The race is on to build 5G networks around the world as it is the next generation of wireless connectivity. I talked with CBS and CNET Senior Producer, Dan Patterson, about some of the benefits of 5G for consumers as well as the concerns and challenges surrounding its deployment. The following is an edited transcript of our interview.
Karen: Dan, we’ve been hearing a lot of the hype for quite some time but where does 5G stand now? What does it really mean for consumers and what’s the up side for them?
Dan: Hi Karen. So as TechRepublic readers know, 5G is a broadcast transmission protocol and it was devised by an organization called the Third Generation Partner Project…that is 3GPP for short. So this refers to a spectrum of radio frequencies that carriers like Verizon, AT&T and others to use to transmit data. It uses what are called short or millimeter waves. If you’re familiar with the way radio works, AM are these really long waves, but the fidelity is real low, which is why AM radio kind of sounds crackly? FM radio is shortwaves. They are higher compression, but for shorter distances.
IT pro’s guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (TechRepublic download)
5G isn’t exactly the same, but it’s a similar, or at least a very helpful metaphor. 5G can transmit a ton of data, far more than our current LTE or 4G networks can, but it’s over a shorter distance, which means that Karen, you said the right word there, hype, which means that although 5G will enable a lot of cool technologies, it’s really hard to install and deploy because you have to have more transmitters to cover the same amount of area.
So 5G will help enable things like the Internet of things, augmented and virtual reality and a lot of other really cool technologies. We’ve put a story up on CBSNews.com about 5G that will help with these 3D renders of the human body and help stream that to AR and VR headsets. Really cool, but that stuff is still a long way off because we are still deploying many of these networks. Here in New York City, 5G has been deployed on a small little island off the tip of Manhattan called Governors Island. Now, Governors Island presents a number of unique challenges. It is high density, but it also has vast fields so it can simulate a rural environment. There are historic monuments that can’t be disturbed, so much like the rest of the country, the installation of 5G on Governor’s Island has to work around some of these physical challenges, which made it a great test bed in 2017 and 2018, for what the city of New York calls their NYCX Moonshot Challenge.
Moonshot being, it’s really hard to do, but the benefits could pay off dramatically. So for businesses, what this means is that, like I said a moment ago, 5G will enable a lot of really cool technologies like IOT, AR, VR, and a bunch of other stuff that we really even can’t conceptualize right now. You just think about the difference that having fiber, being able to plug in a high speed cable into your computer versus those dial up speeds. It just enabled a whole new world of technology. 5G could do the same thing for mobile networks, but right now the reality of 5G is that it is still very hard to install and will take a long time even though we’re hearing advertising and marketing about it right now, it will take a very long time for most people in the United States and Europe to have 5G networks.
Karen: Dan, with the hype, as you mentioned, a lot of the positive things that we hear about will eventually come with 5G, but so too will the negatives. There’s concerns about security and privacy and all that kind of thing…especially with so many IOT devices we expect to have in our homes here in short order. All of that data being produced. So talk a little about the security and privacy concerns.
Dan: So there are a number of cybersecurity concerns with 5G. One of the biggest right now, and again, you can read about this on CBS news.com by simply searching Huawei is that most of the hardware, the equipment that we will rely on for 5G here in the United States is built by a Huawei. That Huawei is a Chinese company that has been linked to, again, in our reporting and others, to the Chinese government in ways that could undermine, business, government and consumers here in the United States. Some of this is a little amorphous, but if you think about the implications of all of your data running through a network that is harvested and sent back to any one government.
Not to pick on the Chinese government, it could be any government, but this is one that has expressed strong favor towards managed capitalism and has a significant amount of human rights abuse on the record. Having all data potentially captured by a company that is friendly to this government presents a lot of challenges. If you imagine, if you’re a business, your intellectual property, there are high stakes with securing your intellectual property. And of course, consumers have data privacy concerns as well.
Karen: An enormous amount of infrastructure is needed in order for 5G to be successfully deployed, so we’ll be watching these developments closely. We appreciate your insight Dan. For more on 5G, what you need to know, be sure to check out TechRepublic and ZD net.