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Opinion: 5G networks will bring massive changes

Kelly Siegel
Attendees wait in line for a 5G exhibition at the Qualcomm booth during CES 2019 consumer electronics show, on January 10, 2019 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

With high-profile launches around the corner for the nation’s leading wireless carriers, the 5G revolution is here, and our collective experience with connectivity is in for a major shakeup.

5G will function at speeds 10 to 20 times faster than 4G, and offer extremely low latency and more devices to be connected at once. You’ll be able to download a movie in seconds, streaming will be much smoother, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Verizon’s 5G mobile services are set to launch April 11 in Chicago and Minneapolis, with about 30 more city launches scheduled by Verizon in 2019. The upgrade comes with a cost to the user, as Verizon will charge customers $10 monthly per line that moves to the 5G network. In Michigan, Ann Arbor served as a 5G testbed and is likely to be the first location in the state to get 5G, through Verizon’s 5G Home service.

Other top carriers are also launching (or have already launched) 5G services in various U.S. cities, and growth will be rapid-fire throughout 2019 and 2020 as key players battle to see who can achieve the most expansive network the quickest and as more 5G devices become available. By 2020, leading carriers aim to have most of the U.S. covered with 5G.

What does it mean?

In all aspects of our lives, we rely on phones, tablets, computers and streaming devices more than ever. Whether work or play, the arrival of 5G will change our connected experiences in a profound way.

Everything we do online will be nearly instantaneous. What you’re used to seeing now will soon be deemed slow. Websites, videos and more will load with almost zero lag time. Phone calls via services like Skype will be more seamless. Online gaming experiences will be less glitchy.

The high-speed and low latency of 5G networks will make advances in automated vehicles arrive at a much quicker pace. City leaders can use 5G tech for everything from letting traffic lights communicate with each other, to engineering smart buildings that waste fewer resources.

With so many positive benefits on the line here, the key for 5G to launch is for all stakeholders to commit 100% to using proper health and safety protocols.

On the health front, many advocate groups have expressed concerns about the new equipment that must be installed to bring 5G to life. An estimated 300,000 new antennas are needed, and much of the equipment will be housed closer to residents than before, embedded in existing light fixtures.

It’s critical that any health effects of this equipment are studied and taken seriously, and citizens’ health and safety are given top priority, even if it delays rollout of the networks.

Cybersecurity will now be especially important due to all the new frontiers we are launching. Under no circumstances can autonomous vehicles and smart city technology using 5G be left vulnerable to attack.

Time will tell if industry leaders commit to the proper level of 5G security that will be needed as the 5G revolution moves onward, but it’s without a doubt a commitment they need to take seriously.

Kelly Siegel is CEO of National Technology Management, a Metro Detroit based IT consulting firm.