The Future of 5G

The millisecond latency that 5G promises is largely possible to an emphasis on moving new infrastructure toward the edge. Long-term visions for this layout include the announcement of a neuromorphic (brain-inspired) chip that would rival quantum computing and be small enough to include in IoT devices, providing them with situationally-aware AI. Having AI at the edge would speed up processing and decision making instead of having to bounce back to the cloud for every execution.

"The technology and design of neuromorphic computing is advancing more rapidly than its rival revolution, quantum computing. There is already wide speculation both in academia and company R&D about ways to inscribe heavy computing capabilities in the hardware of smart phones, tablets and laptops. The key is to achieve the extreme energy-efficiency of a biological brain and mimic the way neural networks process information through electric impulses." - Sayani Majumdar, Academy Fellow at Aalto University

The close proximity and low latency of 5G infrastructure will also be greatly advantageous to the development of wearable IoT devices that could gather physiological data and forward it to your smartphone. This paper out of the International Journal of Computer Science for instance discusses designs for wearable EEG and ECG system on chip sensor patches that could wirelessly measure and transmit brain and heart activity.

Unifying existing network assets and restructuring them to be near the end user is a big part of what will enable 'wireless fiber' speeds and ultra-low latency, laying the groundwork for a cohesive digital fabric of the future that opens the door to streaming 4K video and virtual reality. However, the full image of 5G is much larger than that.

Such a ubiquitous wireless network would help realize a fully autonomous smart world with a range of 21st century capabilities:

  • Next generation mobile immersive media & education
  • Real-time surveillance / facial recognition & predictive policing
  • Mobile healthcare & monitoring via wearables
  • Industrial IoT & autonomous manufacturing
  • Smart agriculture (self-driving tractors, drones, field robots)
  • Retail asset tracking & real-time inventory, pick, pack and ship & logistics
  • Smart infrastructure connectivity in home and city

Looking briefly at only one of those bullets, cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) interfaces for self-driving cars have been in development over the last 10 years and were standardized by 3GPP Release 14 in 2016. Future releases will support autonomous/assisted navigation including collision avoidance, traffic alerts, infotainment, diagnostics, emissions, automated parking and refueling timing.

V2X includes a suite of communication interactions such as Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), Network (V2N), Pedestrian (V2P) and Infrastructure (V2I), which will allow vehicles to communicate autonomously in real-time among themselves and their environment.

Seeing, sensing, exchanging and processing data for situational awareness, the system can stream that information to a central network repository for smart traffic administration and statistics storage, leading to non-line of sight intelligence about other vehicles and situational awareness of the road. With platooning technologies, vehicles can share real-time information processed by vehicle intelligence, allowing heavy traffic to be coordinated in a swarm fashion.

Developing fully autonomous cars and related 5G technologies could carry over to drones (not to mention that flying taxis are expected to be commercialized in the coming decade) as well as any other form of robotics. Thousands of industrial automation machines would benefit from 5G's low latency connection to keep digitalized production lines flowing flawlessly, complete with real-time dashboard statistics and logistics. Nearly anything time-sensitive or mission critical would stand to benefit from 5G.

"FirstNet" - A Big First Step for 5G in the U.S.

Created under the U.S. Department of Commerce and enacted by Congress on February 22, 2012, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is responsible for organizing a next-generation 911 network that would be dedicated to first responder communications.

It's been estimated that public safety organizations nationwide currently use over 10,000 different communication networks and FirstNet would streamline that infrastructure to better support real-time information exchange as well as interoperability between divisions and locations.

Directed the Commission to allocate the D-Block (758-763MHz / 788-793MHz) to public safety for use in a nationwide broadband network; and Formed the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) as an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce. FirstNet is charged with responsibilities for deploying and operating the nationwide public safety broadband network and will hold the license for both the existing public safety broadband spectrum (763-769 MHz/793-799 MHz) and the reallocated D Block. Allocated up to $7 billion dollars to FirstNet to construct this nationwide public safety broadband network. -FCC

Existing just above TV broadcast channels in spectrum, the 700MHz bandwidth was freed up as a result of the digital television transition of a few years back and has now been allocated toward FirstNet.

Responding to a FirstNet bid on the Federal Business Opportunities website (, AT&T was awarded $100 billion over 25 years to provide equipment and services for building out FirstNet, which will span communities in all 50 U.S. states, all five U.S. territories, as well as Washington D.C.

Landing this deal will see all U.S. first responders on AT&T, which outcompeted Verizon for the contract, and will provide the carrier with a launching point from which it can "innovate and evolve" around technologies such as 5G when the time comes to pivot in that direction.

So, when is 5G coming? That depends on where you live, the device you're looking to buy with 5G connectivity, which company you ask for a roadmap, and whether or not you mean a specific part of the spectrum (a few hundred MHz to 50GHz and beyond) when you say 5G.

The global timeline for a 2020 rollout has been accelerated recently with the 3GPP ratification of a new low-end 5G standard, 5G LTE, which promises full-blown standards and implementation between 2020 and 2022.

In the United States, carriers including AT&T, and Verizon are looking to begin rolling out their versions of 5G this year, T-Mobile has said 2019, while Qualcomm also reports that you'll be able to buy smartphones equipped with its Snapdragon X50 5G NR modem by 2019, though it's interesting to note that Apple, Samsung and Huawei are not yet counted among the OEM device partners who have agreed to build X50-based devices.