Thursday, November 5, 2015

Cell phone providers are preparing for the dawn of 5G, or fifth-generation wireless technology designed to be super-fast and oh-so smart. In fact, it’s so smart it will act differently depending on how the mobile technology is accessed.

So What Is It?

So what is 5G, exactly? Creating a definition has proved challenging, however various industry experts are taking proverbial stabs at it… and disagreeing with one another.

"Everyone has a bit of a different definition of what 5G is,” explained Eric Starkloff, a marketing executive for National Instruments. His company is currently working with Nokia on 5G research and creating related hardware solutions. “But it’s the next iteration of cellular standards, with a goal of a 50 times faster data rate than the most advanced Wi-Fi networks today. To give an example, the expectation is that a 5G network can stream a two-hour movie in less than three seconds."

National Instruments, Nokia, Verizon, NTT DoCoMo, and KT have yet to agree on what 5G is, though they do all acknowledge it as a speedy wireless network capable of streaming Netflix like no other.

"Many industries will look at how 5G will transform their business," said Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson, one of the world's biggest suppliers of telecommunications equipment, in a recent interview. "It's my job to build a network to handle that."

Numerous “Behaviors”

5G is expected to feature a “range of behaviors” depending on the device. For example, the network is supposed to tell a self-driving car where to go and react in situations that require immediate, emergency responses. It should also be efficient enough to provide farms with the ability to “use sensors that can ping the network for 10 years on a single charge.”

Other innovations regarding the 5G platform include remote health care and “augmented reality.” 5G is poised to be the “Internet of everything” and create a data infrastructure that supports just about anything you can think of, from the refrigerator letting you know you need milk to factory equipment that alerts a repair person when gears start to loosen.

Vestberg noted that 5G could potentially replace broadband service, which is already occurring with 4G in various locations around the globe. 5G adds higher speed and capacity, and could provide users with crazy-sharp 4G video.

The End of Unlimited Data?

Despite the many possibilities connected to 5G, it is very unlikely that it will feature unlimited data. Sprint and T-Mobile have already placed limits on “excessive” unlimited data use, while AT&T and Verizon got rid of their unlimited data options. However, these limits are more economical than technical.

Future Plans

U.S. providers are aiming to have 5G networks off the proverbial ground by 2020, with Verizon to begin field trials in 2017. Japan and Korea are expected to perform 5G demonstrations at the 2018 and 2020 Olympics. China and the European Union recently solidified a deal that shares 5G research so they may beat U.S. providers and other competition to the market. could be “faster than Google Fiber,” and it’s coming soon.