A decade ago, streaming video on a mobile phone was wishful thinking at best. Today, a video chat app invented by a college student is positioning itself for an IPO.
The mobile internet has advanced at a staggering pace, and the world is already preparing for the next major phase in its evolution: 5G. Many people have little concept of the communications infrastructure already in place, let alone what might be next, but it’s important to note that many of the technologies on the horizon -- self-driving cars, the Internet of Things, 360-degree-video-capturing drones -- will require faster wireless networks. And all of this new tech will require a slew of new businesses to power it.
“Offering ‘perceived infinite capacity,’ 5G will provide the basis for the emergence of ubiquitous new wireless platforms that, in turn, will support the creation of an array of new services and businesses,” wrote Richard Adler, a distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future, in a Recode essay on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Adler held a telephone press conference on the subject of 5G in advance of the inaugural White House Frontiers Conference on science and technology, which takes place today in Pittsburgh. The conference will highlight burgeoning fields such as machine learning and on-demand services -- and their potential to connect the world and shape the future on personal, local, national, global and interplanetary levels, or “frontiers.” Representatives from Pfizer, Fitbit, NASA and more are convening today to discuss what’s on the horizon for U.S. innovation, and Adler asserts that 5G will be a key driver of what’s to come.
Adler makes comparisons to the advent of the telephone, cable TV and even the iTunes App Store as comparable “platforms” for innovation throughout history. Several industries developed atop each of these, and 5G will unlock further opportunities. Consider cybersecurity: New networks will mean new entry points for hackers, and in turn, innovation on the part of those who protect against them. This is just one example, though “imaginative entrepreneurs,” as Adler describes, will create new services and capabilities beyond what is forecasted today.
The federal government has recognized the potential of 5G, and in July, the National Science Foundation pledged to invest $400 million in 5G research. The FCC has taken steps as well. But in order for 5G to be fully realized, state and local governments are going to have to get on board with private enterprises and research institutions. They will have to ensure that the necessary infrastructure can be installed quickly and cost-effectively, Adler explains.