By Mark Stone, Contributor
The 5G network may not arrive on our smartphones until 2019, but when it does, it will pave the way for groundbreaking apps and services.
The future looks something like this: Imagine connecting with a potential client and projecting a holographic 3D-image of yourself, “Star Wars”-style, directly to their device. Not only would you appear closer to the client, product demos or training could take on a new, more human dimension. If this sounds like the trappings of George Lucas movie, it’s not — the technology is (nearly) here with ultrafast cellular speeds expected with 5G.
With 5G — the fifth generation of mobile networks — consumers and businesses will be able to take advantage of much higher bandwidth and lower latency. With these improvements, applications requiring significant download speeds (virtual reality, for example) can thrive. The 5G network carries the capability of handling up to 100 megabits per second for metropolitan areas — an increase of 10 to 100 times what is available today.
That movie that used to take six minutes to download? It will soon be available in a matter of seconds.
Transitioning From LTE to 5G
According to Serge Willenegger, senior vice president of product management for Qualcomm, a multinational telecommunications company, the 5G vision is all about enabling new consumer experiences, new business efficiencies, and expanding cellular connectivity into new industries.
“That [business-centric] vision is already happening today with Gigabit LTE and LTE Narrowband,” he said. “As the LTE bandwidth matures, it will push the envelope towards the move into 5G.”
He explained that the transition to 5G is already happening in parallel with Gigabit LTE, with rampant development across an ecosystem that includes wireless networks, cellphone manufacturers, and a myriad of industries.
Leaders in 5G, like Qualcomm, anticipate the new technology will enhance devices like wearables and automotive, while progressing in the areas of VR, AR, and holographs. With the increased download speeds, developers can build mobile apps using 4K video, 360-degree video, and create richer visual content.
Third-party developers like Microsoft and Google are already challenging what is possible with LTE and are bullish on how 5G’s lower latency can breed innovation, as we see with self-driving cars, remote medicine, and IoT.
From where Willenegger sits, this type of innovation will change the way we communicate (and communicating via holograph is just one of the experiences that could be possible). According to Willenegger, companies in a wide range of industries around the world are investing in innovative apps with radical user interfaces that are only possible with 5G’s speeds. These yet-to-be-released applications are expected to first emerge in the healthcare, security, entertainment, and the automotive industry.
“Some players have invested in holographs for a long time,” he explained, “but all the pieces must fit together for that to come to a reality.”
And based on the creativity already taking place amongst Qualcomm’s partnerships with its developers and customers, holographs are just the tip of the iceberg.
Embracing The Unknown, Enhancing The Now
“It’s not exactly clear what kind of innovation [we’ll see],” Willenegger said. “Our partners are very secretive, but they are interested in what gigabit LTE and 5G can bring.”
It is likely, he added, that we will see massive innovation in the business communication space in the next five years.
“It’s the first time that this kind of capability is being made available, and it has the potential to change things in the same way that electrification revolutionized manufacturing in the early 20th century.”
— Sherif Hanna, Director of Product Marketing, Qualcomm
“This is the first time that cellular technology is being designed from the ground-up to provide secure, reliable, responsive, mobile, and low-cost communication capability to almost any object you can imagine,” Sherif Hanna, Qualcomm’s Director of Product Marketing for 4G and 5G Modems, explained. “It’s the first time that this kind of capability is being made available [to the public], and it has the potential to change things in the same way that electrification revolutionized manufacturing in the early 20th century.”
As for regular-old telephone communication, many cellular networks will be able to provide better coverage with 5G. With a higher antennae capability in the devices, reliability will improve.
Despite the ambiguity around the future of 5G innovation, one thing is for sure: Business communications are poised to look fundamentally different in the next few years.