5G is About More than Speed

by Jeff Wiener on July 24, 2015

As the hype surrounding next generation 5G wireless technology continues to increase I’ve noticed that the vast majority of the discussions surrounding this next generation wireless technology tend to be about speed, as most of us simply want to know how much faster our videos will be processed. But it’s important to know that such technology is about more than simply a faster connection, it’s about comprehensive mobile solutions that will help usher in the next generation of connected technologies.

Not only that, but given that there are currently no standards for 5G technology, the term itself is yet another nebulous marketing concept, as companies will once again attempt to lure unwary customers into promotional traps by touting 5G services that are, to be blunt, nothing close to what has been promised by this wireless revolution, the same sort of marketing confusion we saw during the development of 3G and 4G technologies.

So when we talk about 5G we need to understand that first and foremost, we’re simply talking about what’s next, with really no clear standard for just how much better the next advance will be. Further, we might need to forget about exponentially increased network speeds for the time being, as 5G has several far more important problems to address, namely improving network reliability and the overall customer experience amidst the explosive proliferation of connected devices.

Granted 5G will be faster than 4G—and just how much faster remains to be seen—but in all this talk about lightning fast downloads and seamless streaming video, I pray that the wireless industry puts aside the easy marketing opportunities advertising speed provides, and instead focus on the problems that continue to plague the wireless industry.

For starters, instead of simply increasing speed, how about we work to make networks that can handle larger capacity and scale. As video consumption grows exponentially, it would be a boon to consumers if networks could reliably handle this increased data load, saying nothing about the speed at which it can handle them.

Second, 5G technology should improve the user experience, primarily by reducing the cost to operate connected devices. As Miguel Myhrer, managing director for Accenture’s North America group, writes, “5G should provide an improved, uniform experience across multiple frequency bands and enable streamlined communications between various machines and devices within the IoT.” As the number of connected devices continues to increase, the mobile industry will need to find ways of reliably and affordably connected these devices, lest cost stall the evolution of our connected everything existence.

Third, and I can’t stress this one enough, one would hope that instead of focusing on speed, 5G wireless technology would, for once, take into consideration efficiency, most notably the efficient use of available spectrum resources. As the industries most precious resource, the better use of spectrum will allow for greater advances down the road, but first the industry needs to do a complete rethink of how spectrum is utilized and deployed.

In the end, my personal wish list for 5G wireless technology seems to grow longer by the day (who knows how long it will be by 2020, the estimated commercial 5G rollout target), but surprisingly speed is not particularly high on my list. Now of course I would like next gen networks to be faster, but for the first time in our mobile history, 5G will have to provide so much more if it’s going to help advance mobile technology and satisfy the growing needs of our connected everything existence.

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