5G has been a hot topic of discussion for some time now — for reasons that are both good and bad. And I certainly understand why some people and organizations continue to have their reservations about the technology. From the early days of the internet to the first iteration of the mobile phone, as we continue to innovate, one thing has become clear: No technology is perfect.
With that viewpoint, 5G is no exception. We’ve all heard the myths and misconceptions about 5G, with some misinformation potentially being more harmful than others. For example, when Covid-19 was first identified, a conspiracy theory immediately surfaced connecting 5G towers to the virus, resulting in public fear and infrastructure being burned down. In December 2019, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission released a report saying that, while research will continue, there is no evidence of health effects from radiofrequency and other mobile technologies, like cellphones, Wi-Fi routers and more.
It’s not just misinformation and health concerns impacting the public understanding of and reception to 5G, either. A recent study from Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) found that consumers and organizations simply don’t understand the benefits of the technology. Thirty-nine percent of respondents from this study said they had no idea whether 5G would improve the quality of cell service, and two-thirds planned on waiting to adopt 5G until their mobile operator forced them to.
We must continually study the impact of all digital technologies on humans and the environment. It’s also the responsibility of organizations and public sector groups to deliver technologies and solutions that have the potential to dramatically improve the lives of individuals around the world.
I believe 5G is one of those technologies. With its nearly unlimited potential to positively impact the economy, as well as the opportunity to expand cell and data coverage to underserved or impoverished areas, 5G is the future of communications.
Here are three reasons I believe the benefits of 5G will vastly outweigh the costs:
1. The Ability To Power Other Technologies Of The Future: The connectivity and responsiveness of 5G will be integral in powering many other technologies of the future, like self-driving cars, drones, virtual reality and more. Think of 5G as the backbone of our connected future. Without it, we simply won’t be able to realize the full potential of many other life-changing technologies.
2. Expanding Connectivity: Most of the understanding of 5G is rooted in its impact on individual cellphone coverage and for home broadband access. And this may be one of the most critical applications of 5G. By expanding fast, reliable internet access to regions previously or historically underserviced, we have the opportunity to use the internet to expand important services in our evolving world, something I discussed in more detail in a previous article. This includes services like virtual education, which is critically important, especially during these current times.
3. Driving The Industries Of Tomorrow: Even as economies and businesses start to recover from the pandemic, it’s clear some things from this period will set the foundation for our “new normal,” including many industries like education, telemedicine and gaming. With its promise of incredibly low latency — meaning there will be little to no delay when requesting data from a network — I see 5G almost certainly driving growth in these and other vital areas. For example, telehealth capabilities could be greatly improved through remote surgeries, and the growing cloud gaming industry may offer dramatically improved gaming experiences.
With any new technology, especially one like 5G that requires massive infrastructure investments and is widely misunderstood, there will undoubtedly be barriers to adoption. This is where our strategic communication efforts come in.
Dispelling The Myths, While Focusing On The Benefits
Nothing worthwhile is easy, nor should it be. 5G is the holy grail of increased connectivity, capacity, speed and bandwidth. And make no mistake, 5G is the future of networks. It is up to us — communications, networking and technology leaders — to clearly articulate how 5G will fundamentally transform the way we work and live.
How Do We Accomplish This Task?
We start by sharing the performance benefits already realized by early rollouts of 5G. Communications service providers (CSPs) started rolling out 5G to select cities a few years ago. What early benefits are CSPs and consumers seeing from 5G? What promise of 5G can we already imagine from these “proofs of concept”?
These new proof points can pave the way for future 5G-enabled concepts. That’s because understanding what is real today helps us envision what is possible tomorrow, whether that be autonomous cars, smart cities with connected transport, enhancements in healthcare with robotics and telehealth, or even smart factories.
Secondly, we need to realize we are all in this together. 5G will not become a reality or mainstream by one company or one leader. It will quite literally take a village to roll out 5G worldwide.
That’s why carriers, mobile operators, CSPs, enterprises and other key stakeholders who are leading these rollouts need to get on the same page and work together to clearly communicate and promote the true value and benefits of 5G to consumers. These organizations can share innovative ideas through thought leadership articles, surveys and data, as well as by publicly showcasing how we are collaborating on this exciting next wave.
The opportunities are endless when it comes to the future of communications and technology. And while 5G will help us get there, we must continue to communicate these benefits while also addressing concerns.