Did you know that ‘40s era actress Hedy Lamar (look it up – it’s true!) invented the technology that is the precursor to the modern mobility technology from which we all benefit today? Since then, Mobile and Traditional Carrier Operators have taken the torch, expanding the capabilities to where we are today – 5G.
5G – The Who, What, Where, Why and When (not necessarily in that order)
What Is 5G? Definitions of 5G are very loose and are not yet (if ever) determined officially. In simple terms, 5G is the next generation of Mobile Network Technology – the Fifth Generation after 4G, which is what most of us experience when using Mobile networks for our cell phones, mobile streaming, IOT – the list goes on. Mobile network traffic utilizes airwave spectrum that is divided into frequencies. Here in the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) releases Spectrum for purposes of communication. 5G is able to utilize Millimeter Wave Technology (mmWave), which allows very large high bandwidth capacity over the smaller wavelength frequencies generally between 30GHz and 300GHz. No one really knows yet what this might mean for commercial speed availability – the estimate is 1 gigabit or 10’s of gigabits throughput. This is not without its technical challenges – discussed below.
Where Will We Be Able To Use It? 5G has the promise to be invaluable to Industries for whom innovative solutions have been somewhat slow to take off due to limitations, for instance:
- Manufacturing benefits from 5G enhancements – think new plants in remote or developing areas, accessing high speed data over 5G vs traditional telecom, cable or fiber infrastructure. This allows for IOT, Digital Twinning, Remote Design and Retooling schematics.
- Energy – think remote windfarms or oil rigs sharing real-time performance, maintenance and regulatory data.
- New construction in areas without infrastructure – think remote areas, developing countries and areas supporting Refugee camps in areas of unrest, providing instant and advanced communication facilities.
- Virtual Medicine – remote doctors, x-ray and records review…providing quality care to underserved areas.
VMware’s Pulse Solution features compute and data analytics at the edge – such as helping autonomous cars make crucial, immediate decisions required for safety and performance. 5G and Enhanced LTE make this solution possible.
Who Will be Providing It? This topic is also related to where. 5G is currently not available anywhere. Carriers like Verizon and AT&T as well as companies such as Qualcomm and Intel are aggressively testing 5G and creating technologies and strategies to deploy and monetize. It’s important to note that 5G, like 4G and 3G before it, will be standardized per the International Telecommunication Union. To support demand while 5G is being developed and deployed, Carriers are currently working to enhance existing 4G LTE networks to allow for an experience called LTE Enhanced – with throughput performance edging toward speeds of 1Gbps. Device manufacturers are developing chips alongside the Carrier network progress in order to be ready for 5G when available. Carrier Operators want to take advantage of the lower cost implications that this technology promises. Higher spectrum efficiencies combined with enhanced network automation allow for more reach at less cost. This presents the Industry with opportunities to make up for declining revenues in traditional telecom and benefits those firms that have engaged in vertical industry M&As (content companies such as DirecTV and Time Warner) to control the product, R&D, distribution and supply chain end to end.
When Will All This Be Available? There is no current expectation of a timeframe in which 5G will be available everywhere. LTE enhancements have traditionally come in stages and 5G will be no exception. Most analysts will state that we are several years away from a ubiquitous availability. mmWave comes with challenges in that the higher frequency means a shorter transmission range. Line of site obstruction, buildings, even weather can affect signal transmission. This means not only a retooling of existing infrastructure (towers, fiber backhaul) but that more antennas distributed more frequently are required. However, marketers and disruptors will not wait – as 5G or 5G-like services become available we will all see and benefit from the innovation.
And Finally… Why Do We Want It? It depends on who you are. If you are a Consumer, no doubt you are using your mobile device more often and in more ways than ever before. Are you one of the 22 million people who “Cut the Cord” in 2017 and consume all of your entertainment content over a mobile device? Perhaps you have or are planning to eliminate your landline (I haven’t had a landline since 2007). 4G has given consumers the amazing ability to use the internet for a variety of ways, everywhere they go, with relatively good performance. But we want more – we want high speed connectivity to our cars (and not just for information and entertainment, but for safety and so we can nap while the car drives us*), and we want gaming and video ability. Corporations and Small Business Owners want enhanced work tools such as Virtual Desktop (VDI) and strong collaboration tools. Industries such as Manufacturing, Health, Energy and others are demanding the technology, capabilities and tools that require reliable, low-latency, high bandwidth.
There are likely Whys that we haven’t even thought of yet. I recently had a discussion with a client who was somewhat of a glass-half-full person regarding the future of society, the availability of purposeful and productive employment and the outlook for technology overall. I respectfully disagree – 5G is just one example of how we will all be enable to create and benefit from amazing things yet to come.
*professional autonomous car nappers only. Do not attempt at home.
As a digital transformation strategist, Heather’s mission with VMware’s Advisory Services is helping client executives clearly determine strategic focus, and then execute on their new Digital Transformation vision and goals.
Heather has over 25 years of experience in business, IT, technology and telecommunications. Prior to joining VMware she was a Telecom Principal Architect supporting an Enterprise sales center, contributing to a $350M Business. Before joining VMWare in 2017, Heather grew professionally over 20 years at AT&T where her various roles included Client Business Manager, Director of Sales, Mobility Sales Director and Technical Solutions Consultant.