The Fifth Coming

Illustration: Jordon Cheung  

Fifth-generation wireless is coming. And users will want it to connect to a whole lot more than smartphones. Soon, billions of devices and networks will be able to communicate with one another across a low-latency infrastructure, all thanks to 5G.

Telecommunications company Ericsson estimates that there will be nearly 28 billion IoT devices and roughly 1.5 billion mobile-to-mobile and cellular gadgets by 2021, just a year after the anticipated first wave of fifth-generation wireless.

5G stands to not only improve connection speeds but also usher in a wide range of new consumer and enterprise experiences, according to Juniper Research. 

In order to unlock the full potential of the Intelligence of Things® on 5G, telecommunications and mobile technology companies are collaborating like never before. Verizon and Deutsche Telekom are already planning their own field tests, even though uniform standards and the exact definition of 5G itself are hazy. There’s still a lot to learn. Here’s a peek at the notes from some of 5G’s sharpest students.

Marcus Weldon CTO of Alcatel-Lucent; President of Bell Labs Mobile World Congress, February 2014


“We don’t know what [5G] is technically, but we know what we want it to be from a user-experience point of view. In some ways, our view is that it will be the first user-aware network. You could call it the ‘worldwide user-aware network,’ which means it’s going to be user-centric….We have to build a network with tremendously different characteristics to be user-centric.”



Glenn Lurie President and CEO of AT&T Mobility CTIA Super Mobility 2015, September 2015


“We’re not at a point to be making promises or commitments to customers as to what 5G is. We as an industry have been really good at overpromising and underdelivering when it comes to new technology.”




Aicha Evans Former Corporate Vice President and General Manager of the Intel Communication and Devices Group Mobile World Congress, February 2016


“5G is not just a faster connection. It’s going to require us to take into consideration spectrum availability. We waste a lot of our resources today. In some cases, we don’t need the speed.”



Meredith Attwell Baker President and CEO of CTIA—The Wireless Association CTIA report “The Next Generation of Wireless: 5G Leadership in the U.S.,” February 2016


“5G represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our homes, our cities, and our society. But that means working together on the right framework for wireless innovation and investment.”



Adam Koeppe Vice President of Technology Planning at Verizon YouTube, February 2016


“The timing is perfect for us to be focused on the next generation of wireless technology. 5G is about speed; it’s about latency. And the last is scale: The network is going to be designed to accommodate billions of machine-to-machine connections. So the commitment we’ve made is to be the first in the world with this type of technology in the customer’s hands.”