If you've been following the conversation around 5G connectivity over the past couple of years, you'd know that much of it centers on 5G phones. But 5G could have very real--and far reaching--implications on our lives that extend beyond simply the phone in your pocket.
Samsung is already selling 5G phones around the world. Meanwhile, Verizon, AT&T, and other big carriers are building out their 5G networks. It'll take at least a couple of years for those networks to become as ubiquitous and reliable as today's 4G LTE networks, but by the end of 2020, you can bet that most customers will at least have a semblance of 5G connectivity options in their areas.
Of course, that has meant big things for Qualcomm, which currently makes the 5G chips most companies are bundling in their devices. Samsung uses those chips and Apple has signed a deal with Qualcomm to use the same chips in next year's iPhones.
But again, 5G's reach will go way beyond phones. Indeed, by the time 5G is ubiquitous, there's a real chance that the technologies you employ today won't be powered by the broadband connection from your Internet provider. Instead, it could be delivered by the wireless 5G connection in the sky.
Although much of the 5G focus centers on speeds (the technology could theoretically reach a peak of 1Gbps, which is much faster than today's 4G LTE or even home broadband connections), for companies the most value may come byway of its reduced latency.
With the ability to communicate with far less latency (about 5ms), two devices can talk to each other more quickly than even humans can communicate.
In a world where self-driving cars are quickly becoming a possibility, that latency could prove exceedingly important. Having cars driving themselves requires fast communication. By taking advantage of 5G, cars can talk to each other and ensure they don't collide as they move around streets.
Without 5G, self-driving cars aren't possible.
In the factory, 5G might also play an important role. After all, factories have sophisticated technology that requires good, solid Internet connections. And the faster the speeds, the better the communication. The better the communication, the more efficient the manufacturing process.
All signs are pointing to big manufacturers at least considering moving their robotics and other technologies to 5G to take advantage of its many virtues. And in the process, they could dramatically improve the overall manufacturing effort.
Believe it or not, 5G could even change how we enjoy sports and entertainment. In fact, sports networks and Hollywood studios are already analyzing 5G to see how the fast speeds and low latency could broadly improve the entertainment experience.
So far, they've found that 5G's speeds and latency bumps could improve virtual reality, a technology that seemed to have some promise a few years ago, but has lost a bit of its luster. They believe they can create more immersive in-home entertainment experiences by placing people who are on a 5G connection inside a virtual world and let them experience a film or television series in a far more engrossing way.
With 5G's help during the big game, sports organizations and television networks can dramatically affect how you experience a game. Gone would be the days where you're limited to the few cameras television networks put on the field. Instead, networks would install sensors and cameras all over the field and allow you to quickly choose the angle you want. With speed and latency improvements, you could choose how you want to personally watch the game. Meanwhile, your friend could be at home deciding how they want to watch the game in their own way--and do it.
Aside from all of that, there's plenty more that 5G can do. It can improve the speeds with which you connect to the Internet in the office or at home. And if you need faster connection speeds for your wireless cameras or other surveillance equipment, 5G can help you do just that. With help from a variety of sensors, faster Internet connections, and other technologies, you could even benefit from an improved doctor-patient experience and get the help you need from home without ever needing to go into the office.
Suffice it to say that 5G's value can extend far beyond the smartphone. And with the right plan and tack, companies could take full advantage of its many virtues.