The transition from 3G to 4G was huge: phones evolved from being able to download the occasional photo to being able to download full-length movies in minutes. In some cases, the speeds enabled by 4G and LTE outstripped available wired broadband, and it was used as an alternative to wired broadband in some locations. It’s estimated that 4G wireless makes an annual contribution of $475 billion to the US economy and that there are 4.7 million wireless-related jobs.
5G will have an even bigger impact: it is faster, has lower latencies, and can support many more devices on the same networks. 5G speeds are expected to outstrip 4G by 10 to 100 times. That means 5G is not just a plausible substitute for wired broadband — it’s massively better than the vast majority of wired broadband connections available in the US.
5G started rolling out in earnest this year, and Ericsson thinks that within six years, more than twenty percent of the global population will have access to 5G. Ericsson also estimates that wireless broadband use will increase 8 times in the same period as adoption soars and new applications and services that take advantage of 5G’s lower latencies and increased bandwidths come online.
But we’re not there yet. Wireless broadband is a game changer, but it will put significant pressure on existing fiber backhaul. The massive increase in wireless broadband traffic necessitates an equally impressive investment in the construction of so-called deep fiber to increase national network capacity for wired and wireless broadband, rural coverage, and the wireless densification needed by 5G’s small-cell technology.
Cable and wireless companies are deeply invested in the future of wireless broadband, and are ready to invest $275 billion into building out 5G infrastructure, creating an estimated three million new jobs and generating an additional $500 billion for the economy.
The wireless industry of clamoring for qualified professionals with the expertise to lead its expansion during the 5G rollout. The opportunities created by 5G are not to be underestimated. Hiring in the space is highly competitive, and the companies who will be able to take best advantage of the market changes brought about by 5G and wireless broadband are those that can strategically hire the right leadership. This is also an exciting opportunity for technical executives with the right mix of technical expertise, certifications in emerging technologies, and soft skills.
But what are the practical consequences of the increased bandwidths, reduced latencies, reduced power requirements, and increased device capacity of 5G networks? The Internet of Things is the most obvious beneficiary of 5G: it will help the industry to overcome many of the limitations that existing technologies impose on the IoT, such as latencies that prevent real time data transfer and network constraints around the number of connected nodes.
Healthcare is another of America’s dominant industries that will be reshaped by ubiquitous wireless broadband. It’s estimated that 5G could generate $305 billion in cost reductions each year, largely brought about by remote patient monitoring and remote surgery.
Small-scale smart city projects have been rolling out for the last few years, but 5G’s low-power requirements and increased bandwidth can support smaller and more capable sensors and smart devices throughout our urban spaces. With lower energy requirements and reduced traffic congestion, it’s estimated that smart cities can deliver $160 billion in cost savings and increased efficiency of infrastructure management.
The Electric Power Grid Company has estimated that widespread wireless adoption could “create $1.8 trillion in additive revenue to the US economy ” through improved monitoring and management of the energy grid.
Wireless broadband and 5G represent an incredible opportunity for those businesses with the leadership and technical expertise to catch the rising tide.