This story is from the 2016 Access 25: How Mobility is Reshaping the Globe. Explore more from this issue

5G: How far away is the new fast?

Progress continues to accelerate on the next-generation wireless network.

March 2016


As we push the internet to carry more and more data, we need more powerful wireless networks. Much of the world remains wirelessly connected via 3G and 4G cellular technology, but a number of telecoms are already laying the groundwork for 5G.

It’s not hard to see why: 5G promises speeds up to 40 times faster than 4G — and a more profoundly interconnected world. For example, it could enable near-instant machine-to-machine communication, thus rendering new efficiencies in logistics, facility management, manufacturing, residential controls and infrastructure (detecting leaks in city water pipes, for instance). And that’s just a short list.

While 5G remains in its infancy, providers are moving at warp speed in China, the U.K. and numerous locations around the U.S. And South Korea has plans to build a fully operational 5G network by 2018, in time for the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.

Illustration by Greg Mably

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