Editor's Corner—What are we actually going to do with 5G?

Kia is among a number of auto makers testing autonomous cars. Image: Kia

5G is definitely coming, if you listen to the world’s top wireless network operators and equipment vendors. In fact, elements of 5G—such as fixed wireless access to the internet—could become commercially available as early as next year.

Mobile elements of the 5G standard are slated to hit the commercial market by 2020—or much earlier, if the statements from some U.S., European and Asian wireless carrier executives are to be believed.

But the bottom line is that 5G is soon going to be a reality.

However, what we’re actually going to do with 5G remains a little bit of a mystery. Those in the industry have bandied about a wide range of potential use cases, from autonomous driving to remote surgery to industrial applications. But I’ve raised some questions about these 5G use cases and whether they will actually pan out.

And I’m not alone. “Very few of these ideas have any merit,” wrote Mobile Experts analyst Joe Madden in a recent guest column on FierceWireless titled “The 5G IoT market will disappoint you.”

These are exactly the concerns I will be bringing to a FierceWireless breakfast event at next year’s Consumer Electronics Show. I will be moderating an event at CES called “5G is coming, but what will it be used for?” Speakers include:

  • Günther Ottendorfer, Chief Operating Officer, Technology, Sprint (the executive in charge of Sprint’s 5G tests and overall network strategy).
  • Henry Bzeih, Managing Director, Kia Connected & Mobility Division (a former Ford executive who can speak to Kia’s autonomous driving efforts).
  • And Arun Bansal, Senior Vice President and Head of Business Unit Network Products, Ericsson (whose responsibility covers Ericsson’s 2G, 3G, LTE and 5G transport products).

During this event I will be asking my panelists questions like: Where are the near-term market opportunities, and which industry verticals will line up first to pay for 5G connections? How should operators, vendors, and others tune their networks and services? And what technologies will they deploy to take advantage of these 5G use cases?

The goal of this discussion, of course, is to find out whether 5G technology is worth the billions of dollars of investment the wireless industry plans to make into the technology.

I encourage you to join me at this CES event on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, from 7:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. We’ll start with a hearty breakfast and we will definitely take questions from the audience. Click here to register. I look forward to seeing you there. – Mike | @mikeddano