How 5G Will be the “Missing Piece” to Tomorrow’s Mobile Life
Once upon a time, technology molded economic activity and social life to its patterns rather than allowing users to bend the technology to their needs.
The wireless industry flipped that script, said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler during a keynote session kicking off the CTIA Super Mobility show in Las Vegas.
“This industry has connected hundreds of millions of Americans, transformed the economy, and transformed how those hundreds of millions of people live their lives,” said Wheeler. “Over the past 30-plus years, this industry has gradually created a new network paradigm. Network usage is no longer network dictated. Instead of having the user come to the network, the network has come to the user.”
“5G is the missing piece of the puzzle depicting the wireless future,” he continued. “Wired and wireless networks force consumers to choose either high speed and capacity or mobility. 5G’s promise of gigabit mobile connections at any location will open up hugely disruptive new value propositions for the users of networks.”
Today, the evidence of that transition to empowered users is all around us, said Meredith Attwell Baker, President and CEO, CTIA. This change is epitomized in one stat: the average American now spends more than one-third of their daily lives on their smartphone, consuming ever-increasing levels of data for reasons from entertainment to entrepreneurship.
“That phone,” as Glenn Lurie, President and CEO of AT&T Mobility, put it, “has become the remote control for your life.”
Where does the industry need to go to deliver on the promise of 5G, a network technology allowing greater connectivity at higher speeds for many more devices?
Continued innovation and investment in the space are paramount, said Attwell Baker. Regulators must continue to work hand-in-hand with the industry to limit red tape and intelligently increase access to the wireless spectrum. And the presidential contenders need to start thinking about moving America ahead come January of next year. “The next president needs to have an aggressive 5G plan,” Attwell Baker said. “Every company has a mobile strategy and so too should our nation.”
Wheeler emphasized the need to bring the conversation about the benefits of 5G technology — smarter healthcare, intelligent traffic systems, more efficient energy usage — to the local communities that will be key in deploying the thousands of nodes necessary to roll out an expansive Internet of Things. “We need to tell the story of what 5G is not just in terms of technology but in terms of deliverables that mean things to real people,” said Wheeler. “We will be unsuccessful in dealing with [not-in-my-backyard]-ism and the recalcitrance of local authorities if all we talk about is engineering. If we want the technology to be successful, we have to talk about the benefits to real people.” With the vision and shared understanding for the future of connectivity firmly in mind, Lurie said the industry must then continue to improve how it delivers a seamless experience to customers. “In a connected life, you want to use one app. You want to use one experience. If you want to get the velocity we need in this space, you must must must make it simple,” Lurie said. When our smartphones talk to our homes, our cars and our cities, “all of a sudden the inanimate objects are taking care of you instead of you taking care of them.” The upside of overcoming these challenges? The world will come to understand what wireless innovators already know: “5G is not a technology,” Wheeler said. “It is a revolution.”