The fifth generation of wireless technology—5G—promises faster service, more data, and more devices connected to each other.
U.S. cell phone companies have unveiled new 5G phones and small 5G networks this year, and more is coming. But it’s not just about better cell service.
The last generation, 4G, is widely credited with enabling the rise of online shopping and services like Uber. Now, analysts say 5G technology could do the same for virtual reality and the internet of things.
The result, they say, could be revolutionary. Think dressing rooms for online shopping in which you can feel the clothes without actually being there. Smart homes that make Nest and voice-controlled light switches look like dunces.
And, of course, 5G could transform many industries. Not just communication and media, but manufacturing, healthcare, even agriculture.
“Car-to-car communications, communication for safety, and possibly self-driving cars down the road,” Muriel Médard told Living Lab Radio.
Médard is the Cecil H. Green Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and is one of the speakers at the EmTech Next conference June 11 and 12 at the MIT Media Lab.
Médard said it’s not only the speed of the network but also the reliability that is key.
“If one can count on reliable services that allow remote operation of certain aspects of our work lives--not just of course what we're used to right now, which would be say a teleconference--that's where you change the way people work quite a bit,” she said.
“But I hesitate to say ‘virtual reality.’ Let's say, a more enhanced presence. Or a wider variety of applications that could really change where we work and what the expectations are of how people interact with each other.”
Even with the promise and potential of 5G, it's not known when such a network will be ready throughout the United States. But several cities are poised to grow their networks this year.