5G will be the lifeblood of the new economy.
Self-driving cars, virtual reality, smart cities and networked robots will all be powered by 5G networks someday soon. 5G promises to open the door to new surgical procedures, safer transportation and instant communication for first responders.
It’s no wonder the Trump administration is considering a government-funded 5G public utility, according to a report Sunday in Axios.
There’s no reason to believe that will happen. A publicly financed 5G project would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. It would be a moonshot unlike anything the government has taken on since it sent people to the moon.
5G is on its way whether the government backs it or not. Major internet companies are far along in their 5G network development, and the first networks will be up and running in the next couple years.
What is 5G?
But 5G is about much more than smartphones. Sensors, thermostats, cars, robots, and other new technology will all connect to 5G one day. Today’s 4G networks don’t have the bandwidth for the vast amounts of data all those devices will transmit.
5G networks will also reduce to virtually zero the lag time between devices and the servers they communicate with. For driverless cars, that means uninterrupted communication between a car and other vehicles, data centers and outside sensors.
To accomplish all that, 5G will need to travel over super-high-frequency airwaves. Higher frequencies bring faster speeds and more bandwidth. But they can’t travel through walls, windows or rooftops, and they get considerably weaker over long distances.
That means wireless companies will need to install thousands — perhaps millions — of miniature cell towers on top of every lamp post, on the side of buildings, inside every home and potentially in every room.
That’s why 5G will complement 4G rather than outright replace it. In buildings and in crowded areas, 5G might provide a speed boost. But when you’re driving down the highway, 4G could be your only option — at least for a while.
Who is building it?
A White House official confirmed that a 5G network, as reported by Axios, is part of the administration’s national security strategy. The official said the memo reported by Axios, however, is “dated” and “not representative of the administration’s thinking,” declining to provide further details.
When is it coming?