Getting ready for the 5G revolution

By: Eli Love

What does the current state of 5G and Picasso have in common? Well, according to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, quite a lot. The expectations surrounding the next generation of wireless technology are multifaceted and complex. Currently, everyone who looks at it sees something different. The arrival of 5G is not really a shift in technology at all, but a paradigm shift that will revolutionize the way we think about mobile technology and interact with the world around us. After tuning into the 5G: Accelerating Next Generation Wireless Opportunities webinar, I listened to former White House advisor Jim Kohlenberger discuss what 5G will mean for our lives as consumers, and what the U.S. needs to do to maintain its leadership in mobile technology.

First of all, what is 5G? Simply put, 5G will be the first living network, meaning every real world object can become sentient. Kohlenberger explained this point by addressing the Internet’s three revolutions. The first revolution connected places, the second connected people, and the third (5G) will connect things. 5G technologies will accelerate our ability to innovate, creating opportunities for economic growth and advancement. Imagine streaming ultra high definition movies on your phone that are 16 times clearer than standard HD movies, or downloading a 3D film in six seconds rather than the six minutes it currently takes. 5G technology is not just about watching movies on your phone, though, its about unleashing a new wave of technologies that will put us in control of the world around us.

Sounds great, right? Luckily, the U.S. is already in great shape to take the lead in ushering in the era of 5G, but other countries are quickly working to catch up. Kohlenberger noted that the U.S. leads the world with about half of all 4G connections, which is important because 5G will be built on our 4G networks. However the EU, South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan are already working to outpace us. This is significant not just because we want to be the first in the world to usher in 5G, but because we want to set the rules for one of the most significant technological advancements of our generation. Doing so will allow us to harness these technologies to improve the livelihood of all Americans.

This leads to a most pressing question: what do we need to do to get there? On top of setting a policy path that states our objectives for 5G, we need to allocate more spectrum or this future will remain a fantasy. Spectrum is the fuel that will drive this revolution, and while 5G can utilize 3G and 4G spectrums, it will need much more to prove beneficial. We need to incentivize government agencies to free up more spectrum by letting them know the benefits 5G technologies have to offer down the road. Reducing our energy consumption; improving the health of Americans; helping farmers produce more food with less resources; and encouraging the design of smart cities that will reduce the wasted time, money, and fuel spent sitting in traffic are all tangible realities.

The 5G revolution is quickly approaching, let’s not let the opportunity slip away.