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5G isn't just for phones. Here's why

por Foster Crowther (2020-01-25)


id="article-body" class="row" section="article-body"> 5G is here -- and soon it will move beyond the phone.

Angela Lang/CNET Take a five-minute walk behind Qualcomm's main office in San Diego and you'll find an unlikely kind of lab. The cavernous room, previously used for storing office furniture and boxes, has become the mobile chip giant's testing ground for new wireless technologies, where it's working on 5G in ways you may not be expecting. While 5G means super-high speeds on our smartphones, that's really just the beginning.

Immediately inside the door is a tall 5G antenna, beaming its signal across the room. Nets flank the side of the test area so people don't accidentally step onto the blue foam padding lining the floor. Deeper into the room are two cars embedded with modems and cameras that can detect if pedestrians are in the way and quickly alert a driver. 

And in a far corner, hidden behind big wooden crates and metal carts piled high with boxes, Qualcomm has set up tests for automated robots in factories. Antennas mounted on the wall send 5G signals to the "factory floor" using the building's private cellular 5G network. In a demo Qualcomm shows me on video, a forklift drives back and forth, blocking one beam. But signals from other antennas seamlessly cover the connection without missing a beat.

Yep, it's a mock warehouse within a real warehouse. 

"We moved the lab into as realistic an environment as possible," Patrik Lundqvist, Qualcomm director of technical marketing, said as he walks me through a demo. 

Now playing: Watch this: 5G means more than just fast downloads to your phone 4:09 Robots and cars represent just a couple examples of the kinds of machines and devices that could benefit from the rise of 5G, shaking up how we live and work. The heavily hyped technology runs between 10 and 100 times faster than today's typical 4G cellular connection, and it's much more responsive than 4G and Wi-Fi. 5G provides more capacity on the network, letting a lot more devices be connected at the same time. And it's more reliable than other wireless connections.

Well, once those 5G networks get built out. Early tests have shown spotty and inconsistent 5G coverage. 

The initial hype around 5G seems to be all about mobile. The super-fast wireless network will let us download gigabits of data in seconds and stream live video in ultra-high definition. We'll be able to do things that we could never do before on a mobile device -- and do them nearly instantaneously. And just as 4G brought services like Uber ride-hailing and Facebook livestreaming, 5G will bring a wealth of services we haven't even imagined yet.

See also

5G is spotty now but will get so much better. Here's why

No, 5G isn't going to make your 4G LTE phone obsolete

5G is real and lightning fast (sometimes): Here's everything you need to know
But 5G has the ability to transform more than just phones, as I saw in Qualcomm's warehouse lab. It has huge implications for robots, cars, health devices, retail and nearly every industry you can think of. 5G can link street lights and other devices that haven't been connected to the internet before, with ubiquitous sensors constantly talking to each other. Emergency responders will be able to do more on the scene of an accident, while farmers will be able to monitor their crops and livestock. Even cows could become connected. 

Some of these things can be done with 4G today. But where 5G really matters is those mission-critical moments when the network has to respond much faster -- and carry a lot more data. A robot doing surgery or building a car can't be disconnected from physical cables and linked to a wireless network unless the signal is super-fast, stable and responsive. Should you have almost any inquiries concerning in which in addition to how to utilize you can now turn your weekdays and weekends into a special bonding moment with your family., you can call us in our own website. And while you can connect a smart energy meter today using older wireless technology, you can't link the entire grid and instruct it to fix itself by rerouting the power if a tree falls on a wire somewhere along the line. With 5G, you can.

"New things become possible when you can move information at a massive scale," said Gordon Smith, CEO of telecom equipment reseller Sagent. "[5G] becomes the great enabler."