LAS VEGAS — When 180,000 consumer tech aficionados gathered this year in Las Vegas for the annual CES conference, I’m pretty sure terms like network slicing, edge computing, millimeter wave (mmWave), and enhanced vehicle to everything (eV2X) weren’t on the tips of their tongues. But they are now.
During a keynote session that I moderated on “Mobile Innovations: How 5G Will Enable the Future,” my panelists quickly pivoted from a high-level discussion of the bigger societal impact of 5G to the nitty-gritty of how the 5G network of the future will take advantage of things like open platforms, network slicing, edge computing, and mmWave spectrum. I could hardly keep up with Baidu President and COO Qi Lu as he enthusiastically described Baidu’s vision for using artificial intelligence to accelerate innovation in many different industries, particularly automotive, and how 5G will be the underlying technology to make that possible.
Even more surprising than the way this formerly network-centric lingo is making its way into the broader consumer tech community, is how quickly 5G is moving from a nebulous concept to reality.
Hans Vestberg, CTO of Verizon and the former CEO of equipment maker Ericsson, boldly proclaimed that Verizon will be the first with 5G in the U.S. The company late last year said it will launch its own pre-standard 5G fixed wireless service in three to five markets in the U.S. this year, but that news was quickly followed by Verizon competitor AT&T, which said earlier this year that it will launch standardized mobile 5G service in 12 markets this year.
Not be outdone, Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm, said that his company is pushing ahead aggressively with the newly minted 3GPP non-standalone 5G NR-based chipsets that he believes the market will see in the first 5G smartphones in early 2019.
Interestingly, Amon said that because the 5G smartphones and other devices will be connected to the cloud all the time, the devices won’t need as much memory. That means that 5G devices may become less costly instead of more expensive, which has been the trend for the past decade. “With 5G we reverse that trend,” Amon said.
Although Baidu is not a mobile operator, Li said that his company is actively involved in the 3GPP standards body. The company has an aggressive plan to get its Apollo 2.0 self-driving car platform into commercial production. Li said that in the next year the company will have three sedans on the market outfitted with its technology. “This has exceeded my wildest dreams,” he said.
If 5G moves as quickly as these tech leaders are saying, it may exceed many people’s wildest dreams, including mine.