Verizon’s Redshaw and 5G Americas’ Pearson are confident that the 5G era has already begun, at least in the U.S. For instance, The Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Wyglinski says while there has been progress made with respect to 5G smartphones and devices connected to a cellular base station, the part of 5G technology that everyone is looking forward to—namely, IoT connectivity—will still take some time, possibly another five years, before it is mature enough to be deployed commercially.
AT&T’s Penrose is also confident the next generation network will help enable the handling and management of the upcoming “massive IoT” explosion. He says it will create new opportunities to connect and transform businesses across nearly every industry.
“We are truly living in exciting times,” Wyglinski says. “The potential of 5G technology to change the way we interact with our environment and each other, such as autonomous vehicles and smart cities, will be equally or even more dramatic (as) when the first automobiles were made commercially available to the public. I see ourselves living in a society 10 years from now that will look nothing like today.”
It’s an exciting picture indeed, but it’s possible that AVs won’t be that big a part of the 5G story in hindsight. “If there is in fact a life-changing impact from 5G, history tells us it likely will be in something that nobody has yet anticipated,” says Gartner’s Menezes. “Remember that while 3G provided a big jump in data speeds from 2G, the real impact came from the introduction of the smartphone that could take advantage of those speeds. Likewise for 4G, the big impact arguably came from continuing improvement in the smartphone and from the new platforms such as social media and video aggregation (e.g., Netflix, YouTube) that the network technology made usable to the huge mobile consumer market.”
If Menezes is correct, the question of whether 5G will hasten the era of autonomous vehicles or have little impact at all will be a moot point. Instead, the question will be what opportunities will 5G create that nobody’s even thinking about?