The 5G Future is Almost Here

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The 5G Future is Almost Here

The 5G future is arriving faster than many had predicted. But, for the struggling telecom industry, it still can’t arrive fast enough.

The mobile telecom industry has left behind the era of easy growth, driven by smartphone and tablet adoption. And the anticipated new era of growth based on innovations like virtual reality and the Internet of Things hasn’t yet picked up the slack.

But, in recent months, the mood among telecom leaders, is imbued with newfound optimism. That’s because the industry has managed to put aside the squabbling and politics that usually accompany a new wireless standard, to place 5G on the fast track to reality.

Already, momentum is building for actual rollouts and there is hope that 5G networks will soon unleash an avalanche of investment and inspire a wave of new services that profoundly changes the world, while also returning the telecom industry to a new era of prosperity.

So far, U.S. telecom companies have spent over $60 billion for 5G-compatible segments of the electromagnetic spectrum in Federal Communications Commission spectrum auctions. Telecom companies in countries such as Germany, India, and Canada have also heavily invested in securing spectrum rights in their respective national auctions as competition for increasingly crowded airwaves intensifies.

The huge sums of money invested in spectrum auctions around the world in recent years demonstrates the rising value of electromagnetic spectrum and its increasing centrality in economic life. In fact, wireless spectrum is now one of the increasingly more valuable intangible resources in the world. More specifically, massive investments in 5G-compatible spectrum are a telling indication of the perceived economic promise of 5G wireless technology, slated to be rolled out in developed economies in 2019 and in emerging markets shortly thereafter.

However, before the industry can spin spectrum into gold, it must confront a whole new set of challenges on the road to 5G glory. Company are increasingly focused on figuring out exactly what people and businesses can do with this almost unfathomable amount of mobile bandwidth.

At this point, the focus is not primarily on the technical issues; it’s the business issues. The challenge is to figure out how 5G can make money for the telecom industry. As the head of Korea Telecom put it earlier this year, “at the 2018 Olympics, we demonstrated many interesting applications. But we don’t yet know what the “killer application” for 5G will be...

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