Remember when we had 1G back in the 1980s? No? That’s because back then so few thought there would ever be something faster and better. And it took a long time to get to 2G, which finally occurred in the 1990s. It took the better part of yet another decade to get up to 3G. For those of you who noticed, it took less time to get to what most of us now use, 4G, and we all know it is much faster.
Why did the advancements take so long, and when will we get 5G?
The reality is that the three digital accelerators of processing power, storage, and bandwidth (which I’ve written about in-depth over the last 30 years) have created a very predictable path of all of the various wireless speeds and how long they would take to become reality.
In an exponential change, two becomes four, which becomes eight. The change is slow in the beginning but gets faster later. For example, to go from a 5 megahertz chip to a 500 megahertz chip took 20 years. To double that took eight months, and that was quite a long time ago. Change progresses faster and faster as time goes by.
In other words, if you’d graph it, the change would look more like a hockey stick, with a fairly horizontal path for a while and then a sudden shoot upwards. On that graph, we’re currently at the spot where you put your hands on the hockey stick, thanks to how fast everything is accelerating. That’s the power of exponential change.
So to go from 4G to 5G is taking less time than from 3G to 4G. And, by the way, 5G is already starting.
You’ve likely seen “LTE,” which is often used to describe 4G. The mobile industry likes to talk in terms of acronyms, and LTE stands for Long-Term Evolution, although thanks to the three digital accelerators, the length of term is becoming shorter.
So, has anyone started on 5G? Yes! The South Korean government is already investing $1.5 billion into developing and deploying 5G by the end of the decade. And the speed will be amazing. For example, with 5G you’ll be able to download a feature-length film onto a wireless device in one second. Today that same film would take about 40 seconds to download. The current estimate is that 5G, we’ll reach speeds 1,000 times faster than the current technology.
Think about that: 5G will be 1,000 times faster than 4G! That is going to profoundly change how we use our mobile devices once again. We didn’t have TED Talks with 1G or even 2G because it was too slow. Even 3G did not create a great video experience. You didn’t have Skype video working very well with 3G, and you surely didn’t have multiple connections. But with 4G we can make that work. And of course, Netflix is doing quite well with 4G, but at 2G Netflix in its current form wouldn’t have worked at all.
When you go from 4G to 5G—up 1,000 times faster—you have a gigantic enabler for new products, new services, and all sorts of things that are impossible today. Keep in mind that it’s currently 2014. The end of the decade is coming up fast, and 5G will, once again, will be a game-changer.
Since 5G’s implementation is predictable, and we’re already using mobility to transform every business process, much less how we live, work, and play, we have to ask ourselves, “What might 5G bring us? What will we be able to do with it within our organization?”
I would love to hear your thoughts about what a 1,000 times faster wireless speed might do for you, other than just getting a feature-length film in a second. What will you do with 5G?