2007 forever transformed mobile communications. This, of course, was the year in which the Apple iPhone was released. After that point, flip phones were closed and remained so in a drawer for good. The luxuries afforded by personal computing on the go completely revolutionized the market. In the decade since, devices have become broader, thinner, and lighter. Processing speeds have become faster and cameras are now more resolute. Millions of applications have flooded marketplaces - bringing utility to Apple and a host of competitor devices, making smartphones almost impossible to live without.
While devices have been evolving and improving, so have the cellular networks that give them their utility. The first network, 1G, provided tone and allowed for cellular calls. 2G brought texting capabilities, 3G (what allowed for the iPhone) brought mobile web. Most recently, 4G and LTE brought mobile web at speeds 10x faster than before, which allowed for streaming content and location accuracy - setting the table for services like Uber and Spotify to thrive.
As you can guess, 5G will bring with it another speed increase, and it’s big. To start, speeds will be 100x that of 4G. But it’s not just the increase in speed that will make 5G the biggest thing to happen to mobile since the release of the iPhone. The actual hardware needed to achieve this speed results in much more precise location identification on the network. Up to this point, latency and location accuracy have been determining factors in the success and utilization of VR and AR technology. With 5G, these technologies can be fully realized. Self checkout technologies and communication between autonomous devices can advance by leaps and bounds. 5G has the potential to fully immerse shoppers in a digital world - while in the brick and mortar environment. Think of it as technology assisted shopping - and the next stage of experiential retail.
Location accuracy also serves to improve ad targeting, visitor pathing, and other communications and insights previously available only when connected to WiFi or surrounded by beacons. As one analyst writes, “5G could step in to fully realize the unfulfilled promise of beacons.**”The structure of a 5G network itself will be much like that of WiFi, with multiple close-proximity antenna. Depending on how service providers structure plans in the future, it may become unnecessary to join WiFi networks, as no increase in fidelity will occur.
While 5G-capable phones are already being produced, the network itself is not expected to reach sizable scale for another couple of years - giving us plenty of time to dream about life in a 5G world.