With new 5G applications, "the factory of the future" is near

Qualcomm's recently launched #WhatsNextIn5G series, now on YouTube, highlights new products and technology from the mobile ecosystem leader. Here's a peek at what's in store.

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As 5G technology—that is, the fifth-generation wireless network that succeeds 4G, LTE, and 3G networks—continues to expand, it's become increasingly clear that the advancements are turning into a game-changer. More than 10 times faster than 4G LTE, 5G networks are now commercially available from 140 operators across 60 countries. 

As TechRepublic has previously reported, a myriad of individuals and services are still stuck on 3G. As of mid-2019, according to a report by Open Signal, there were more than 80 million active 3G devices in North America

Meanwhile, upgrades to 5G are becoming increasingly crucial. The main mobile companies plan to end 3G services soon (and a shuttering of 4G LTE will inevitably follow suit). AT&T has said it is set to terminate 3G around February 2022. Verizon plans to cut ties with the service toward the end of 2022, while T-Mobile is jumping ship early and says it expects to begin cutting off its 3G network in the latter end of 2021 and to continue the shutoff through the end of 2022.

As COVID-19 has forced businesses to shift operations from the physical to the virtual world, strong connectivity is a number one priority for the enterprise. A new #WhatsNextin5G series (available on YouTube) from Qualcomm illustrates what's happening in the world of 5G networking.

"We have seen accelerated rollouts from carriers worldwide and growing demand for 5G-capable smartphones and devices from consumers, which is why 5G continues to be one of the fastest-growing ecosystems," John E. Smee, vice president of engineering at Qualcomm Technologies, told TechRepublic. 

Smee is currently working on the "second phase of 5G"—bringing the 5G ecosystem past the smartphone, which is happening in tandem with 3GPP Release 17.

"I'm excited to see these new use cases move from our innovative Qualcomm R&D designs into standardization, and then commercial deployment so that the technology can be in peoples' hands," Smee said. Some of Qualcomm's work, he said, can help make "the factory of the future a reality."

SEE: Hiring Kit: 5G Wireless System Engineer (TechRepublic Premium)

5G is now being rolled out across a range of frequencies, going beyond the smartphone and mobile broadband. Some of the most promising newest innovations, in Smee's view, are Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) and Video and Augmented & Virtual Reality. FWA, specifically, can help expand connectivity, he said.

"Being able to have 5G connectivity in homes, small businesses, and in rural communities is a benefit as these groups can leverage 5G fiber-like speeds over wireless," Smee said. "This ability to leverage a network for mobility scenarios as well as providing connectivity to homes and businesses is a great example of a unified 5G investment that pays dividend across a growing range of scenarios."

Applying 5G to video and AR/VR is "one of the core underpinnings of 5G mobile broadband," Smee said. "Transporting video effectively and efficiently–whether for streaming movies or participating in a video call with colleagues and family members–is one of the most important examples of 5G use cases." 

And in this age of the video conference call, effective streaming has never been more important. 5G, which has a wider bandwidth and network capacity, enables higher data rates—which, in turn, result in better quality video, Smee continued. This expansion has implications for industrial and consumer IoT, transportation, and more.

5G and AI can "work hand-in-hand to create a connectivity fabric of smart devices and services," Smee said. "Processing data closer to the source through on-device AI is important as it offers crucial benefits including privacy, personalization, and reliability, in addition to helping scale intelligence."

"What I like to see most is how our research translates to this growing set of new 5G devices, deployments, and applications that benefit from innovations across wireless technology, edge cloud processing, and AI," Smee said. "It's by taking a step back to view the bigger picture that allows us to then focus on how to push technologies forward and bring them together in the best way possible."

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