5G — One, Two, Three
5G — This changes everything. As bold as that sounds, there is a lot of truth to it. Prior to 5G, the evolutions of cellular technology, as exciting as they were, were arguably marginal. 5G is different. 5G holds the promise of life-changing, societal-changing technology that we cannot yet fully fathom. Let us break this down into three elements.
One — 5G is not a single-technology upgrade. Rather, it is a new way of looking at cellular service and the infrastructure to carry it…and it involves several new or upgraded technologies to support it. New chips and processors have been invented, new spectrum is being made available and new, massive, fiber optic networks with better, more durable, and more reliable elements are being deployed to support, to name but a few. This is different. 5G is potentially 100 times faster than current 4G technology (even when you consider the upgraded, or “evolved” LTE 4G technology) and that adds extraordinary opportunities for us all.
Two — So what? Who needs all that speed? My cell phone works fine. This would be a valid question if this were only about phone use. But it is not. Not by a long shot. This is about scores of new possibilities in how we work, play and live. It involves manufacturing, transportation, logistics, medicine, education, entertainment, national security…and the list goes on. Here are a couple examples: because of the near-instantaneous speeds, both upload and download, autonomous cars and trucks will soon become much more viable and thus more common as the 5G Smart Highway grids come to the assistance of the current radar-assisted smart vehicles. Feedback to the onboard computers of these vehicles will be instantaneous, making them safer and far more reliable. And because of that, they will become much more ubiquitous. The same is true of telemedicine. Now, we visit doctors via platforms like Zoom (thanks in large part to the COVID outbreak). Add 5G technology to that concept and we will approach a capability where surgery can safely be done robotically by a team of attending physicians in different locations. The bounds of artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, etc., will expand dramatically. CISCO Systems estimates that currently there are about ten streaming devices per capita in our country. That sounds like a lot, but it is just the beginning. In fact, it may sound comically small in just a few short years. This is different. We are just beginning to realize the many possibilities that 5G will usher in.
Three — So what happens now? The disparate parts that make up this 5G phenomenon need to come together, and they are. At the consumer level, the telecoms, ISPs and their device-manufacturing partners creating the 5G capable phones and tablets, work to bring those devices to market. They want to do so quickly as the competition for service subscribers heats up. The marketing hype will drive 5G device demand even before full functionality is possible. Massive fiber deployments will continue in cities, suburbs and now even in rural America as billions of infrastructure dollars, public and private, are spent. Fiber can support the speed of 5G and is considered the gold standard of capability. But cellular mini-towers (fiber connected) will also be deployed on the streets of cities, suburbs and on campuses of all types be they corporate, institutional or government/military. And 5G will not stop at the parking lot. Inside plant backbone for 5G will take place in business and institutional buildings across the land. Conversion to 5G will become competitive survival. There is much to be done to support 5G and to fully experience its benefits to how we all live. But the genie is out of the bottle. This is happening and 5G will potentially dominate many forms of infrastructure-build for the next decade, perhaps longer.
We could not be more excited as we ramp up capabilities and bring resources to bear for outside plant and inside plant solutions to support this major societal transformation. Steve Forbes calls the 5G buildout “elemental”. We believe him and we are enormously proud to be in this industry.