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Verizon is about to change the wireless industry in a big way as it begins field testing fifth-generation, or 5G, technology within the next 12 months, with plans for “some level of commercial deployment” by 2017 — much earlier than the common industry prediction of 2020.
This information comes from a CNET interview with Roger Gurnani, Verizon’s chief information and technology architect, who revealed that Verizon will soon be the world’s first wireless carrier to move into 5G. This isn’t just a big move for Verizon, though — it represents the beginning of a major shift in the telecom industry toward radically higher speed and responsiveness.
“The future is going to bring more stuff that I can’t really describe,” said Gurnani. “We can’t possibly envision the full range of disruptive products and services. But we have some possibilities.”
How Fast is 5G?
So-called 5G technology will be almost incomprehensibly fast compared to current options. Verizon’s initial tests have shown connection speeds 30 to 50 times faster than those on 4G — meaning it’s also faster than a direct connection witht Google Fiber.
To visualize this difference, consider a two-hour HD movie that would take about 6 minutes to download via 4G. On a 5G network, that very same movie would be fully downloaded in 15 seconds or less.
Other Important Benefits of 5G
While speed is clearly the biggest selling point of a 5G wireless network, there are other perks as well. For instance, 5G is considerably more responsive than 4G, so the hand movements of a surgeon could be transmitted in real time to the other side of the world, making remote surgery possible when necessary. It’s also expected to be 10 times more power-efficient, providing a much-needed boost in battery life.
Another key benefit is that 5G will be all-inclusive — it’s built to handle all types of traffic with extremely low latency, making it ideal to power our wearable tech, smart home devices, and Internet-connected cars. Professor Rahim Tafazolli, director of the 5G Innovation Centre at U of Surrey, explains:
“An important aspect of 5G is how it will support applications in the future. We don’t know what applications will be in use by 2020, or 2030 or 2040 for that matter, but we know they will be highly sensitive to latency […] We need to bring end-to-end latency down to below one millisecond so that it can enable new technologies and applications that would just not be possible with 4G.”
The Current State of 5G
Future world-changing capabilities aside, Gurnani is focused on today. “At this time, our focus is on the technology field trials and accelerating the technology,” he said.
Verizon has lined up partners including Ericsson, Nokia, Cisco, Qualcomm, and Samsung, and it recently set up its first Verizon 5G Technology Forum. The company has also created small testing sites called “sandboxes” at its innovation centers in Waltham, Massachusetts, and San Francisco.
And while Verizon may be the first network to roll out 5G (they were also the first to offer 4G), it’s certainly not alone. It’s safe to say that Verizon’s U.S.-based competitors will be following closely behind, and carriers in South Korea, Japan, and China are also moving aggressively toward 5G deployment.
In the interview, Gurnani noted that a number of other countries are ahead when it comes to spectrum policies. To make their foray into 5G feasible, Verizon and other American carriers will need greater access to spectrum. “For technical trials themselves, we have what we need,” he said. “Beyond that, 5G will require big bands of spectrum.”
To The Future
Assuming Verizon and other carriers can get the spectrum they need, we may have access to 5G networks much sooner than expected. Like 4G, which really helped to drive the mass adoption of smartphones, 5G will likely spur a great deal of innovation. The ability to have super-fast speeds and low latency opens up all kinds of doors, enabling things like latency-free wireless virtual reality, for example.
What other applications for 5G technology can you think of? Are you ready for the next major mobile revolution? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!