CTIA Hosts 5G Leadership Forum, Discusses Next Gen Wireless Technology
It seems like just last week or something that Verizon ran a commercial that introduced the world to 4G LTE (long term evolution) connectivity. You remember, the one with the guy who lives on a farm sprinting to his mailbox and running back to the barn and unleashing all of the lightning bolts in the world. That commercial ran back in 2010—believe it or not—but the company, and many others are already thinking about the next generation of wireless connectivity.
CTIA, the trade association that represents the wireless communications industry, effectively got the 5G party started this week by hosting a leadership forum on the forthcoming technology in Washington, DC, this week. The technology isn’t expected to become available until 2020 (shortly after standards for the network are finalized), but it’s never too early to start dreaming.
In attendance were higher ups from many of the big players in the space—Samsung, Verizon, Intel, etc.—as well as a few members of Congress hoping to lead the charge forward on Capital Hill (i.e. speed up the process of finding and auctioning off that coveted spectrum, upon which this network will heavily rely). They all had great and important things to say, which you can view in the video below.
But the most important thing to come out of the day was the whitepaper (boring, I know, but bear with me) that dove very deep into the possibilities that 5G will present to the American public, and eventually the world. 5G, CTIA said in the paper, will be a game-changer for consumers. “Imagine a future where nearly everything is connected to ubiquitous, very high-speed wireless networks,” the group wrote. “Imagine enjoying enriched entertainment while riding to work in a self-driving car, doctors that monitor patients’ vital signs remotely in real-time, and communities that are smarter and more connected.”
CTIA boils the benefits of 5G down to three major points:
- 5G will be very fast
- 5G will connect everything, and
- 5G will be real-time
Let’s break that down.
Very fast. As it stands, 4G LTE networks give consumers impressive network speeds that peak around 100 Mbps. That, in its day, was a major improvement over the ~384 Kbps that 3G afforded us. Eventually, though, as more and more phones made their way onto the new network, things slowed down. More devices are trying to access that wireless technology, and the system is strained. (Such is the circle of wirelessly connected life, right?)
What CTIA is saying about 5G, though, is practically jaw dropping. The new network will purportedly support speeds of about 1 Gbps. That’s like lining a Camaro up against a guy on a BMX bike at a drag strip and saying, “Go!”
Just think of it this way: Those times when you’re at a sporting event or concert, struggling to share a video or selfie on Facebook because the network is basically jammed—those experiences will be a thing of the past. 5G will be designed specifically to handle these kinds of highly dense environments, CTIA said. And in terms of streaming video content of the future, 5G has 4K and even 8K content in mind. Movies that take minutes to download over 4G LTE, which took hours to download over 3G, will take seconds over 5G connectivity.
What really got me going though was CTIA’s description of attending a football game of the future: “The experience could be enriched by having access to ultra HD content from a variety of perspectives—quarterback, defensive player, or coach, among others. These could be provided to enhance the stadium experience for viewers with equipped devices.” (I’m drooling.)
Connect everything. This is the meat and bones, the heart, the purpose of 5G wireless connectivity. The Internet of Things is, for all intents and purposes, already here. The 4G LTE network is doing its darndest to support the technology, but it’s simply not getting the job done as efficiently as it could be. Enter 5G.
“5G promises consumers a more connected wireless network with much higher device density, enabling the connectivity of virtually all of our physical world,” CTIA said in the paper. “5G will provide the scale for wireless networks to support billions of sensors, wearables, and devices that will unlock new innovations and functionalities.”
The evolution to 5G will enable smart cities to become a reality—improved infrastructure through remote monitoring of roads, bridges, etc.; managing traffic patterns of pedestrians at stadiums, busy intersections, and more; streamlined public transportation.
What’s more, 5G will enable wearables to be fully-connected devices without having to be tethered to a smartphone (only 21 percent of adults have a fitness tracker today, according to CTIA, a number that will undoubtedly increase in the next decade). A fully-functioning smart home will be attainable for the average consumer—and the network will be able to support all of those devices without any hiccups. The auto industry will get support with autonomous cars, real-time updates for vehicle solutions (“Instead of a simple ‘check engine’ light, a sensor could alert the driver that engine cleaning is recommended and allow the driver to schedule an appointment” or “serious concerns such as low tire pressure could direct the driver to the nearest service station”).
Real time. Finally, 5G will provide a marked improvement over the lag time consumers experience using the current-gen wireless network. This will enable much better experiences with videoconferencing applications, virtual reality and augmented reality, and other forms of connected tech.
The one example that helped to best get this point across was related to the connected car. On 4G, it takes about 4.5 feet for a 4G-connected car traveling 60mph to recognize that the collision avoidance alert is active and apply the breaks. With 5G, the reduced latency enables the connected car to accomplish the same feat in just 1 inch.
All of this is just scratching the surface of 5G wireless connectivity. The technology itself is still years off. But judging by these early returns and digging through the possibilities presented by the next generation of wireless connectivity, there’s plenty to be excited about.