How 5G wireless will transform connectivity

Core mobile technologies are at the heart of how we will reach the next billion Internet users.

Internet access is something many of us tend to take for granted. With roughly 3 billion people—or just under half the world's population—currently online, it's easy to forget that billions still have no web access.

The “next billion” web users are likely to go online by the end of 2017. Exactly how this group will be brought into the digital world was the theme of The Next Billion: San Francisco conference, which took place October 13. It investigated the extension of digital technology to the next billion web users and its profound implications for global commerce, education, and civic access.

Harnessing mobile technology

Wireless and mobile technologies are at the heart of how we’ll reach those next billion users. Matt Grob, CTO of Qualcomm, is one of thousands of people whose employers are working on the creation of 5G, the next-generation wireless standard that, he said, “will connect every electronic device in every industry.”

“5G will be more than just a faster connection,” said Grob. “It will have scalable throughput, different reliability of connection options, and enable new types of immersive experiences.”

While 5G is still in its infancy, the standard is expected to eventually support streaming 8K-quality video at 100 megabits per second and empower fully immersive virtual and augmented reality experiences. 5G will be built to scale, overcoming the “network overload” problems that remain prevalent today, supporting 100,000 high-quality streaming video connections in the space of a single city block. Ultimately, its adoption will transform such sectors as education, healthcare, and emergency services.

Grob said while challenges remain in defining the standards, obtaining spectrum, and building an applicable business model to support 5G, we should expect 5G to roll out in 2018 or 2019.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of 5G isn’t its speed, he said, but rather its reliability, which is particularly important in extending access to the next billion users, who likely live in underdeveloped areas.

“A wireless connection that is more reliable than a wired connection will result in innovations that we can’t predict,” Grob said.

The next billion: Lessons for leaders

  •   The next billion Internet users will connect via mobile devices.
  •   The advent of 5G wireless networks will allow for deeply immersive mobile experiences.