To understand why, consider the two kinds of 5G technology often mentioned in the same breath. One is basically a souped-up version of 4G, making smartphone downloads and wireless hot-spot connections even faster. Such coverage is quickly becoming commonplace in rich countries. The number of world-wide 5G connections topped 520 million last year, according to telecom-industry researcher Omdia. But it remains to be seen whether telecom companies can reap much new revenue from these consumers.
The second version promises to change the way the business world works by creating swarms of smart devices, distributed data centers and private cellular networks. This is where the big money is, because it could create a whole new crop of internet-connected industries where none existed before. But there are still few businesses using or offering this advanced type of wireless service.
There is a lot of hype around automation and 5G being the game changer. I had covered this to a large extent earlier. However, it is clear the telecom industry missed the monetisation gravy train with the rise of “big-tech” and they were reduced to “dumb-pipes”. Google had the audacity to launch superfast fibre themselves- but ostensibly to become an infrastructure producer. It’s venture didn’t pan out the way it expected (reality is different from the marketing spiel). I think it was only to demonstrate the “power of fibre” and spur more investments from a cagey industry. What’s next? A hospital?
I wrote back to the reporter who covered this story and mentioned that it has a close resemblance to the way housing developers showcase “sample-flats”. It doesn’t matter if a big name carrier has “partnership” with another legacy auto manufacturer. It is for the industry to figure out what its felt needs are. Otherwise, it only lends credence to my pet theory that billions of dollars sunk in infrastructure costs are a solution looking for a problem. Consumer grade technology will witness draining batteries with 5G without the promise of a “killer-app”. In case of healthcare, telecom companies have shot themselves in the foot.
I’ll see more perfunctory noises around “fixing-the-healthcare”, but with a perverted sense of entitlement and monopolization across the sector through reimbursements, there’s someone paying by hedging the bets. Multimillion dollar investments won’t be allowed to fail. Let’s just get on the hype train of 5G.
Here’s something more:
The responsiveness of a 5G network, which is measured in milliseconds, also depends on the physical distance a piece of information has to travel before it is processed. That means low-latency applications like videogames and augmented-reality headsets could end up confined to urban areas where companies have made the necessary investments. Miniature data centers at the base of every cell tower would be “utopia” for 5G software developers, Mr. Mayo says, but tech and telecom companies will probably make more targeted investments that could make 5G technology more powerful in some geographic areas than in others.
It means the digital divide will get worse.