The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) just took a major step towards making 5G connectivity a reality. On Thursday, FCC chairpersons voted 5-0 to open up high-band spectrum above 24 GHz, which could set a foundation of high capacity to drive 5G connectivity and stronger Internet of Things (IoT) deployments.

“This is a big day for our nation,” said FCC chairman Tom Wheeler. “This is a big day for our agency.”

The vote effectively makes the US the first country to officially designate high-band spectrum for 5G use. Earlier this year, leading up to the vote, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said that the vote was “damn important,” because it could mean that the US would be first to market with 5G services. You can read the original proposed rule here.

Addressing this most recent vote, Wheeler noted that the FCC would follow its typical protocol of “not getting involved in the technologies that will use the spectrum,” allowing for others to lead the innovation in the area.

The vote frees up 11 GHz of high-frequency spectrum for use. The 28 GHz, 37 GHz, and 39 GHz licensed bands were all included, along with an unlicensed band at 64-71 GHz. However, there are still eight additional bands that the FCC is considering..

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On its public policy blog, wireless carrier AT&T responded favorably to the vote:

“Today, the FCC made a big down payment on the next generation of wireless innovation in the United States. 5G technologies, which will offer very low latency and gigabit speeds, will fuel a new era of investment in advanced wireless services, and the mmWave spectrum bands authorized today will serve as the launch pad for 5G development and deployment in the U.S.”

Many wireless carriers have been experimenting with and testing 5G extensively for some time. Samsung achieved strong speeds in its 5G tests back in October 2014. Sprint and AT&T have also been planning tests and demonstrations for the summer of 2016.

By definition, 5G simply stands for fifth generation. In theory, 5G should allow download speeds up to 10 gigabits per second, which would be a massive improvement over current speeds. It could also help address capacity and latency issues present in current generation technology.

This is important for a few reasons. First off, the number of mobile internet users continues to grow, and users are consuming more video content through mobile, which is an experience that could be massively improved by 5G. Secondly, the boom of connected devices in the IoT market, which is now in the billions, will be further expanded by better connectivity as well.

While the FCC vote is important, it doesn’t mean that we will see 5G very soon. In fact, most projections for 5G reaching consumers isn’t until the year 2020.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. The FCC recently voted to open spectrum above 24 GHz for use in 5G connectivity, which could make the US first to market with the technology.
  2. The 5G standard will have a major effect on capacity and latency, as well as supporting the growth of mobile video and IoT technology.
  3. Despite this vote, 5G likely won’t be widespread until 2020.