5G networks are coming, and the technology is going to lead to major changes. To set the stage, 5G is expected to be more than 257 times faster than the average speed of the fastest LTE network in the U.S.
5G isn’t just about speed. It will bring more capacity to mobile networks. You know when you are at a rough Mets game (which happens a lot) and Instagram won’t load, because everyone else at the game is also on their phone? The extra capacity 5G brings to the table will allow everyone at the game to scroll through and comment on as many photos of cats doing cute things as they want.
Capacity is a worldwide issue. As more people around the world continue to get smartphones, it will be important for mobile operators to accommodate that growing network usage. Many developing nations have skipped the PC all together and are going straight to mobile. 5G will help carriers keep up with that demand.
5G allows for network slicing to take place. This is big. Network slicing means that you can customize speed, quality and coverage for certain areas or users. You can sell truck drivers dedicated capacity for a few mile radius near a specific warehouse. Or, if you are worried about not being able to post a "story" at your next music festival, concert operators can take a short-term lease of a network slice that optimizes for connectivity.
Each of these layers can be individually designed, deployed and controlled depending on the needs or usage of a specific group. We may not notice this as much on the consumer side, but the enterprise applications are substantial. And if that means Amazon can deliver your new aromatherapy diffuser in hours instead of two days, isn’t it all worth it?
There are technical solutions that already exist that have network slicing-like features, such as Differentiated Services that classify and manage different types of IP traffic. And Virtual Private Network, that separate and isolate traffic across the Internet using techniques like IP tunneling. But, they each have their issues, such as Differentiated Services not being able to perform traffic isolation, making it difficult for hospitals to use given hospitals' security measures. No holistic end-to-end solution exists aside from 5G.
The applications of 5G expand to the IOT industry as a whole, especially self-driving cars. It is the next big step to complete autonomy for cars, as they will be able to communicate with the environment in near real-time. A focus on low latency and high security levels are ideal for the autonomous vehicle, which should also be what airports focus on, but we aren't that lucky yet.
Virtual and augmented reality will also see major updates. Phones will now be meant to be used with VR headsets. VR and AR applications will require low latency, and the consistent speeds of 5G will give users access to a virtual world whenever they want. Which will make it that much more fun to walk around Times Square with tourists who are somehow further distracted.
The most exciting aspect of 5G is that we don’t yet know what applications will become possible. For example, Netflix could not have existed on the broadband of the early 2000’s. (If anyone from Netflix is reading this, I expect to get compensated for marketing if I bring you up in one more post). 5G will make applications on both the consumer and enterprise level faster and higher quality, and it is bound to lead to new software we didn’t know was possible.
This will take some time. 4G phones in the U.S. appeared in 2010, and Snapchat and Uber didn’t become widespread until 2012 and 2013, respectively. Experts believe that 5G is still in its early days, and game changing 5G applications will start to come to market in 2022.
I am a 25 year-old venture capitalist and amateur stand-up comedian living in NYC.