By Ken Yeung, Technology Editor, Flipboard
Dubbed the year of the 5G tsunami, 2019 promised to transform how we communicate, thanks to the fifth-generation cellular network technology. From faster wireless internet speeds to unlocking the potential of the internet of things, industry experts and providers boasted of 5G’s benefits on society while regulators warned about the risks.
As Flipboard’s technology editor, I’ve been following the latest trend and the impact it’s already having on how we communicate. When MWC Los Angeles takes place in October, it does so at a time of change for the industry with regulatory and national security concerns, the emergence of owned streaming services and a slow rollout of 5G supported cities and devices.
5G’s benefits to society have been well-touted, but largely focus on incredible wireless speeds the technology offers. Proponents argue that it could power self-driving cars, innovative medical procedures such as remote surgeries, a more immersive internet experience through haptic touch, virtual reality, drone usage, and more. And with such accessibility, attention is turning towards the content and services enabled by 5G including streaming content, gaming, and more. With smartphone sales to decrease worldwide this year, carriers are being forced to look into new opportunities to capture market share, turning towards services.
Even though 5G’s impact may be immediately felt by the enterprise, phone makers are already marketing the technology to consumers both in terms of the benefits and branding on their devices. Whether it’s a smartphone from Samsung, OnePlus, Apple, Oppo, Xiaomi, or Huawei, the proliferation of 5G-enabled devices is upon us.
The landscape has already begun shifting, but with mixed results. This year so far, the T-Mobile/Sprint merger inched closer to completion, but even with its promise for being a boon to 5G, it faces opposition from more than a dozen states seeking to stop the deal. Huawei has also been impacted by regulators, thanks to a ban by the U.S. government which perceives it as being a national security threat, raising concerns from some over its impact on 5G adoption in rural communities.
5G adoption in the U.S. began thanks to Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint introducing it into cities like Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, and Dallas—reviews thus far have been favorable. The Federal Communications Commission has tried to expedite the rollout but faces court challenges amid health concerns, a claim the FCC denies.
The definition of communication is evolving before our eyes, reshaped by society’s interactions with technology, whether it’s watching shows on our mobile device, increasing our productivity and capabilities with Google’s Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and other forms of artificial intelligence, or needing to find ways to protect our data in an age where the frequency of cyberattacks are regular instances. These are among the themes that will be at the forefront this year at MWC Los Angeles.
What kind of vision will executives from US Cellular, Ericsson, Viacom, Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Cisco, and others paint about technology’s effect on their industry as they present on stage this October? Are there regulatory troubles in their future or do they foresee sunny skies ahead? The latest discussions on 5G and its impact on how we’ll be using our mobile devices are about to begin.
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