The seemingly ancient promise of 5G mobile tech
will finally become a slightly more attainable reality to consumers in 2018, albeit to a small number of
them. Verizon already trialed its 5G network in 11
cities in 2017. In the second half of 2018, it plans to
roll out commercial availability in Sacramento, Calif.
T-Mobile plans to begin rolling out its 5G network in
2019, with a target of full expansion by 2020. AT&T already began offering 5G in several U.S. cities in 2017.
As is usual with new network technologies like this,
the first uses will be mobile USB sticks for tablet and
laptop connectivity. ISPs will also most certainly be
looking to offer wireless home internet. Don’t expect
to see more than a handful of 5G-capable phones being offered in 2018. And if the first 5G devices are on
par with first-generation devices that were made for
3G and 4G networks, expect them to be abysmal on
battery life and general connectivity.
Despite some cynicism and skepticism among pundits, 5G is coming quickly, and we’ll all soon be reaping the benefits of the new 70Gbps networks. In December 2017, the White House released the “National
Security Strategy” report, which specifically mentions
5G as a priority for the government. Noted as an infrastructure improvement, the document says, “We will
improve America’s digital infrastructure by deploying a secure 5G Internet capability nationwide.” Most
interestingly, natural gas is the only other infrastructure item named in the strategy. Why is such importance held to something as basic as wireless internet?
There are several possibilities, and one or all could be
at least part of the reason the U.S. government wants
to push so hard on this.
Two quotes from the section on 5G give us some indication of the government’s thinking. “Federal, state, and
local governments will work together with private industry to improve our airports, seaports and waterways,
roads and railways, transit systems, and telecommunications.” And later in the paragraph, “These improvements will increase national competitiveness, benefit the environment, and improve our quality of life.”
First, it’s clear that the government isn’t intending
to roll out a federal 5G network. It makes clear that
all levels of government should be working with the
private sector to make these networks a reality. The
reasons for this can possibly be boiled down to a look
at the Republican-majority federal government. Republicans are more apt to lean on the private sector
to work things out, while Democrats are more likely
to fund a new federal program or department to execute something like this. Either way, the White House
wants the private sector to have the federal support
that it needs in order to make a network that will keep
the U.S. ahead of competing nations. The trickle-down
effect of having one of the first and best national 5G
networks cannot be overstated.
Rural and remote internet connectivity is still in a
deplorable state in the U.S., and 5G networks will be
the best possible solution to getting high-speed, reliable internet to homes and businesses scattered hither and thither. In turn, this will aid in education and
economic stimulus. Right now, the lack of high-speed
and/or reliable internet in remote and rural areas
prevents or handicaps educational and business opportunities for a large swath of the American people.
Relying on current 4G cellular phone plans works for
some, but even wireless carriers have been hesitant
to spend millions on new towers in areas that cover
square miles with low population density.
The second motivation we can infer from the “
National Security Strategy” report is how the vision for 5G
deployment and use in the country will benefit other
major infrastructure like transportation. Recent train
derailments and autonomous car tragedies could, in
theory, be prevented or mitigated should these ul-tra-low-latency networks be utilized in the right way.
When the machines transporting us can all communicate with each other in real time, accidents can be
prevented by technology.
Finally, the government wants 5G for its own advantage as well. The military will no doubt be using 5G (if
it isn’t already) for critical tasks such as remote drone
operation and real-time global communication. Local
governments can rely on the networks for whole-city
infrastructure monitoring and control. Traffic lights,
street lights, utility usage monitors, and city transit
networks are all items that could be improved and
streamlined with the addition of some relatively simple technology.
5G is the next big thing. The applications possible with these upcoming networks are practically
endless. The additional bandwidth to stream 4K and
HDR content to our mobile devices will certainly
be a huge boon to the streaming industry, but seeing that as the end-game is grossly underestimating
what we can do once we see large-scale adoption of
One aspect of mobile video that will benefit greatly from faster 5G networks is video advertising. The
video ad industry is expected to hit $8 billion by 2019.
And considering mobile video ads are considered to
be about three times as effective than other platforms, it’s no wonder businesses are spending like
crazy on them. The miniscule 1-millisecond latency
of 5G will make buffering a thing of the past. Both the
ads and the desired content will load quickly enough
to prevent users from experiencing the “dead air” of
buffering that drives them away. Since user attention
spans can be very fickle, this will be key to maintaining high engagement levels.
Another factor to contend with is the ubiquity of
autoplay videos and how consumers are dealing with