Ann I. Nygren

The 5G Effect: Innovation On Steroids

Within the next two years, an estimated 3.5 billion smartphones will be in service. By 2020, there will be 50 billion devices connected to the Internet of Everything, with more than 1 trillion sensors gauging everything from your portfolio and your heartbeat to how much milk is left in your fridge. Powering it all is a new 5G wireless standard delivering speeds up to 100 times faster than today’s 4G network. Are you ready for an innovation overload?

The jump from 3G to 4G wireless networking standards ushered in the smartphone, mobile banking and e-commerce era, with a pace of innovation that’s been breathtaking. Having a hard time keeping up with it all? Just wait… The 5G tsunami is about to blow your mind.

With plans for wide-scale deployment in 2020, 5G wireless networks will be 100 times faster than 4G and 10 times faster than your broadband connection. You’ll be able to download your favorite movie in a matter of seconds – bye-bye buffer wheels! The age of autonomous cars, robotic factories and doctors performing complex surgeries remotely will become the new normal. And augmented reality won’t be confined to Oculus headset portals.

5G’s 1-to-10 Gbps connection speeds are at the core of tomorrow’s trillion-sensor economy. By 2024, it’s estimated that every person on Earth will be connected to a world wide web in the truest sense – with bandwidths far beyond what Fortune 500 CEOs had at their disposal in the late 1990s. It’s the nirvana Steve Jobs dreamed about: on-demand knowledge for anyone. Anywhere. Anytime.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg: “We are strong believers that 5G will have a very transformative effect on many things in our society. Consumer, media, entertainment…whole industries.”

Eric Xu, chairman of China’s Huawei Technologies, agrees: “We know deep down that the birth of 5G standards represents a new beginning.”

G Whiz

The race is on to build the new 5G infrastructure. Companies that own patents stand to make billions of dollars in royalties. The dominant equipment suppliers could also give national intelligence agencies and militaries an advantage. Equipment makers and telecom operators in America, Europe, South Korea, Japan and China are going all-in to roll out the next generation of wireless networks. And reap the rewards.

Many experts think China is ahead, thanks to the involvement of a government-led committee with vast, highly coordinated resources. Since 2015, it’s built more than 350,000 cell sites vs. fewer than 30,000 in the U.S., according to a recent study by Deloitte. That’s significant, because new 5G networks require a much higher number of cell sites than 4G.

5G’s faster wireless networks rely on sophisticated tech that allows the airwaves to be used more efficiently via high-frequency millimeter waves, which can handle more data but can’t travel as far as the lower-frequency waves of older networks.

In the U.S., 5G development is being led by private companies like AT&T, Verizon, Nokia and others. For its part, the U.S. government has funded some academic research, and the FCC recently announced a plan to speed up the build-out of 5G networks by overriding some local rules and fees governing deployment of vital small cellular transmitters.

One if by Land, Two if by Satellite

Investments at this stage are risky – 5G standards aren’t fully written, and wireless carriers are still trying to figure out how they can best profit from the service and reduce the cost of data. After all, who’s going to stream AR or VR if it costs $10 per minute?

Regardless, some American companies are already scrambling to stake claims on rooftops and light poles, where they can position the cells required by faster networks. Three major U.S. carriers plan on rolling out 5G service in select cities later this year, though most mobile devices compatible with the new network won’t be available until 2019.

Other major players are literally reaching for the sky in their efforts to connect The Rest Of Us. Google’s “Moonshot Factory” is working on high-altitude balloons that can direct themselves up and down the stratosphere, creating an aerial wireless net with 4G LTE connection capacities. Project Loon has redesigned key cell tower components so they’re light and durable enough to be fitted on a solar-powered 50-foot by 40-foot balloon navigating about 12 miles above the Earth’s surface.

Not to be outdone, Elon Musk’s Space X is charging full speed ahead with its ambitious Starlink project that calls for a 4,425-satellite constellation in low Earth orbit to cover the globe with megabit and gigabit Internet access speeds. It’s already been granted a license from the FCC in March and launched numerous satellites into orbit onboard its Falcon 9 rocket this year. Zoom to 5,000 miles above the Earth, and you’ll find a fleet of 16 satellites launched by another company (O3b) that’s already providing connectivity to multiple small island nations. In partnership with Boeing, O3b (Other 3 Billion) is set to become the first multi-terabit satellite constellation in space. Not someday, but as early as 2020.

Science fiction is here. It’s real. And it’s really fast.

With plans for wide-scale deployment in 2020, 5G wireless networks will be 100 times faster than 4G and 10 times faster than your broadband connection. You’ll be able to download your favorite movie in a matter of seconds.

With plans for wide-scale deployment in 2020, 5G wireless networks will be 100 times faster than 4G and 10 times faster than your broadband connection. You’ll be able to download your favorite movie in a matter of seconds.

The China Syndrome

All of these advances will impact humanity in ways we can’t begin to fathom, as well as ways that’ve already been foreseen by the likes of George Orwell. Those familiar with his cautionary tale of Big Brother in the novel “1984” are watching it unfold before their very eyes in China.

As mentioned earlier, China is creating a vast high-speed wireless network as part of a digital dictatorship capable of exerting control over its 1.4 billion citizens in unprecedented ways. A far-flung array of surveillance cameras – hundreds of millions of cameras equipped with facial recognition, body scanning and geo-tracking – are being installed to cast a constant gaze over the activities of every individual, in every public space and dark corner of the country.

Smartphone app data and daily online activity is being combined with big data from government education and medical records, state security assessments, financial records and more to feed an algorithm that creates each individual’s “national citizen score.” The Communist Party calls it “social credit” and says it will be fully operational by 2020.

Think of social credit as a personal scorecard for every Chinese citizen. Those who earn top “citizen scores” get VIP treatment at hotels and airports, cheaper loans, a fast track to the best schools and jobs, etc. Those who say something negative about the government (or have a friend or family member who does so) will be charged with speech crimes and lose points. Buying a beer at the store? It’ll cost you a few social points, since drinking could lead to ill-tempered behavior. Putting some hand sanitizer in your shopping basket? That promotes cleanliness…add a couple of points to your score (which is calculated by interconnected AI systems in real-time). Yes, Big Brother IS watching.

High Five

With 5G on the ground, balloons in the air and satellites in space, we’re witnessing the transformation of a world where trillions of sensors and billions of devices offer free people access to the world’s accumulated knowledge. Access to crowd funding from 8 billion potential investors. Access to 3D printing on the cloud, autonomous cars on the road and more.

Peter Diamandis, entrepreneur extraordinaire and chairman of the X Prize Foundation, sees the future this way: “As the population of online users doubles, we’re about to witness perhaps the most historic acceleration of progress and technological innovation known to man.”

Op/ed column submitted by Ann Nygren, President of Key Consulting Software. KCS is an IT consulting company focused on gaming and hospitality applications ranging from Agilysys (LMS/Stratton Warren/Infogenesis), Infinium (AM, AR, FA, GL, GT, HR, IR, PA, PL, PY, TR), Bally’s (CMS, CMP, ACSC & SDS), and interfaces with Aristocrat, IGT and Micros to Transitioning properties during purchase, sales, or merging of properties. KCS provides IT Departments with assistance in installation & upgrades, customization, interfacing and creation of unique client-specific software. Ann can be reached at ann@kcsoft.com.