In tomorrow's ultra highspeed communications requirements and solutions, 5G is getting all the glory because service providers will be investing in a lot of new infrastructure and face it 5G phones are sexy and needed to keep phone sales rolling.
And it will probably be a whole lot more secure for critical stuff like having your car drive you around. At home or in your favorite unsecure hotspot Wi-Fi 6 will be great – and fast enough – for your entertainment viewing. The two technologies have to work together but people will know the difference when the data plan phone bills start to arrive.
During that last few months, at several 5G technology at FMS (Flash Memory Summit) and elsewhere, executives from Qualcomm, Ericsson, Sprint and other firms extolled how 5G is going to not only give us faster wireless service but will change how people and IoT (Internet of Things) enabled devices communicate.
At Qualcomm's Wi–Fi 6 Day, we were reminded there's more than one way to deliver data. After all, Qualcomm knows both sides of wireless communications since they lead the crowd developing/selling chips for both.
Qualcomm is involved in more than just designing/selling communications chips. It has also been aggressively involved in improving electronic vehicles and is a major participant in Formula E development and racing.
Wi-Fi has played a vital part in the total communications picture, since that's what you use when you're sitting in the coffee shop wasting time. It's the stuff you use on the plane to stream your interactive games and answer emails, delete spam so they don't clog your inbox.
It's important, but it isn't as sexy as a new/expensive 5G smartphone.
One has a powerful, profitable international/national organization – ITU (International Telecommunications Union) and GSMA (Global System for Mobile Communications) – and their members pushing it.
The other has the Wi-Fi Alliance promoting what is arguably the Internet's most important technology because it connects nearly 57 percent of the world's population and is widely viewed as a strategic asset for business, industry and most countries.
But the big difference is one you pay for by the minute and byte.
The other is sorta', kinda' free because businesses/organizations need it to do business, keep things connected and working smoothly together.
And, no matter what your phone person gives you, he's probably backhauling half your stuff to the Internet anyway.
While businesses require fast, reliable data transfer and communications, personal stuff has pressed the industry to develop high-speed global Internet communications.
Every day, we generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data that will flood out of the dozens of connected devices we have without an ultra-high speed, robust infrastructure to move it reliably.
Over the past two years, more than 90 percent of the world's data has been produced.
IMHO Wi-Fi 6 is more important than the 5G build-out because it's all about business and advanced IoT applications – industrial automation, autonomous vehicles, important stuff.
The phone and 4G LTE service we have today is "good enough" for streaming 4K video content, shooting/sending selfies, texting the kids (no one calls today) and tracking/following folks on social media.
According to Irving Tan, Cisco's Sr VP/ chief of ops, it's data and by 2022, he projected data traffic in a single year will equal everything produced in the last 32 years of the Internet ... combined.
Data is important to the auto industry because it needs it so it can safely introduce AVs to save people's lives (inside/outside the vehicle) who can't take their eyes off their screens.
Greg Basich, associate director at market research firm Strategy Analytics, said consumer trust in the technology will gradually increase as vehicles become increasingly autonomous.
Reliable AV operation will take time because we will have to enable the complete environment--lights, V2V, pedestrian awareness and more.
"It will be at least five years before autonomous vehicles will be widely available because it requires more than just the car. It requires the complete environment," said Basich.
He believes that high-performance Wi–Fi 6 and 5G connectivity with trucks will probably be the first widespread implementation because of the growing shortage of experienced, skilled professional drivers and the need to move goods as quickly and efficiently as possible throughout the production/consumption chain.
According to the ATA (American Trucking Association) trucks moved about 11.5 tons of goods in the U.S. last year, representing slightly more than 71 percent of the total domestic tonnage moved from point A to point B.
Autonomous cars will merge into mainstream more slowly over the next 10+ years because folks are just hanging onto their cars longer.
It will take years, perhaps decades, to finally have an autonomous transportation environment because even today, the average age of a car on the road is 11 years and the age has remained constant for the past 10 years, so replacement will take time.
