Telecom giants, mobile chip-makers and governments are already planning for the next generation of wireless technology or 5G (short for fifth-generation mobile networks), that will transform and expand the way people and devices communicate. The technology for 5G is not expected to be available much before the end of the decade, but will grow exponentially as the years go on. The goal for the new networks include:
- Data rates of several tens of Mb/s supported for tens of thousands of users
- 1 Gb/s to be offered, simultaneously to dozens of workers on the same office floor
- Several hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections to be supported for massive sensor deployments, to include home security, medical monitoring and driver-less vehicles
- Enriched spectral efficiency compared to 4G
- Improved coverage, and
- Enhanced signaling efficiency
Smartphones, for instance, will have new mobile chips that access radio waves when needed, while sending and receiving data via more efficient routes. Remote sensors will be able to send data intermittently with batteries that last decades. And there will be less lag time (or latency) for communications that can fall to one millisecond, enabling the real-time connections critical for many uses, including remotely driven autos, which will have tremendous insurance ramifications. Spending on wireless infrastructure will reach about $39 billion this year, according to the Telecommunications Industry Association, and approach $50 billion in five years. Some of the major companies working on 5G include income choice Intel Corp, aggressive candidate QUALCOMM and conservative/income selection Verizon Communications, along with a slew of competitors such as Samsung, Ericsson, AT&T and China Mobile. Once rolled out, cellular carriers will be able to broadcast live video to mobile devices much more efficiently, keeping networks from slowing down or crashing. A new technology called LTE broadcast aims to meet the ravenous video demands of mobile users. Verizon, for instance, has already tested the technology with forever popular sports programming and both QUALCOMM and Intel have cellular chips capable of harnessing LTE broadcast.There are challenges, however, along with the promises, namely spectrum. Every new mobile standard brings with it calls from operators for more spectrum and 5G is no exception. If mobile operators want to deliver more and more capacity, they’re going to need more and more government controlled wireless spectrum, which is becoming harder to get, and costly. In all, the industry is moving fast and our lives will certainly change accordingly. Investment decisions will be difficult as there are often winners and losers in the ongoing process, as we have seen with Intel, missing the boat on mobile technology. However, these are exciting times for consumers and investors alike and hopefully we can be nimble in finding the right technology investment choices.