Since the 1980s, we've come a long way in the development of our wireless connectivity technologies. What started out as a platform that could only support 2kbps over an analog cellular network can today support 200mbps over a complex set of technologies that control our productivity, efficiency and communication styles. But it's just a matter of time before we start saying "only 200mpbs."
There has been plenty of buzz regarding the next "generation," which in some cases has been defined as a revolutionary upgrade that will define the Internet of Things (IoT) era. 5G will be a staple to our day-to-day world before we know it.
But for those of us who live and breathe software, 5G is an enabler. It provides a powerful platform of possibilities to install our software engines, because at the end of the day none of the sophisticated features our consumers have come to dream and expect would work without the sophisticated software to accompany it.
5G has the potential to benefit humanity in ways we haven't even imagined yet. Here's how we'll get there:
Customers always want improved speed and reliability – that's just a fact of nature. With the introduction of each new "generation," consumers have been exposed to exponentially stronger performance. 5G will be no exception to that rule. In fact, 5G is expected to have more than 1gbps of bandwidth speed, far exceeding our current capabilities.
In a recent article, we shared that the average U.S. home is estimated to have 400 connected or smart devices by 2020. If you took 400 devices and tried to connect them to your current network, you wouldn't get anything done. The current infrastructure in place just wouldn't be able to support it.
Enhancing the speed and transmission of data allows us to build a software engine that can handle more. More data. More opportunities. More features.
Take Virtual Reality (VR) as an example. VR applications can't provide a fascinating experience to the user on a 4G network. However, 5G will be able to support high-definition video and sound at a fraction of the time, allowing brands to build new user experiences. 2020 is a target date for 5G to be commercially available – imagine what enhancements will be made to VR by then.
We can spend a whole day imagining a world of connected devices and smart appliances and how these will transform our lives. Unfortunately, without 5G, the true potential of the IoT will remain a dream.
5G will enable us to establish ecosystems where all of our estimated 400 devices are connected to each other and communicate valuable, useful data—while being connected to the internet. This is meant to help users streamline and, in some cases, remove the daily decision-making burden.
With the software we will build in the future, we will be able to develop intelligent systems with 5G that far exceed the expectations for today's devices. 91 percent of customers expect new products and services that have yet to be invented as a result of 5G, according to a PSB report on the 5G Economy.
The time it takes for a signal to be beamed toward a tower and received by a device is its latency. In other words, the lower the latency the faster a device can respond. Low latency will potentially be a huge benefit for new possibilities through 5G. 4G networks have an average latency of 50 milliseconds, but with 5G latency is expected to go as short as 1 millisecond.
According to the PSB study, when thinking about what customers would like improved in 5G over 4G/LTE, they focus on enhanced speed and reliability. Low latency will be one of the key drivers that provides the reliability customers are seeking through new applications.
Connected, self-driving cars are one area low latency is absolutely critical. Relying on hundreds of real-time data sources, the difference between a latency of 50 milliseconds to 1 millisecond can be a matter of life or death. If self-driving cars can't communicate with each other, collect and analyze data and make decisions real-time, then we're getting ahead of ourselves with new technology our infrastructure can't support.
An enhanced mobile bandwidth, expanded IoT functionality and low latency provide an expanded sandbox where we can develop new products and services, while vastly improving the ones currently in existence. But it is the intimate knowledge of both hardware and software that adds value for brands—the type of knowledge that comes with a manufacturing partner that can take tech innovations and spread them across multiple markets.
Five years from now, when we are expected to begin leveraging 5G in everything we do, we will look back and see how our lives have evolved with these new possibilities and how various industries have been transformed.