CES Roundup: 5G Takes Center Stage

The world of technology converged in Las Vegas last week as everything from gigantic 219-inch televisions to connected vehicles to smart diapers were on display at the world’s largest technology showcase. Among the innovations generating buzz this year was 5G, with prototype end-user devices on display and much discussion surrounding the potential next-generation wireless networks will bring.

Analyst Jeff Kagan wrote that the single most important part of the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show was “how important wireless and 5G will be going forward not only for wireless networks and smartphone makers, but for every other company in every other industry as well.”

During the keynote address, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg outlined the carrier’s near-term 5G plans and outlined what he called the eight currencies of 5G, which include data rates, data volume, mobility, connected devices, energy efficiency, service deployment time, reliability and latency. With help from representatives from the New York Times and Walt Disney Studios, Vestberg explained how 5G will change industries.

Vestberg also delighted the crowd when he launched a drone in Los Angeles live from the stage in Las Vegas to highlight news that the company plans to have 1 million drones connected to its 5G network through its Skyward division, which focuses on using drones for safety missions. Vestberg also introduced a representative from Medivis to discuss the impact 5G will have on medical science, including how 5G and augmented reality will work together during medical procedures.

Finally, Vestberg introduced Kyle Kuzma of the L.A. Lakers, who demonstrated Verizon’s 5G virtual reality goggles by shooting baskets on an arcade game.

To spur 5G innovation, Verizon is offering a $1 million in seed money to companies that come up with concrete, transformative uses for 5G technology.

AT&T discussed its 5G plans during the show. The company said data traffic on its mobile network has grown more than 470,000 percent since 2007, with video making up half of its mobile data traffic today. By 2020, the company expects video to make up three-quarters of its mobile traffic, fueled by 4K video, autonomous cars, drones, virtual reality/augmented reality and mobile gaming.

5G will help the company cope with the more than 242 petabytes of data that crosses its network on an average day. AT&T said it plans to have nationwide 5G Evolution coverage by Spring of this year and nationwide mobile 5G coverage by early 2020 using sub-6 GHz spectrum.

Also during the show, AT&T announced it is working with the city of Las Vegas to pilot a smart lighting solution in highly populated areas of the Las Vegas Innovation District. AT&T will replace existing photocells with Ubicquia’s Ubicell streetlight routers to create a smart lighting network integrated with its LTE and LTE-M networks. The solution will monitor energy usage and outages to help improve maintenance operations. The goal of the six-month pilot is to improve public safety conditions for businesses, residents and visitors as well as reduce energy usage and improve operational efficiencies.

And AT&T has its sights set on edge computing functions for enterprise applications and will begin testing at its AT&T Foundry test center in Plano, Texas. Edge computing can eliminate the long-haul transmissions that occur with some computing requests today and deliver faster services to end users as well as open the door for new services.

For those who are already bored with talk of 5G, CES also hosted conversations about what’s to come with 6G. Boingo Wireless CTO Derek Peterson discussed quantum computing and how it will change transmission of information. A panel on the potential attributes and needs for future 6G mobile networks featured Dr. Peterson and others discussing what the nascent technology could mean for transmission of data, accuracy, performance, reliability and security.

Boingo CEO Dave Hagan spoke with Yahoo Finance about the company’s expansion into airports, military bases and other venues. He said 5G represents a huge opportunity for the company.

John Deere showcased a connected combine harvester on the CES show floor. The harvester analyzes corn as it is being processed and optimizes its operation based on real-time information. The massive piece of machinery is self-steering and powered by GPS.