Over the next few weeks, ForesightOne will be publishing a series of articles exploring the many facets and possibilities of 5G--including histories and applications. To begin, however, we wanted to start simple. What is 5G? Why does it matter? Join us next week for our second installment, and--until then--enjoy!
If you listen to many innovation forecasters, you'll begin to think that a new world-changing technology will drop every single day. Hype around evolving solutions is, after all, part of the thrill around innovation: it's the affirmation that we're all constantly on the cusp of something exciting, revolutionary, better.
Still, in many cases, these promises prove empty. For every new robotics development by Boston Dynamics, there's a scrapped Hyper-Loop, a guarantee of a future that never came to pass. Still, paying attention to the emerging technologies that do have the legitimate potential to cause seismic change is important, and while cautious expectations might serve many well, being willing to adapt when it seems as though something truly is going to transform how the world functions is equally vital.
Which brings us to 5G.
While this is no Mars colony, it's widely agreed upon that 5G is something to pay close attention to, to marvel at even. As we plan to explore over the course of this series, the implications of 5G and how it could be used are substantial--to put it lightly. As 5G becomes widely adopted, the types of tech that will be available to consumers and enterprises will explode, and the way that innovators and financiers work with that tech will have to drastically change.
While 5G may not immediately turn the world on its head, its fair to say that the impact will be meaningful, evolving, and long-lasting.
What is 5G?
Development of 5G began as early as April of 2008 when NASA partnered with Machine-to-Machine Intelligence and Geoff Brown to work on advanced communications technology. 5G (which just means "fifth generation") is a wireless data network that, like 4G and 3G before it, makes it easier for individuals and businesses to access their data remotely, and move that data as they please.
As explained by Verizon, the speeds at which 5G will give users access to data and content will be unparalleled. They go on to say:
That means quicker downloads, outstanding network reliability and a spectacular impact on how we live, work and play. The connectivity benefits of 5G will make businesses more efficient and give consumers access to more information faster than ever before. Super-connected autonomous cars, smart communities, industrial IoT, immersive education—they all will rely on 5G.
For many, this might not seem all that exciting. After all, 4G was faster than 3G, and that faster than 2G and that didn't seem to make life markedly different in their eyes.
That's where they'd be wrong, however.
Ultimately, the miracle of 5G won't simply be that you'll be able to stream Netflix faster. Rather, the implications of 5G are most remarkable when it comes to how other technologies will make use of it.
As mentioned in Verizon's explanation, technologies, such as self-driving cars and virtual reality, that innovators have been working to crack and perfect for years will now be within reach because of 5G. The incredible speed of data movement will make it so that drivers in those cars won't have to worry about accidents, because their vehicle will be able to rapidly download hyper-specific details about traffic, oncoming cars, or even pedestrians in walkways. 5G will also make it so that a child playing a virtual reality-based game won't have to deal with lags as an ultra-realistic environment takes time to render. They'll be able to move about that environment in what would feel like real-time, because 5G empowers their VR solution to absorb and leverage necessary data near-instantaneously.
The Effect of 5G Will Be Humongous
It's not just transportation and leisure that 5G will revolutionize. The same virtual reality used to play a video game could be built into interactive educational resources, that enhance and deepen the learning experience.
Similarly, the incredible speed with which data is transferred will make it easier for health professionals to access and sort massive amounts of patient data in emergency situations. That same virtual reality tech might even be used to help medical students practice different procedures in the classroom.
These possibilities will also come with new realities that different industries will need to address. Take insurance agencies, for instance. How does car insurance change when, for all intents and purposes, the manufacturer of self-driving cars are more uniformly liable for accidents than drivers?
Because technology will advance and diverge in exciting new directions, manufacturers and legislators will have to adapt their policies, products, and ideas simultaneously. Will 5G present a better, more powerful version of the failed Google Glasses? If so, how will tech companies address the privacy, surveillance, and safety concerns that was initially billed as the next huge leap in personal mobile technology?
I put forward examples like that, not to be a Debbie Downer, but to suggest that with major positive changes from a technology such as 5G, organizations need to take the steps to ensure that those changes stay positive, that they aren't abused or mishandled.
If 5G reshapes the map, enterprises will have to be ready to rewrite the rules. Done right, the results could be astounding. Managed poorly, and organizations could majorly shoot themselves in the foot.
Just Around the Corner
In April 2019, South Korea launched it's 5G servers, becoming the first country to widely adopt the technology, with Japan following hours later (there's some controversy about whether South Korea's launch actually constituted a wide deployment or whether it was initially for the benefit of a few celebrities, but that's less important). With the amount of excitement being generated and promises from major telecommunications businesses, it's like that the US and other nations will gain significant momentum to 5G by the end of 2019.
The promises are massive, with Verizon claiming their 5G network will be 20 times faster what is possible at the peak of 4G, and that latency might plummet into single milliseconds. Whether these predictions are true immediately remains to be seen. Still, even if 5G doesn't upend the current model the very moment it launches, the innovations it will enable and the technology it will empower will ensure a fast evolution with bigger and bigger changes coming about every day.
We'll spare you any ham-handed rhetoric about the dawning of new eras, but even without that we predict that 5G will make for a pretty magnificent sunrise.
Written in collaboration with Pedro Rego