Last week in front of a virtual audience, Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the new iPhone 12, the latest in their ubiquitous line of smartphones first conceived by the late Steve Jobs. This was no ordinary announcement of a new iOS update, this was the revealing of the first iPhone with 5G connectivity. Although Samsung had already released smartphones with 5G back in 2019, the iPhone announcement by Apple has officially catapulted this new network into the mainstream.
But what is 5G and why should we care about it? The reason is simple. 5G has the ability to change the way people live and work by enabling faster broadband speed and lower latency for our devices. Real 5G is an entirely new network separate from the 4G LTE networks that we are using right now, but five to fifty times faster depending on the location.
As of today, the list of consumer services and capabilities enabled by 5G remains relatively short. Uploads and downloads will be faster over the new network, which will be especially noticeable with big files like videos or movies. Over high-band 5G networks, it may be possible to download a two hour movie in fewer than 10 seconds, versus around 7 minutes with 4G. There is also increased security and privacy since you no longer have to connect to a public Wi-Fi network.
For those living in large cities, 5G handles congestion better than any other network we have today. That really matters whether you are trying to download an app or make a phone call in a large public gathering such as a football game or concert. However, the quality of the connection depends on the carrier and where you live geographically.
For example, If you live in a large, densely populated city like New York or San Francisco you are likely able to take advantage of 5G’s capabilities much more easily than someone living in rural Tennessee or Wyoming. That being said, the benefits of high-bandwidth wireless communications (25 Mbps download speed/3 Mbps upload speed) is apparent, but it’s not the biggest hurdle to overcome. The cost of building this infrastructure is extensive and resource-intensive. Trenches need to be dug, with wires or fiber laid underground can cost somewhere between $18,000 and $22,000 per mile.
Despite these hurdles there are some companies that are stepping up to the challenge, like edge computing startup Cachengo based out of Tennessee. Led by CEO Ash Young and a team of remote and local engineers, the company has plans to deploy a 1,000 node PoC (proof of concept) that will showcase their smart storage technology as part of a 5G edge deployment around rural parts of Carroll County, Tennessee. Cachengo’s software and hardware solution is geared towards showcasing what can be done when you take AI analytics as far to the edge as possible, where the data is being generated by mobile and IoT devices.
After having discussions with some of the nation’s largest service providers, the next goal is to build out the infrastructure that can potentially provide broadband internet to residents, small businesses and farmers for a low monthly cost. The leasing of additional low density spectrum for the slow side of 5G might help reduce costs and make high speed (if not broadband speed) wireless data more practical in rural Tennessee and states with similar infrastructure needs. If all goes according to plan, the County could be quickly brought into the broadband age with a few 5G towers that will finally solve the last mile problem once and for all.