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5G: Powering a hyper-connected future for everyone

By Andy Penley, Group Chief Technology Officer

The insatiable appetite of our smartphones for data is undeniable. Global consumption is projected to reach a staggering 56 GB per month by 2029. But there are still many populated areas with little to no coverage. To keep up and increase accessibility, mobile networks are evolving, with 5G leading the charge.

Why 5G?

5G isn't simply about speed, although it certainly delivers on that promise. It represents a complete overhaul of mobile connectivity, ushering in an era of ultra-low latency, unprecedented capacity, and enhanced reliability.

Meaning, it allows you to download large files and stream videos – which today make up 75% of mobile data traffic – in the blink of an eye. It ensures a seamless connection for an ever-increasing number of devices, paving the way for the Internet of Things (IoT) to truly flourish. And it reduces buffering in video conferencing and online gaming applications.

But the transformative power of 5G extends far beyond personal convenience. It’s revolutionizing entire industries. Here are a few examples:

Public safety: First responders can have access to real-time information and the ability to share critical footage during emergencies. Imagine firefighters receiving instant floor plans of a burning building. Or police officers accessing real-time video feeds from drones during an incident. 5G's speed and reliability can significantly improve response times and potentially save lives.

Healthcare: Remote surgery can be performed by specialists miles away, with minimal lag and near-instantaneous responses. Additionally, 5G can facilitate instant access to medical records during emergencies, improving the quality of patient care.

Education: 5G can bridge the educational divide by providing access to a world of resources and enabling immersive learning experiences. Students can attend virtual lectures by world-renowned professors or participate in interactive simulations, regardless of their physical location.

Furthermore, 5G’s global incremental economic output is estimated at $13.2 trillion in global economic value by 2035, generating 22.3 million related jobs.

Bridging the digital divide

For those currently left behind in the digital age, 5G offers a lifeline. Take New York City for example.

According to a New York City Comptroller report, a staggering 1 in 3 households, or roughly 2.2 million residents, lack broadband internet access. New York City Council data shows that when it comes to low-income and senior households the number goes up to 45%. And a recent HarrisX poll revealed that 46% of New Yorkers experience dropped calls several times a month.

Luckily, initiatives like LinkNYCare already making a difference in bridging the digital divide. Powered by Boldyn Networks’ extensive fiber network, LinkNYC is the largest free outdoor public Wi-Fi network in the US. This program acts as a critical digital safety net that helps all New Yorkers get online, access city, medical, and social services, connect with family members, and more. Opening the door to new opportunities and economic empowerment, with a profound impact on individuals and communities alike.

The success of LinkNYC is further underscored by a recent report from HR&A Advisors. The study reveals that LinkNYC has significantly contributed to New York City's economy, generating $682 million in labor income and $1.2 billion in economic activity over the past nine years. Remarkably, this positive economic impact comes at no cost to taxpayers. In fact, LinkNYC has generated over $119 million in revenue for the city to date.

The demand for densification

Four years into widespread 5G rollout, and the confidence is soaring. Seven in ten telecoms decision makers feel more confident in 5G than ever before. This surge in confidence stems directly from the impact they're seeing. A majority recognize that 5G availability has a direct impact on performance within their organizations today. However, to fully realize this potential, significant improvements in 5G coverage and capacity are needed. This is where densification comes in.

Unlike classic mobile networks that relied on a few large, powerful towers covering vast areas, 5G utilizes a dense network of smaller cell sites strategically placed throughout an area. These smaller cells connect to fiber optic cables for increased capacity, ensuring a robust and reliable connection. Often mounted on existing infrastructure like streetlights and utility poles, they minimize visual impact and blend seamlessly into the environment.

What stands in the way of the 5G revolution

The biggest hurdle to widespread 5G adoption is often obtaining approval from local governments for installing these small cells. Misinformation and a lack of understanding about the technology's safety and benefits can lead to opposition. 

The most common misconceptions are around the potential health risks associated with 5G. However, these concerns can be put to rest. Much of the 5G traffic uses the same radio waves as existing LTE networks, which emit very low energy waves. In fact, small cells are even less powerful than your common household microwave oven. Extensive studies by independent scientific organizations and the FCC have confirmed the safety of these radio frequencies. Furthermore, the higher frequency bands used in 5G have a shorter range and require denser deployment. While this necessitates more cell sites, it also means they don't penetrate as deeply as traditional lower bands, further mitigating any potential health risks. The FCC also plays a crucial role by strictly regulating the amount of electromagnetic emissions allowed from these small cell sites.

By working together to address concerns like these and educate the public, we can unlock the full potential of 5G and pave the way for a hyperconnected future. This revolutionary technology holds immense potential for economic growth, improved services, and a world where everyone is connected and empowered.

Interested in learning how smart places come to life? Read our whitepaper Building smart places: A blueprint to thriving connected communities.

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