Whenever a new generation of technology is introduced, experts spin up exotic use cases seeking to prove the need for it. 5G technology is no exception. So, what is the use case that necessitates 5G? Is it virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning or all of the above?
You may have already heard marketers clamoring about the need for 5G. As with any complex issue, the answer is often simple, pragmatic and in plain sight. But before we jump into the use case discussion, let’s take a quick look at the current cellular landscape and 5G technology itself.
In its peak hype cycle, 5G promises to be everything for everyone: a unified interface offering multigigabit speeds and sub-millisecond latency, supporting distributed architecture and intelligent edge, utilizing both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, and more. In essence, it offers three distinct capabilities: 1.) ultra-high speeds for enhanced broadband, 2.) ultra-low latency for mission-critical applications and 3.) massive internet of things (IoT) for billions of devices.
On the other side of the equation is the ever-evolving cellular landscape. The latest rage is unlimited data plans, which are being aggressively pushed by carriers, especially in the U.S. Growth in data consumption continues unabated. According to the 2017 Ericsson Mobility Report, data traffic per user is expected to jump from 7.1 GB/month in 2017 to 48 GB/month in 2023. Meanwhile, operator networks are fast approaching capacity in many major metropolitan areas. It is not uncommon to face slowdowns at peak times in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and other major cities.
When you match what 5G has to offer with current cellular market needs, the answer to the question of its use case becomes clear: data capacity. Enhanced broadband with higher capacity will be the linchpin of 5G when it gets out of the gate in 2019 and 2020. But, you may ask, why do we need 5G? Why not keep using and improving 4G?
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