Everyone in the wireless industry agrees that 5G is coming by the end of the decade. But what will it be used for? That's still up in the air.
Nokia previewed demonstrations at The Mobile World Congress this year, detailing its vision for 5G. Their 5G forecast includes some surprising capabilities: 5G will make cars safer to drive. It will make instant replay more instant. And doctors will be able to perform surgery using wirelessly controlled robots.
And, yes, 5G will be much faster.
Nokia, aiming to be one of the world's biggest 5G players, claims that it has tested a 5G connection with download speeds of 30 gigabits per second. That's more than 1,000 times faster than your average 4G connection.
In the real world, there's very little chance of your phone actually getting speeds that fast. Trees, buildings, your distance from a cell tower and those pesky other customers who are also trying to use the network are going to slow down speeds dramatically from what Nokia was able to achieve in a lab.
Those faster speeds will also allow more customers to be connected at the same time, giving the network more capacity and making connections more reliable for mobile customers.
Sports stadiums are equipped with giant screens for people in the nosebleed sections. But what if you could get the feed of the game or concert in real-time on your smartphone or tablet? You could even switch the camera angle and get truly instant replay. And the video would be in stunning 4K, about four-times the resolution of HD.
Today's self-driving test cars are powered by wireless networks. One problem that has emerged is the amount of latency, or lag, between the car's sensor and the data center sending information to the car.
When self-drivng cars become a reality, they'll have to identify an obstacle and immediately communicate that to the data center (and receive instructions from the cloud) with virtually no latency whatsoever. Otherwise, the car could crash.
One of 5G's biggest promises is ultra-low latency, delivering uninterrupted communication flow to driverless cars. That could dramatically improve vehicle safety and reduce congestion.
Robotic surgical tools can be incredibly useful machines for doctors. But they need to react in real-time, just as the doctor issues a command. The same goes for robots that perform complex manufacturing commands, which need to communicate instantly with other robots on the assembly line.
When you put on a virtual reality mask, you can "enter" a virtual world with other people. You can interact, play video games, and even virtually high-five them. Virual reality is now helping Germany catch the last Nazi war criminals.
Virtual reality users "will be able to collaborate with others as if they are in the same physical location." It could usher in a new era of video games and introduce a new era of remote collaboration.
"5G will give birth to the next phase of human possibilities, bringing about the automation of everything," said Marcus Weldon, chief technology officer at Nokia. "This automation, driven by a smart, invisible network, will create new businesses, give rise to new services and, ultimately, free up more time for people."