“I don’t have to ask you anymore to imagine 5G,” Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm’s president, said during Snapdragon’s Tech Summit in December. “It’s here. It’s all around us.”

Just last year, the 3GPP (the international organization of telecom companies that develops protocols for mobile telephony) finalized the 5G standard of broadband cellular network technology and since then the buzz generated by the companies that create 5G radio hardware and 5G systems for carriers has been endless.

But now that Samsung has introduced the first 5G compatible smartphone on the market and Verizon launched its mobile 5G network in parts of Chicago and Minneapolis earlier this month, it is safe to say that 5G has arrived.  

So, what is 5G?

Every now and then, as technology improves, the set of standards that govern wireless phone telephone technology are updated. 5G simply stands for “fifth generation” and it helps determine which devices and networks are compatible with these new standards.

5G is expected to deliver drastically faster internet speeds. “You’ll be able to download a full-length feature movie in a matter of seconds as 5G evolves,” said Ted Rappaport, director of NYU Wireless.  In fact, we could see speeds of “10 gigabits per second or more,” Rappaport added.

Read on: Four trends that will increase broadband consumption

The benefits of 5G do not end just at faster speeds. 5G networking also promises to deliver much lower latency (the delay before a transfer of data begins) which can be considered a true game-changer and will impact many industries like cloud gaming, virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, and more! All the Internet-connected devices in your life will be able to communicate with each other at lightning-fast speeds with reduced latency.

When is 5G expected to be fully available?

The U.S. along with Europe and South Korea are all planning to have commercial 5G services rollout throughout 2019. China and Japan are expected to follow with 5G rollouts in 2020.

As mentioned earlier, Verizon has already deployed its 5G network in Chicago and Minneapolis and plans to have more than 30 U.S. markets on 5G networks by the end of the year.

AT&T jumped on board last December by flipping the switch on 5G networks in 12 cities – Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, San Antonio, and Waco. The second wave of deployments in 2019 will bring AT&T’s 5G network to additional cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose.

T-Mobile’s CTO,  Neville Ray, stated that the company is already rolling out 5G-ready equipment, so that when 5G is ready to go, T-Mobile will only have to push out a software upgrade. Ray further added that the carrier is aiming for a 2019 launch followed by nationwide 5G coverage in 2020.

Read on: Internet of things and the crossing with the 5G, the promise of the coming years

Meanwhile, Sprint plans to begin service in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Kansas City by May – followed by Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington DC later in 2019.

While carriers gear up for network rollouts, companies like Qualcomm and Intel are working on 5G modems for smartphones, cars, home devices, wearables, and other IoT devices. At least 20 device makers have committed to using Qualcomm’s 5G components in their devices.

Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G is officially the first fully 5G compatible device and began selling in Korea earlier this month. The Galaxy S10 5G will be available in May exclusively to Verizon’s customers. LG will go head-to-head with Samsung with its own 5G smartphone, the V50 ThinQ.

Huawei’s Mate X was unveiled at Mobile World Congress 2019 and will offer 5G connectivity via Huawei’s Balong 5000 modem, which is combined with Huawei’s existing Kirin 980 chipset. The Mate X is expected to hit the market in June.

Why 5G Matters

Earlier this year, Qualcomm hosted a 5G demo event to show off some of the more compelling uses for the technology outside of smartphones. In one demonstration, Qualcomm representatives showed how a major city could add millions of connected devices without having a negative impact on network speeds. Cars connected to 5G networks would be able to send signals to each other about accidents or approaching emergency vehicles – developments that will fundamentally impact how we drive.

“5G is one of those heralds, along with artificial intelligence, of this coming data age,” said Steve Koenig, senior director of market research for the Consumer Technology Association. “Self-driving vehicles are emblematic of this data age because with one single task, driving, you have massive amounts of data coming from the vehicle itself, [and] a variety of sensors are collecting a lot of information to model its environment as it moves. It’s pulling in data from other vehicles about road conditions down the lane. It could be weather information, but also connected infrastructure. There is lots of data behind that task, which is why we need the capacity and lower latency.”

Many other technologies, like telemedicine and virtual reality, benefit from 5G connectivity. With 5G, healthcare providers can allow mobile networks to handle telemedicine appointments and reach more people faster. Ultimately helping patients to get treated sooner, lower the costs of care, and help doctors to collaborate more effectively.

Read on: How 5G will transform the healthcare and the autonomous cars sector

Augmented and virtual reality applications wholly depend on network performance and lower latency, making 5G essential for the technology to flourish. This is because AR is very data intensive and can consume thirty-three times more traffic that one minute of 480p video. Until now, the lack of suitable supporting networks has stifled mainstream VR adoption. But with 5G, the next era if immersive experiences are all but guaranteed.

More Data is Coming

With widespread adoption of 5G expected by 2020, the amount of data collected by connected devices will expand dramatically and data centers will be a crucial component of the infrastructure to make this happen.
“In order to successfully create a completely seamless and invisible network that wirelessly connects all devices and interactions with those devices, data will need to be transferred, stored, and processed at rapid speeds that are not just fast but also consistent and highly reliable,” writes Nadia Tuffaha, Senior Content Manager at Digital Realty. The main beneficiaries of this rising tide of data will be data centers that focus on interconnection.