There's a certain feeling of freedom dropping the top on our F Type, grabbing the wheel, punching the accelerator, going where we want to go, as fast as we want and be entertained by the large number of idiots who are on the road.
But there are some trends that will help accelerate the number of AVs on the roads.
Today's younger generation likes to go places but apparently don't want to drive themselves because the number drivers' licenses is decreasing.
Using bikes and scooters to get around town is more fun than driving, hunting for parking, finding your car and paying the parking service/fines ... and, beats walking.
If you're not coordinated enough for fresh air self–transportation, they're always Lyft, Uber or the hundreds of other services around the globe.
Autonomous vehicles will increase in popularity because younger people are less interested in driving and there is a growing number of older people who can't – or perhaps shouldn't – drive themselves around. In addition, a growing portion of our population is getting older and "perhaps" shouldn't be driving.
When the self–driving cars hit the roads there are a lot of things you'll be able to do in a more relaxed, enjoyable fashion, rather than fumbling with the phone while you're sitting in traffic.
According to a Nielsen youth viewpoint on self–driving study, people are already planning ahead:
- 46 percent would eat
- 44 percent would talk to friends on the phone
- 44 percent would watch TV/movies
- 41 percent would kick back and relax
- All at a price of about $13 a month
- 39 percent would play video games
- 34 percent would go to social media
- 28 percent would do homework
- 27 percent would sleep
- 27 percent would read
- 25 percent would watch the road
But 5G, WiFi6 and autonomous vehicles aren't going to suddenly appear.
The infrastructure is going to be expensive and won't happen overnight.
While Motorola's Martin Cooper made the first mobile phone call in early 1973, it took 11 years for sluggish 1G 2kbps service to be widely available. Maybe 5G will take a little less time.
Today's wireless data is delivered through macrocells (cell towers) that provide the foundation for wireless connectivity to serve thousands of mobile users within a radius of up to 40 miles.
To provide consistent performance, wireless providers will use macro cells for handling data traffic over long distances as well as microcells, often disguised as smart streetlights above or other unobtrusive objects people will see but not see.
To support urban service, small cells (microcells – low–power cellular nodes) with a range of about 500 feet will communicate with microcell towers, other small cells and mobile devices.
Since 5G will be able to travel short, unobstructed distances, wireless service providers will be installing a large number of small cells to provide the necessary infrastructure for tomorrow's 5G networks with much faster speeds than macrocells, 10Gbps download.
Businesses around the globe are building out and reinforcing their networks and internet connections and undersea cables continue to be laid to keep pace with demand as 90 percent of international data – of all types – is transmitted over these wires, including OTT streaming video.
So how soon in your city? It depends.
Data travels through wires the majority of the time, with wireless antennas completing the last few miles of delivery near real–time speeds.
Wi–Fi 6 was designed to support WLAN (wireless local area networking) of devices – desktop/laptop computers, hotspots, routers, embedded systems, smartphones, smart TVs, etc.
Delivery for businesses and consumers will require innovative connectivity, cloud and analytic solutions that will not only serve hundreds/thousands of moving vehicles but also the capacity for high–quality, uninterrupted video service.
That won't be cheap.
It's a long way from an either/or situation when it comes to the new communications technologies. High–speed communications with minimal latency and the ability to handle massive numbers of data streams will be possible by using the combination of 5G and Wi–Fi while still supporting earlier generation.
IDC forecast that the total infrastructure investments will rise to as much as $26B by 2022 and cumulatively to around $40B.
So, which will arrive first?
Businesses that need to do business now or services that want to sell you a new $1,000 - $2,000 phone?
And of course, after you've snagged your new 5G smartphone, you'll get your never–ending bill for your data service.
Once you finally get reliable 5G service in your area you'll probably have to do a lot of experimenting to see what content absolutely requires lightning fast 5G and when you can get by with Wi–Fi 6.
Speed, security, reliability come at a price and sometimes good 'nough is darn good. At least you're in the drivers seat.