Technology has the power to change our lives, often rapidly. We live in an age where it is already revolutionising the way we live in so many ways: Think about artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), the Internet of Things (IoT)…all of these terms have become commonplace.
Most new technologies focus on delivering things faster, cheaper, smarter, and with more convenience. It’s the ‘convenience’ piece that is driving this, with companies like Google looking at how they can make parts of our life easier to navigate.
I read with interest recently, an article about Telstra CEO Andy Penn, and the next big technology change for his organisation and, by default, for all of us: 5G. Many of us do not realise the impact that the next generation of mobile technology will bring to our personal and working lives, and potentially our finances.
What is 5G?
5G essentially refers to the cellular communication standard, which in layman’s terms is the wireless network that gives our mobile phones the ability to work, transmitting data as required for everything from using an app to checking the latest sports scores. Every 5-10 years a new standard is rolled out and named in sequential order, i.e. we currently have 4G, and the next generation is ‘5’G.
What 5G represents, however, is a major leap forward in terms of speed, in fact, reports suggest it could be anywhere from 10 to a whopping 100 times faster than the current 4G network. It’s this speed, coupled with increased reliability, that will allow the technology I mentioned above to actually drive change.
Driverless cars, smart homes, and streaming on steroids
5G will be crucial in allowing technologies like AI and VR to deliver on the benefits promised. It will allow consumers to interact with technology faster than ever before. Driverless cars are a great example: 5G, given its purported speed increases, will allow a driverless car to work efficiently. It will provide the ability for smart homes to deliver more than ever, for example, the fridge will actually be able to do your grocery shopping for you! It will also bring huge gains in industries like healthcare, where real-time information can help save patient lives and provide a higher standard of medical care.
Business also wins. 5G could dramatically improve our ability to work anywhere, bringing enormous productivity gains. The increased speed and reliability of 5G could be a massive boon for our economy, with a recent Deloitte report tipping that 5G could add $50bn AUD to our GDP by 2030. That growth will benefit us all.
There are some challenges
Like most things in life, there’s a downside. While 5G sounds amazing, it still needs to be rolled out. It’s a major infrastructure change and one that, in a country like ours, with our size and relatively widespread population, presents a challenge. Of course, other technologies and devices, like smartphones, also need to catch up too, so the rollout will take time.
There’s also an interesting conversation here around 5G and our much-maligned NBN. The reality is that 5G looks like it will not only outperform the NBN but also potentially make it obsolete longer term, adding to what has already been a challenging rollout. Given the poor experience we’ve had with the NBN, there’s also the chance that we’ll see a repeat with 5G, with some of the same players involved.
My feeling is, however, that 5G will prove a positive, over time.
There is a financial benefit
Like many areas, I ultimately look at the financial benefit or impact of a change. If this is implemented in a way that provides all the benefits I’ve outlined, then there’s no doubt that 5G will deliver cost benefits in many areas of our lives. The healthcare example I mentioned gives an idea of that benefit: Accessing healthcare professionals, especially for people in regional areas, could be significantly improved. Many Internet-based services will potentially be easier and cheaper to access.
The impact on communication is huge, and this new age of digital voice services will have the potential to dramatically reduce the price of communicating, not only in Australia but also around the world.
There’s also the impact to business I referenced earlier; the economic benefits should present new job opportunities and growth. That’s a positive for all of us.
There’s no doubt 5G is an exciting technology on our horizon. Like any change, it’s better to embrace it; chances are this is one that none of us would be able to escape in any case!