As I sat down to write the introduction to this Shift issue on 5G, something interesting happened. I decided to run a speed test on my mobile phone.
“Your Internet connection is fast,” the website said. It had measured my download speed at 28.4 megabits per second, upload speed at 2.51 mbps.
Not blazingly fast but good enough for my needs, I thought. After all, it’s a great phone, and I don’t download HD movies; maybe an audiobook here and there.
But that little exercise underscored how much 4G performance pales in comparison with what’s been promised with the arrival of true fifth-generation wireless. We’re talking three-, maybe four-digit download speeds.
Unlike yours truly, automakers and mobility companies haven’t ignored the possibilities that a high-capacity, high-speed, low-latency network offers. For them, the advent of 5G is nothing short of revolutionary. In a recent Shift panel discussion on 5G, Audi of America executive Pom Malhotra called it a “seismic event” for the industry. (Read what he and other industry leaders had to say)
Telecoms are gearing up. Verizon Wireless spent a jaw-dropping $53 billion, including related costs, to acquire licenses in a coveted part of the 5G spectrum called the C-band, more than doubling its midband spectrum holdings. (See Jack Keebler’s story.)
For motorists, 5G could lead to sizable improvements in safety and connectivity, and a more fulfilling in-vehicle experience. You’ll find examples throughout the issue.
Deputy Mobility Editor Pete Bigelow explores China’s use of 5G to transmit critical information from the infrastructure to autonomous vehicles. And speaking of intelligent roadways, in another story we learn that the battle over slashing the amount of “talking car” spectrum available in the U.S. may not be finished just yet.
A fast connection also can make the ride more fun, as correspondent Marcus Amick shows us in his profile of Germany’s Holoride, and it will bring more bells and whistles to maps and displays. It might even bring a driverless vehicle right to the curb.
Our goal with this issue is not to explain the intricacies of how 5G wireless works — a head-spinning endeavor if there ever was one — but to shine a light on how a full rollout of 5G could change the lives of drivers and passengers, improve our roadways and even change the relationship between automakers and their customers.
Meantime, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to need a better phone.