CES 2018: How 5G could change our daily internet usage

This year’s CES promises to be a banner year for 5G, the wireless protocol that could be the biggest innovation since broadband. Ericsson predicts that there will be 1 billion 5G subscribers by the year 2023, which represents more than 20 percent of the world’s entire population. Given that market introduction is planned for 2019, that’s about 634 customers signing up per minute for three straight years. Tech experts contend that it might even replace home broadband, given how much cheaper it is for providers to set up versus existing wired infrastructure.

An innovation like 5G might invoke a “so what?” response in some, but it’s worth remembering that while broadband internet might seem pedestrian compared to the gee-whiz sci-fi of self-driving cars and artificial intelligence, the proliferation of fast, reliable broadband has enabled countless technologies - streaming video, online gaming, piracy, software as a service, the entire art of web design, social media, and more. None of it would be possible without broadband.

5G promises improvements that could enable an equally revolutionary future.

So what is it?

5G is a new wireless technology, the successor to the 4G / 4GLTE wireless network utilized by our current smartphones. 5G promises to be both faster and more reliable than currently existing mobile networks, consistently delivering peak speeds, even indoors and in congested areas.

It also promises a massive increase in bandwidth and a much lower latency. CNET claims that the lag between when a device sends a request for a website and the network responds will be reduced to a single millisecond, which is “400 times faster than the blink of an eye.”

VR and gaming

Reliable 5G has the potential to empower VR like never before. As headsets like the Oculus Go enter the mobile space, 5G ensures that they’ll be able to connect to a constant flow of high resolution content, anywhere. Imagine watching the Superbowl in 4K from the fifty yard line, or over the wide receiver’s shoulder. Imagine a ref being able to review a play from any player’s helmet cam, anywhere on the field, instantly.

Nintendo has dominated the mobile gaming landscape since the original Game Boy, and the Switch lets you take your full-powered console anywhere. In the future, 5G could allow anyone, anywhere to have a lag-free, ultra-reliable wireless connection for multiplayer gaming. The Switch is already the fastest selling console of all time. What if Sony and Microsoft decided to follow suit and go mobile with their next console generation? Imagine running a Destiny 2 raid at a deli on your lunch break or jumping into a PUBG instance while on the bus to work, with zero latency, no matter where you were and how many other people were on the same connection?

Remote surgery is cool, but I want to pwn noobs from a park bench.

The internet of things

Industry pundits are abuzz about how 5G enables the Internet of Things, wherein manufacturers put sensors and wireless hookups into absolutely everything, allowing for all of the gizmos in your life to seamlessly communicate and automate via a series of if/then relationships. 5G allows all of these gizmos to be online at the same time, and connect to one another at high speeds.

Think for example, about grocery assistance. It would be great to be able to walk into the store, know exactly where everything on my list was (and if it’s in stock), the most efficient route to grab everything I need, and the location of the shortest check-out lines. With 5G’s highly accurate location awareness combined with wireless sensors in everything, this dream of less aggravating grocery shopping can become a reality.

And as a driver well-acquainted with the madness that is the New Jersey Turnpike, a highway curve that can detect the presence of ice and force cars to slow down via lightning fast 5G sounds very appealing.

That being said, given how often cyber security threats have been in the media lately, it’s interesting to think about the implications of connecting everything via a network. It could be super convenient…it could also be a malicious hacker’s paradise.

Remote medicine

5G’s exceptionally low latency combined with VR, haptic interfaces, and robots may allow for a future of remote surgery, observable by any med student with a VR headset, anywhere in the world. Consider how many remote areas there are, even in this country, and how beneficial it could be to have the expertise of a Sloan-Kettering oncologist available in Juneau, Alaska or Bentonsport, Iowa.

5G might now sound as exciting as self-driving cars or Volta, but the implications of this technological breakthrough are pretty staggering.

We’ll be bringing you more information on 5G as we learn about it during CES 2018.