Not long ago, 4G LTE arrived in Arizona and unleashed the power of our mobile devices with a massive boost in wireless speeds. Businesses seized on this revolution as LTE allowed them to grow and streamline their operations in ways never imagined before.
Now it’s the start of a new era. 5G is the next leap in mobile technology. It promises to ultimately transform the way Arizona businesses work, from local startups to national enterprises and everything in between.
How? Well, it’s faster, of course. Or to be precise, it’ll have more bandwidth. But just as importantly, it’ll be quicker. By that, I mean it’ll have much lower latency.
It’s harder to make a marketing slogan for lower latency than it is for speed. But lower latency helps everything feel more instantaneous. If you’ve ever watched an awkward conversation between a news anchor and reporter with a satellite delay, you’ve witnessed latency. The satellite feed has plenty of bandwidth, but it’s just going to take a while for that bandwidth to bounce into space and back.
In our mobile internet experience, latency is the time between pressing play and seeing a video start, or clicking a link and having the webpage load. Decreasing this lag time becomes increasingly vital as people and businesses connect more of their things to the “Internet of Things.”
Take future autonomous cars, for example. Using live maps for navigation is crucial to making them work safely. And ultra-low latency is essential to making these maps effective. Future autonomous vehicles will need to communicate with each other to synchronize traffic flow and avoid colliding. This computer-to-computer chatter needs to happen in milliseconds, not seconds.
5G’s low latency will eventually help open the door for new experiences in virtual reality, telemedicine, manufacturing and many other areas. “Smart cities,” likewise, will be able to connect infrastructure like traffic and street lights and rail system sensors in order to increase efficiencies, capacity and public safety.
Our wireless network needs new hardware capable of supporting 5G to make all this work. But hardware alone won’t get us to 5G. Consider that AT&T’s mobile network has experienced a 470,000 percent increase in data traffic since 2007 and this will only continue to increase. Managing such a massive amount of data requires new software capable of making the most of our physical network.
Businesses will want to consider upgrading their network software to better integrate the power of 5G within their own infrastructure. The key to this is edge computing. It works as a traffic cop to direct application-specific data to where it’s needed most — whether that’s in the cloud or on a customer’s premises.
AT&T’s enterprise solution, Multi-access Edge Computing, will use 5G when it’s available to provide improved flow between data and the systems needed to process all that data. Because MEC is a software, it can easily be added to a business’s existing network.
AT&T has introduced 5G in a dozen cities and plans to deploy a nationwide mobile 5G network in early 2020. In the parts of 12 cities where the network is live, we are working with businesses to help identify and develop their next-generation solutions. As the 5G network expands, these businesses are in a position to lead the way toward the next mobile revolution.
When 5G comes to Arizona, we’ll help businesses create new ways to increase productivity, revenue and customer satisfaction — faster and quicker.
Toni Morales Broberg is president of AT&T Arizona, leads statewide external, government and public affairs efforts focused on infrastructure investment and community engagement