As technology continues to be infused into everything we touch, from smartphones, appliances, cars, and even our homes, the amount of data generated will increase significantly over the next 10 years. There will be an immense need for our wireless networks to be able to handle millions of more daily transactions. So how will we handle this? Answer: 5G
The next technological revolution that will change how society runs on a day to day basis has begun; Fifth-generation wireless technology or 5G will truly usher in the era of the “Internet of Things”. 5G will be built to handle large amounts of data incredibly fast with much higher reliability than 4G. This is due in part to a much larger pipeline or bandwidth for data to move through. In terms of speed, it is estimated that data transfer speeds will be 10x faster than that of 4G speeds. This means connected devices will be able to talk to each other in fractions of a second, which is especially imperative to driverless cars and autopilot systems. The increased bandwidth will also allow for 100x more traffic capacity which will be imperative as a tidal wave of connected devices start to join the “Internet of Things”.
There are some challenges for 5G however, as the largest challenge facing wireless network providers will be: cost. According to Deloitte Consulting, setting up 5G across the U.S. could cost providers up to $300 billion. The reason for the increased cost is because new 5G towers must be built, and a lot of them. This brings us to the second biggest issue with 5G, how far the signal can travel. Since the 5G network runs on a very low frequency, it does not travel far or through objects very well. Current wireless towers pushing out 4G or fourth generation wireless technology can travel several miles whereas 5G is estimated to only be able to travel 1/3 of a mile. Analysts believe that more than 300,000 new towers must be built in order to cover all of the U.S., which is equivalent to the same number of towers that took wireless network providers 30 years to build.
While we are years away from a nationwide rollout of 5G technology, we are just scratching the surface as to what is going to be possible. There is immense potential for 5G to truly usher in a new era for mankind. The four major U.S. carriers have promised to start introducing 5G in select markets around the country by the end of 2018, with a full build-out to be completed by 2025. Verizon is starting to test in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Houston, whereas AT&T will start testing in Austin, Waco, and Atlanta by the end of 2018.