How to explain the evolution of wireless communications toward 5G and beyond to a non-technical audience? And what does this mean to the average consumer? NYU WIRELESS postdoc Marco Mezzavilla recently tackled these questions with finesse in his TEDx talk at Middlebury College, where he unveiled the magic of telecommunications and its impact on society, starting from the Victorian telegraph and the first underwater cable dated 1850.
He explained that the progression of cellular networks, from 1G to 4G, took over 30 years, and it was all about mobile phones with faster internet access. 5G goes beyond that: there will be new players wirelessly connecting to the internet, and to each other, e.g., sensors, cars, drones, and robots. Marco defineed 5G as a wireless, invisible fabric that will enable futuristic scenarios such as mobile VR and immersive tele-presence, fully autonomous cars and drones, tele-surgery, and smart societies. The key ingredients being ultra-high capacity/responsiveness/reliability.
While the move to more rapid communications has many benefits, some people are concerned that as a society we are starting to interact only with our devices, and IRL (in real life) activities are becoming a thing of the past. One only has to talk to parents whose children text them from another room in the same house to witness this. Marco pointed out that fascination with new tech has occurred before, with the popularity of television, for example. He postulated that as we become more familiar and comfortable with mobile devices, interaction will normalize. Finally, he provided some positive examples of how humanity has harnessed the potential of mobile wireless connectivity by building awareness and empathy over networks: he believes that 5G represents the foundation of the next major societal transformation.