What did CES show us about the potential of 5G?

Image credit: Samsung
5G connectivity was one of the biggest trends on show at this year's CES, offering a preview of what we can expect when services go live later in the year.

The new year in the tech world traditionally kicks off in Las Vegas, well away from the winter cold and rain, where companies from around the globe gather at CES to show off the latest in smartphones, TVs, connected cars, robotics, and more.

While the event is billed as a celebration of all things consumery, there's always a lot for businesses to get excited about too, with innovations in connectivity, mobility and processing all having applications in the enterprise space. 

This year, one of the biggest trends on show was 5G. This next generation of mobile connectivity has been promised for years, but 2019 will finally see it become a reality, with UK mobile operators including Vodafone and O2 set to launch their networks later in the year and the first wave of 5G-capable smartphones also hitting shelves.

Therefore, everyone was keen to see how the technology would translate into real-world applications, and the exhibitors at CES 2019 didn't disappoint.

Beyond better speeds

One of the key themes on show at the event was that 5G connectivity can offer much more than just faster data downloads, but also open up mobile devices to a much wider range of applications that would simply not be possible with existing 4G standards.

So, for example, there were demos of how 5G could transform augmented and virtual reality by reacting to environments in real-time and streaming content with no latency, while Intel was detailing how 5G could be used to enhance gaming graphics on laptops.

This comes from the ability to instantly connect to cloud services and download data without any delay. Other applications that take advantage of this include AI-enabled wearables that can combine facial and text recognition to deliver immediate information to wearers, while instant language translation is also becoming a reality thanks to 5G connectivity.

It could also reduce the need for cabling in homes and offices, something that may be of particular interest to businesses that want to improve their connectivity without committing to costly and time-consuming infrastructure projects.

Alicia Abella, vice-president of advanced technology realisation at AT&T, told TechRadar: "That's a lot of why some of the our enterprise customers have been knocking on our doors asking about 5G, because they see it as a way to not have to wire their facilities."

Constant connectivity

One other consequence of the arrival of 5G is that, with such a huge increase in the capabilities of mobile connectivity, it could lead to people spending even more of their time glued to their phone than they already do. 

Whether this is playing more powerful games, streaming high-quality video or conducting work activities that would have been impossible to accomplish on the move with 3G or 4G connectivity, users will find they have even more reasons to be preoccupied by their smartphones.

Dan Pitchford, AI expert and co-founder of AI Business, said: "We are going to be even more connected at all times to a smartphone. You already see people walking down the street not looking where they're going, fixated on their phone, and there's probably going to be an increase in that."

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