5G will be the game-changer we have been waiting for

A fully mobile, intelligent gigabit society could transform not only our world but the whole of humanity.
16 November 2018

China Telecom stand displaying 5G technology during the Mobile World Conference in Shanghai. Source: AFP

We are approaching the time of year where technologists and futurists attempt to look into their virtual crystal ball and predict what tech trends will dominate 2019. Although I generally avoid writing such articles, there is an increasing excitement surrounding the arrival of 5G connectivity next year. Could it really transform our mobile-first world?

Eleven years have passed since the iPhone first arrived on the scene and provided a game-changer moment where we began to carry everything that matters to us in our pockets. As the years have passed, the mobile industry has struggled to persuade users to upgrade their handset. The reality is that smartphone and app fatigue has set in and it will take something special to provide the much-needed wow factor again.

However, there seems to be a real wind of change in the air as manufacturers finally begin listening to their customers and focus on solving real problems rather than relying on gimmicks. Sadly, Apple doesn’t seem to have got the memo yet and is relying on Memoji’s, Animoji’s and bigger screens. But there is a glimmer of hope.

After spending $10 billion per year (and rising) on innovation, Huawei returned with a new handset that had two-day battery life. But the most intriguing feature was the ability to wirelessly charge your friends iPhone on a night out by just holding it next to a Huawei handset. However, I believe this is just the beginning of a new 5G mobile era waiting on the horizon.

On paper, 5G would be capable of delivering download speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second or even 20Gbps. In reality, these kinds of speeds are probably a few years away for many people. But it opens up the art of the possible and reveals where the industry is heading.

In the UK, Three Mobile have revealed they have committed to spending £2 billion on 5G related technology. The company also believes in our immediate future, many users will no longer need fixed-line home broadband. It feels inevitable that the expense and inconvenience of digging up roads to install fiber broadband will be replaced with cheaper and quicker wireless connections.

There are also more than 8.4 billion IoT connected devices in the world, and this number is increasing at a phenomenal rate. If we look beyond this smorgasbord of sensors and building of smart cities, it’s easy to see how 5G will pave the way for autonomous driving and even improve robotic surgery.

Businesses that have migrated their corporate infrastructure into decentralized apps in the cloud will have the ability to leverage 5G connections and increase their employee’s efficiency. There is also an increasing argument that nobody needs to be physically sat in an office five days a week when they have access to the same technology and tools in their home.

5G also has the potential to be the ultimate leveler. Developing countries are skipping the world of complex infrastructure and even wi-fi by entering the marketplace with just mobile technology and decentralized apps in the cloud.

In our analog world, your success was often determined by your knowledge, IQ or a good old-fashioned case of it’s not what you know but who you know. However, in a mobile-first world digital age where the new currency is data and technology, it could be 5G that offers a competitive edge.

The word ‘game-changer’ is often overused. But, a fully mobile, intelligent gigabit society where data flows at speed could transform not only our world but the whole of humanity too. This vision is still in its infancy, but when you consider the opportunities that surround every device and sensor being connected to high-speed internet, the scale is almost endless.

Before we get carried away with the future possibilities of 5G, we also need to prepare for a period of change. Remember when you judged the value of your mobile phone contract by the number of minutes and texts you can make? Restrictive data packages simply do not work in a digital world of 5G connections. Once again, business models will need to evolve.

What does this mean for you? Your mobile network could be replacing your home broadband provider much sooner than you think, where does this leave landline phones and expensive cable TV packages? Once again, it seems we are entering a new period of technological disruption that will change anything.

Will established brands have learned their lesson and disrupt before they are disrupted? Or will history repeat itself? Only time will tell, but the 5G juggernaut will arrive next year. Just don’t say that I never warned you.