DENVER — Sprint’s future is uncertain, but the carrier isn’t pulling back on its plans to launch mobile 5G services in nine markets during the next seven weeks. “Our network teams have been incredibly busy building our first nine markets,” Mishka Dehghan, vice president of 5G development at Sprint, said this week during her keynote at the Big 5G Event. “We are going to start this month, so you know the clock is ticking.”
An abundant eagerness, interest, and willingness to learn about 5G was on full display throughout the event, but as Dehghan noted the biggest question remains: “What is 5G really going to do for us?” It was a completely rhetorical statement, of course, because Sprint, like it’s larger competitors, has big hopes and dreams for 5G.
“We hype it up, everybody is talking about it, but how is that going to really transform the future, a future that’s here today, that’s only limited by our imagination?” she continued. “It might sound a little bit cliche, but you know, 5G really is truly revolutionary.”
How so? Well for starters, according to Sprint and almost every other carrier and vendor represented at the event, 5G is going to improve healthcare and education, and enable autonomous vehicles and remote surgery.
“The true benefits of 5G are going to come over time, over the next few years. When we talk about the transformational nature of 5G, this is something that all of us as a society, as consumers, are going to experience in different ways as it relates to multiple industries,” Dehghan said.
IoT as an Enabler
Massive IoT, one of the core tenets of the 5G standards, is going to power critical applications and uses in multiple industries with “real cross pollination” between enterprises and consumers, she explained.
“The internet of things is going to be truly turbocharged when you bring it together with the benefits of 5G, because 5G is going to drive scale for IoT,” she said. “We’re going to be using a significantly higher number of devices, that’s really what we refer to as Massive IoT.”
While Dehghan admitted that some of these applications and use cases are available today on 4G networks, she said 5G is going to enhance those applications and change the framework upon which IoT enables those critical apps.
“5G and IoT together do have complementary strengths, but when you bring other emerging technology into the mix that has artificial intelligence, next-generation robots and micro-positioning…you really multiply the number of use cases and applications where we can really push the limit of what’s in place today and push the limits of our imagination,” she said.
One of the foundations for Sprint’s vision is the IoT Curiosity platform, which launched in the fall of 2018 and was awarded as the “most innovative IoT strategy” at the Big 5G Event. Dehghan described it as the “first virtualized, dedicated, and distributed IoT platform that has been really designed from the ground up to be enabling future technologies and future applications.”
5G Use Cases
She then detailed some of the early use cases that Sprint is working to develop with partners around smart cities, autonomous vehicles, healthcare, and education. “It’s not science fiction, it’s reality,” she said, adding that new experiments and experiences are underway today.
With micro positioning or “inch-based precise location,” autonomous vehicles can be “aware of the context in which they operate,” including pedestrians crossing the street, obstacles, and construction sites, making it a “vital element of enabling autonomous driving,” Dehghan said.
Healthcare was another topic high on the minds and lips of every speaker at the event, including Dehghan. “Everyone wants to explore the benefits of 5G for healthcare,” she said. “This is an area where we could be talking about the benefits of remote surgery. But let’s face it, remote surgery is not going to happen in a meaningful way for another few years. What can happen in a meaningful way now…is really helping society by enhancing the experience that patients have when they need access to a doctor.”
Dehghan envisions on-demand appointments for doctor visits similar to how many people book hotels or restaurant reservations today, but she was light on how 5G will specifically make that happen.
“We had over 136 million visits in emergency rooms in the United States alone last year. Over 60% of those visits could have been avoided if the patient could have actually accessed a doctor immediately,” she said. “That’s one of the areas where we are going to see an immediate change…and there’s already a lot that’s being done in that department.”
That theme continued for education, an area of immense complexity with many challenges. “The education and the classroom is going to evolve even further by creating experiences that none of us ever had when we were going to school years ago,” she said. “Ten years from now the field of education is also going to be completely revolutionized.”
Indeed, the power and promise of 5G was a primary focus her keynote. Sprint’s vision, as she concluded is that “the enabler for the way we are changing society is really 5G.”