01 April 2017

FUTURE TRENDS - 5G and Beyond, Mobile Futures at MWC 2017

(Courtesy World Mobile Congress)
Last month, the 2017 Mobile World Congress met in Barcelona, Spain.

Edelman identified 5 key takeaways from the congress, including the shift from content to context marketing (enabled by immersive experiences like social live-broadcast video, 360-degree video, and both augmented and virtual reality), the growing Internet of Things, ongoing progress in digital assistants and AI, the use of “big data” for social causes, and the development of 5G.

5G is being hyped as the technology advancement that will allow everything else to leap forward.

5G could provide the bandwidth, speed, and low latency to allow smart cities to reach their potential.

It will allow IoT devices to connect quickly and effectively, reducing the lag that continues to frustrate users.

But what is 5G? Nobody’s really sure.

It’s the next generation of mobile technology, but what does that mean?

Although industry standards for 5G have not been set yet, one proposal suggests that in order to qualify as a 5G connection, most of the following criteria should be met:
  • One to 10Gbps connections to end points in the field
  • One millisecond end-to-end round trip delay
  • 1000x bandwidth per unit area
  • 10 to 100x number of connected devices
  • (Perception of) 99.999 percent availability
  • (Perception of) 100 percent coverage
  • 90 percent reduction in network energy usage
  • Up to ten-year battery life for low power, machine-type devices

TechRepublic offers a streamlined list of qualifications for 5G:
  • It should be capable of delivering a 1Gbps downlink to start with and multi-gigabits in future
  • Latency must be brought under one millisecond
  • It should be more energy efficient than its predecessors (though there's no agreement yet on just how much more)

It will likely be 2019 or 2020 before these connections become available, and if 4G is an indication, it could take up to eight years after that to reach market saturation. (4G was introduced in 2003/2004, and reached 1 billion connections last year.)

The technological promise of 5G is real, but so are the real-world hurdles that will need to be overcome.

In the meantime, LTE continues to adapt and evolve.

Two new versions of LTE, specifically designed for IoT, were featured at the MWC. These technologies may offer solutions long before 5G is widely deployed.

Although 5G, and the LTE alternatives, present exciting futures for mobile technology, the present is also looking pretty cool.

Among the gadgets and tech unveiled at MWC was Roborace’s sleek self-driving racecar, and CEO Denis Sverdlov’s insightful argument that race tracks offers tech companies a space within which to build consumer trust by testing themselves off the streets. (Given consumer anxieties about self-driving cars, this is a wise suggestion.)

It wasn’t all gadgets, though, and that’s important.

Mobile technology impacts every aspect of modern life, and intentionally including critical goals like youth involvement, gender equity, and sustainability will only serve to benefit the industry.

MWC did a great job on each of those fronts, with YoMo (the Youth Mobile Festival that offers 10-16-year-olds an opportunities to explore potential careers in the mobile industry), the Women4Tech program that provides a platform for women in tech to showcase their work, and offers opportunities to network and share best practices for gender inclusive mobile industry workplaces, and the MWC’s long-standing engagement with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which continued this year with their augmented reality SDGs in Action app.

About Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a published academic, an editor with the Editors Association of Canada, an independent scholar and researcher, and a self-care and narrative coach. She is particularly interested in the intersection of technology and identity - how our tools shape our selves and change our stories, and in how the nature of work is changing as we incorporate more technology into our daily lives.

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