It is fascinating to look back over the last decade or so to see how cellular networks have evolved. As smartphones like the iPhone and Android became the norm as opposed to a luxury consumer technology good, demand for fast and stable wireless Internet connections grew exponentially. Now we expect to be able to watch a YouTube video on demand with minimal buffering time no matter where we are. When cellular carriers moved to 4G networks several years ago, this became the standard.
But the rise of 5G networks create the potential for new ways of working as well as benefits to the daily lives of many people that they probably haven’t considered yet. We often think about devices bringing us faster and more powerful technology, but the rise of 5G really represents a new option of services that could be available to us regardless of our devices. I’d like to look at a few ways that 5G networks will change the way we work and live with technology over the next several years.
Improved Overall Service and Reliability
While many of us will be naturally attracted at the prospect of faster downloads that could allow us to stream entire movies in a matter of moments, 5G networks will be utilizing wireless spectrum that can support more devices more consistently. Whereas with 4G you may have noticed your smartphone having connectivity and speed problems when you’re at a crowded event or even in some downtown areas that are highly congested. That’s because, to put it simply, 4G has too many cars on the highway.
Not only does the movement to a new standard allow our current device load to attain faster speeds and reliability, but the room for new devices opens up interesting new possibilities. Public infrastructure such as streetlights or traffic cameras could connect to reliable 5G networks allowing better management of vehicle traffic. These kinds of changes won’t be noticed when you buy a new iPhone, but they could make a significant difference in the way you live your life as we use networks to manage public life.
An Increased Focus on Mobile Security, Compliance and Management
As we build smart cities and rely on wireless networks to live our daily lives, we also introduce greater risk along with the benefits we will gain. While the networks themselves will be more sophisticated and generally more secure than older 4G and earlier mobile networks, the risk level rises simply due to the volume of data on these 5G networks. We have put more eggs into our technology basket.
Security, Risk, and Compliance Management were typically limited to industry and data requirements, but if we have a smart infrastructure where the Internet of Things (IoT) has devices of all kinds communicating over a shared 5G network in public, all of these security and compliance needs merge together. Now everything is sharing data, and instead of asking what we need to be compliant to, the question will become how can we avoid the consequences of cyber-attacks period? Security was never really optional, but the ramifications of a 5G world makes security imperative for public safety.
Expansion to Access to High Speed Networks
Much of the technology services and apps available to you as an individual or business are determined by your geography. The further away you are from cities, the less availability you will have to high-speed Internet connections. And when you don’t have those connections you are also likely to miss out on the benefits many people in more populous areas take for granted. Think about that Zoom call you had because you are working from home. If you are using a decent Internet connection, making that Zoom call work properly is no big deal. But simply due to geography, millions of Americans still have serious limitations when it comes to accessing things that demand high connectivity. While 5G may not solve this issue entirely, it could make a big dent in this shortcoming.
There is another side to this as well. Think about the Netflix model, which started out by shipping people DVDs; the video streaming service was secondary. Now in 2020, nobody thinks of DVDs when they think of Netflix; they think of on-demand access to a seemingly unending library of content that’s available at the tips of their fingers. With 5G, you can expect the convenience of access to high-speed connections to further push away antiquated products and services that can be enhanced with fast Internet.
5G also has implications on where people live and work. Anytime/anywhere work was happening before the pandemic, but recent events have created trends where many people are moving out of cities to more rural areas as long as they are still able to work. So, what about offices? Widespread accessibility to high-speed connections brings into question if brick and mortar offices are still necessary for certain businesses. And even if they are, do they need to be in the population hubs or can they be more rural, which could improve operations in other ways, lower costs, or help recruit new talent? Access to communication resources, like other resources, dramatically impacts these kinds of major life and business decisions.
More Work in the Cloud
Processing power is expensive. If you want to render 3D graphics, process customer data, store records, or do anything that really pushes the horsepower of technology, you may have to invest in serious hardware in order to get the work done productively. But if you can use a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) to leverage massive economies of processing power scale, that investment and budgeting is cheaper and easier to manage. But you need speed and accessibility, and to this day numerous applications are still impractical for many businesses to process in the cloud even with decent Internet connections.
If we had a wireless infrastructure that could support, say, Gigabit speeds reliably regardless of the physical location, most people and businesses could get by with devices that simply provide the input and output for the technology on which we rely. Instead of getting a high-priced graphics processing unit to render your CAD drawings, you could use the power of the Cloud to access and edit your drawings on a device as simple as a smartphone or tablet, while servers miles away do the heavy processing work on the back end.
5G is setting the table for a significant reorganization of our lives. If you think about how much things have changed since the adoption of the Internet, followed by higher speed wired Internet connections in the home and in business, our society has become almost unrecognizable to someone from, say, 1990. High speed wireless networks, starting with 5G, could be the spark that makes the next big shift. While we can’t anticipate all of the specifics, the one thing we do know is that a seismic shift is on the horizon.