Soon, your phone will be able to handle anything you normally do on your desktop computer--no matter where you are.
That moment can't come too soon for Craig Walker, co-creator of the communication platform Google Voice. Walker co-founded personal communication startup GrandCentral in 2005. Just two years later, Google purchased the company and rebranded it as Google Voice.
Today, Walker is co-founder and CEO of Dialpad, a company that makes a cloud-based platform that powers various aspects of businesses' voice communication, from hosting conference calls to helping train call center employees. For clients in sales and customer service, the San Francisco-based firm's software lets a user on a phone call see real-time conversation transcriptions on their screens; artificial intelligence then provides sentiment analysis and suggests answers to customers' questions. The 450-person company has been preparing for the launch of 5G, the fifth-generation wireless network, which will enable Dialpad to expand its offerings for mobile customers.
Currently, many of Dialpad's features are only available to desktop users. That will change with the rollout of 5G. "Once we get to a point of being able to assume the end user has this level of connectivity, we can start pushing out all these features to mobile," Walker says. With 5G, he says, "your mobile phone has all the functionality that your computer has when it's connected to a super-high-speed network."
On videoconference calls, Walker says, you'll be able to get a crystal-clear picture with no need to connect to Wi-Fi. You'll also be able to add more people to the conference without losing quality. "You'd get a little constrained by the screen size and how much your eyes can discern, but at the end of the day those are just user interface and design limitations," Walker says. "You no longer have boundaries that are based on the network quality."
Looking at the bigger picture, Walker predicts that higher-speed connections will erase much of the friction inherent to working remotely. Companies will have little hesitance about hiring the best employees regardless of their location. "The future of work is letting people be productive from wherever they are, however works best for them," he says. "And 5G is a big piece of allowing that to happen."
Of course, this is all dependent on telecom companies' actually making 5G accessible everywhere. Many carriers started rolling out 5G in the latter half of 2019, and most of the early beneficiaries have been urban areas. Some experts have expressed concern that the technology will roll out slowly--if at all--to rural customers because of the low return on investment of building infrastructure in sparsely populated areas.
But if it does, expect big changes. Though Walker admits he's biased, he predicts that communication will be the industry most revolutionized by the rollout of 5G. "This will affect the whole future of work," he says, "and the future of society, and the future of productivity."