Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: How 5G Will Transform Business

Five ways professionals will experience 5G, and when

5G brings as much promise as hype. Innovations leveraging 5G are coming, but the more transformative applications are still years away.

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As mobile network operators sprint to deploy 5G in more localities around the world, interest in and hype around the benefits of 5G is accelerating to Autobahn speeds. Although smartphones are already ubiquitous, the ways in which professionals actually use the new technology are likely to vary, with in-place upgrades of devices coming before newer modalities that leverage 5G, such as wearable technologies and self-driving cars.

Here's a look at five ways that professionals will potentially use 5G-powered technologies, and when.

1. Proximity-targeted marketing

Proximity-targeted marketing is still a somewhat nascent field, as marketers work out how to leverage the technology. In December 2018, Burger King took aim at longtime competitor McDonald's by offering Whoppers for a penny -- so long as the order was placed on the Burger King app, within 600 feet of a McDonald's restaurant. The campaign was lauded in marketing circles, although there was little risk of a downside.

Japanese "no brand quality goods" outlet Mujirushi Ryōhin -- otherwise known as Muji -- operates a geofencing-powered rewards program, although it's not without problems. Muji's rewards program provided one point for users who browse in stores even without purchasing. One enterprising hacker used hundreds of accounts and 45 computers to accrue 5.62 million points, equivalent to $51,290 USD, by forging GPS data of visits to stores across Japan, Europe, and the US. The same hacker was arrested twice in one month for operating the same GPS spoofing technique against Aeon Mall, accruing $49,100 in points.

5G's reliance on microcells could provide a secondary means of verification to protect against GPS spoofing, making proximity-targeted marketing more reliable for businesses and resistant to abuse. As long as a 5G signal is available, this would be technically possible to implement, making it one of the first benefits of 5G that can be realized.

2. Wi-fi in crowded spaces

With the use of mmWave frequencies (>24GHz), and the higher number of smaller base stations required to provide connectivity, 5G mobile networks are more adept at servicing mass numbers of devices in relatively constrained areas. Venues such as crowded conferences, where attendees bring phones and often tether other devices, can make for a very crowded network, with which 5G is designed to cope. These same principles apply to other circumstances with variable traffic, such as stadiums and large office towers.

Likewise, at CES 2019 Qualcomm's Sanjeev Athalye told TechRepublic that 5G and Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) are designed to coexist, as "Wi-Fi 6 and the adjacent standards improve the security of wi-fi so that you don't have to worry about rogue access points as much as we do today." Athalye also noted that 5G enables so-called "unlimited data plans" as reduced cost for operators should allow for more generous data use, "so an end consumer doesn't have to think about am I on cellular or am I on wi-fi? Am I consuming my data bucket or not?"

3. Consumer and medical wearable IoT devices

Device manufacturers are analyzing the use of 5G in Internet of Things (IoT) devices likely to travel with people. While smart appliances can utilize wi-fi, a refrigerator does not particularly need 5G. For devices such as smart watches and home health monitors, lower power requirements of 5G can lead to thinner devices, as smaller batteries are required to deliver the same performance per watt as LTE-connected devices.

4. Autonomous car communication

Networks of autonomous cars require a device-to-device communication method that can withstand objects being in transit. mMTC (Massive Machine Type Communications) was standardized to provide this method, although presently it leverages legacy LTE networks. Future refinement of mMTC is expected in new standards from 3GPP.

Although mMTC provides a means through which autonomous cars can communicate, a protocol specifying what data is transmitted to nearby cars is required. The standardization of this would be beyond what 3GPP, the standards body responsible for defining 5G standards.

Precision operations including self-driving cars will likewise have some reliance on a future 5G standard called Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC), which is anticipated to be finalized in 2020.

"URLLC is instrumental to ensure the safe operation of autonomous cars and delivery drones, expect its reach to be far and wide, touching all industries and vertical markets – everything from remote surgery in healthcare, remote oil and gas exploration, remote video surveillance and utility monitoring," said Brightlink CTO Joe White. "All of these applications need the reliable super-low-latency that URLLC promises and is currently hard to deliver."

5. Developing the professionals of tomorrow

As 5G mobile networks become more widespread, the increase in the amount of data that can be transferred by a given base station can capably supplant traditional wireline home internet services. Per-gigabyte pricing and data caps on plans touted as 'unlimited' by mobile network operators are anticipated to be relative non-issues on 5G connections.

With the advent of a mobile network capable of effectively supplanting a wireline internet connection, this can serve to benefit people who rely exclusively on a smartphone for internet connectivity. According to a report from the Brookings Institution, 35 percent of Hispanics and 24 percent of African-Americans "have no other online connection except through their smartphones or other mobile devices," while the same is true of only 14 percent of whites. The economic effects of this disparity can be observed in education, as the report notes that internet use for homework is lowest among Hispanic and African-American students.

For families without the means to pay for wired and wireless internet access, 5G levels the field in terms of connection quality. In addition to supplemental educational resources for homework, students in distance and online education courses that rely on streaming video instruction will not require a dedicated wired connection to participate.

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