5G Could Be Great, But It’s Woefully Misunderstood

5G Could Be Great, But It’s Woefully Misunderstood
Image: Jim Cooke/Gizmodo

Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg spent what felt like the bulk of Apple’s big iPhone announcement evangelising 5G, the fifth generation of wireless cellular technology. According to the two men, 5G is going to revolutionise how you use your phone with incredible 4 Gbps download speeds and the whole internet available in seconds. It was an impressive bit of stumping for the technology, but it also felt like it was full of over-promises that didn’t take into account real world.

5G has been dealing with these overpromises since before it even started to roll out over the past year. Cellular companies want to convince you to pay more for phones and phone plans but reveling in the possibilities of 5G, and plenty of tech companies, including now Apple, have happily signed up to do the same. We’ve heard people promise 5G will transform cloud gaming, robotics, and even VR and AR.

But the reality is more complex, which is why we spoke with Vida Ilderem, a vice president at Intel Labs and director of Integrated Platform Research. Ilderem is excited about the opportunities 5G and future generations of cellular technology could reveal, but she also understands the challenges 5G faces better than most. With over 20 years of work on wireless technologies at both Intel and Motorola, Ilderem has seen a lot of the previous generations of wireless technology and has a wonderfully sober view of where 5G actually is.

Sure, she notes, it will change how computers out in the field communicate with one another and provide tons of, mostly invisible, benefits to the average person, but 5G is still in its early days and perhaps won’t be the magic cure-all for America’s terrifically bad internet infrastructure.

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