What is 5G?
If you’re involved in the tech industry at all you’ve definitely heard the term 5G, especially after CES this year. Even if you’re not in the tech industry there’s still a pretty good chance you’ve heard about it in regards to your cell phone service, but what is it exactly? Well 5G stands for fifth generation and to put it simply, it’s the newest generation of cellular technology. 5G will increase wireless connections, improve upload and download speeds and help resolve any latency issues with previous cellular technology. According to TechTarget, 5G networks can also be divided based on different needs for different devices. For example, a self driving car would have a different connection than a home appliance. But for most consumers what they’re really concerned with is how it’s going to affect their service. Well, from everything we know, it’s not going to affect it negatively, and will actually improve the speeds on your smartphones. To give you an example, Gizmodo states that the speeds associated with 5G would allow you to download an entire movie in HD in just a few seconds.
The History of 5G
In early 2018 AT&T stated that they planned to be the first US company to offer 5G in a dozen markets by late 2018. Did it happen? Sort of...but not really.
AT&T announced in December of 2018 that they were launching “5G+” in parts of 12 cities starting December 21. Those cities include Atlanta, Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Florida; Louisville, Kentucky; New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, North Carolina; San Antonio and Waco, Texas.
But here’s the thing, only a select few individuals in those cities can actually use the service. Smartphones can’t connect to 5G networks yet, so to access the technology you have to use a specific 5G hotspot, the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot. But wait, AT&T only has a limited amount of those hotspots available for eligible customers. So now you get why we say “sort of”, but why are we also saying “but not really”? Well, Verizon actually beat them to being the first provider to offer the service by launching it’s “5G Home” service in parts of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento in October of 2018.
5G at CES
So now it’s 2019, what does that mean for 5G?
Well it turns out 5G was a pretty hot topic at CES this year.
AT&T updated display phones to show 5G on the top bar of phone screens, even though they stated that the phones aren’t actually capable of these speeds yet.
Verizon showcased 5G speeds and its uses in augmented and virtual reality.
Qualcomm discussed the potential of 5G in virtual reality headsets and smartphones
Intel showed off 5G in regards to video game graphics.
5G devices were on display - even though none of them are available in the US yet.
So in the words of Ahiza Garcia from CNN Business, “Although 5Gs potential was certainly a major talking point at [CES] this year, it remains just that for now: potential.”
The Future of 5G
So if right now it’s all potential when can we expect to see it? Well, that remains to be determined. Many expect to see 5G a lot more in the coming year with it actually beginning to replace 4G networks in 2020. Most major carriers are aiming to launch 5G enabled smartphones by the end of 2019. But, there are others, like Steve Koenig, the VP of Market Research for the Consumer Technology Association, who believe it won’t be until 2022 that we see widespread adoption of 5G enabled devices.
All this being said, 5G is definitely something to keep an eye on, but we wouldn’t expect any drastic changes any time soon.