet engines. At the turn of the last century we lived in a world designed around horses – everything from public space to grocery lists changed with the move into advanced modes of transportation. It’s not impossible to comprehend the scale of potential change, but it is a little challenging to imagine exactly what new things will come to pass in a world of innovation powered by 5G.

The Clouds

However, there is a significant distance between hype and reality around 5G today.  As Semiconductor Engineering EIC, Ed Sperling recently wrote, “5G is coming, but not everywhere and not all at once, and not the fastest version of this technology right away.” While the 5G promise is out there and the commitments from giants like Huawei, AT&T, and Verizon are solid evidence that a 5G world will come to pass, there are still several challenges that need to be solved before it becomes a reality.

Technical challenges start with reception issues.  5G signals run at high frequency, which means that trees, shrubs, buildings, cars, even people can disrupt the signal.  This leads to the need for a larger physical footprint for base stations, repeaters, and small cells to establish reliable access – it also means that the rollout will take a lot longer and require more investment than previous 3G and 4G LTE rollouts.

The need for backward compatibility and the ability to process much more data at faster speeds also requires close collaboration between a variety of segments in the technology industry – from networks to chip makers to device manufacturers.

Even at the device level, 5G technology is still coming into its own.  Issues from antenna efficacy to battery drain pose new challenges for device makers.  The handoff from older networks to newer ones will have to be seamless, and the 20-plus hour battery life that consumers have come to expect must remain table stakes in the mobile market.

Finally, at the political level, different countries are vying to own 5G in ways that we did not see in earlier network evolutions – at least not so publicly.  The truth about 5G is its development relies on a global ecosystem of partners.  If governments implement protectionist policies to help boost a single country’s advantage in 5G, it’s likely that the exact opposite will happen.

Dreaming About What’s Next

The technical, financial and political problems will be solved by different camps.  What remains after those solutions are found is the biggest challenge of all – how to reinvent the way we dream.  There are better words than “dreaming.” After all, dreaming is something for children and poets, not telcos and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.  Or is it?  5G will change our world –it will bring the IoT, mobility, the auto industry, medicine, education and AI forward in new and fantastic ways.  What is left for people to do is to reimagine what we can invent and how we can apply this to less agnostic challenges we face today.  For instance, how will we use 5G technology to solve poverty?  How will we use it to improve privacy?  Safeguard human rights?  Secure IP?  Prevent theft?  Ensure personal freedoms?

We’re not sure about you, but we don’t read a lot of these issues when we read about 5G.  Perhaps that is really where we’re falling down.  Don’t get us wrong, we are very excited about the prospect of downloading a high-def movie in less than a minute, but if we are truly looking at the horizon of a new technology this big and this far-reaching, shouldn’t we be thinking of solving more than the technical challenges of today?

Written by RJ Bardsley and Peter Prodromou


Add Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Business Analytics
20 Things You Didn’t Know About ThoughtSpot
Office chair
The 10 Most Expensive Office Chairs in the World
C2FO
20 Things You Didn’t Know About C2FO
Amazon
Who Are Amazon’s Biggest Competitors?
Amerigas
Is AmeriGas Partners (APU) Stock a Good Investment?
Youdao
Is Youdao A Solid Long Term Investment?
Intel
10 Stocks to Consider if You Like Intel
Stocks
Is Baozun (BZUN) Stock a Good Investment?
Eastmoreland, Oregon
The 20 Best Places to Live in the Pacific Northwest
Buckingham Palace
The 10 Most Expensive Mansions in the World
Downtown
The 20 Best Places to Live in Memphis
Aruba
The 20 Best Places to Live in the Caribbean
Island of Koh Chang
The 20 Best Things to Do in Thailand for First Timers
Puckett's
The 10 Best Seafood Restaurants in Nashville, TN
Knott’s Berry Farm
The 20 Best Things to Do in Anaheim for First Timers
Resident Inn by Marriott Wilmington
The 20 Best Hotels in Wilmington, NC
2020 Lamborghini Aventador
10 Things You Didn’t Know About the 2020 Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Roadster
1955 Jaguar D-Type
The Super-Rare 1955 Jaguar D-Type: A $7 Million Car?
Ferrari F50
The 20 Best Manual Transmission Sports Cars of the 90s
The ‘Cruise Origin’ by General Motors: 10 Things You Didn’t Know
Watches
How Govberg Watches Has Stayed in Business for Over 100 Years
Aragon Sports Machine Quartz
The 20 Best Aragon Watches of All-Time
Daniel Wellington Classic Glasgow
The 20 Best Daniel Wellington Watches of All-Time
Dan Henry 1963 Racing Chronograph
The 20 Best Dan Henry Watches of All-Time