Let us go back to the dark ages of 1991, when the second generation of data exchange and bandwidth, also known as 2G, was enough to send a text message across the world in a blink of an eye. The world responded in awe, and it soon began to grow into a rapid industry, allowing humans to communicate in a way never imagined before. Cellphones went from the size of a briefcase, to the palm of your hand and popularity of this handy device grew like wildfire. By 1998, 3G allowed for internet access, giving birth to search engines and social media. Finally, in 2008 we experienced the first 4G network we have today, with video streaming capabilities, allowing us to do so much more than text a friend.
Given that it has been ten years without a network update, it is about time for an update, right? Well, the world seems to think so, and cellphone companies have begun what is being known as the “Race to 5G”.
Big name cellphone companies are all competing to be the first, creating exciting game plans, big ideas, and some futuristic ideas that could only be found in a science fiction novel. Here is the scoop: 5G will not replace our current 4G network, so instead, they are looking to enhance it and compliment a system that is already in place, so there is no need to buy a new phone just yet. Right now, the idea is it will be something called the “puck,” a hockey puck shaped hotspot that will allow for super high speeds and comprehensive wireless coverage enhancing our current data capabilities. It is said to power other areas that are out of reach with 4G, like smart vending machines, smart cars that communicate with one another, even a smart home. Hopefully, it does not turn into the Disney Movie, “Smart House” but imagining that soon is exciting nonetheless! 5G is also theorized to one day allow us to network robots, stream 3D and virtual reality, but most importantly, reduce lag between devices. Driverless cars using data systems, smart cities, all controlled with this faster-than-life bandwidth is everything our economy has been hoping for.
With all the hype, everyone is rushing to the finish line to be the first to launch this exciting new technology. Chipmakers, such as Intel and Qualcomm, are developing processors and radios that enable 5G. Network equipment companies, including Nokia, Ericsson, and Huawei are making the equipment to support it. That leaves the biggest names in the cellular industry to win the relay. Most recently, AT&T made a bold claim that they could have 5G out and running by the end of this year. CEO Randall Stephenson made the announcement, and if AT&T can pull this off, they could easily reap the benefits of being the first, but it’s certainly an ambitious claim. They have not announced exactly what this would entail, but it is clear they are raising the bar and setting the standard to show that they are still a force to be reckoned with. Also competing is Sprint, the 4th largest wireless carrier. According to CNET, CEO Marcelo Claure said on a conference call Sprint was setting their goal for early 2019, and Sprint “believes it can take the checkered flag when it comes to the great 5G race.” They are the latest to make hype about the 5G network, as excitement for this new technology grows. Famous for its unlimited data plans, T-Mobile plans to begin deployment in 2019 as well and offer nationwide 5G coverage by 2020. Of course, it is no surprise that Verizon wishes to take this new advancement to the next level, as they are looking into the installation of 5G for homes.
There are still complications with how this new network will be handled as it has given them some grief, and they are all tackling this project in their own unique way. 5G as of right now would allow for cell phones to reach rural America and give us a cell phone experience like never before.