At Mobile World Congress 2015, the conversation will be about how 5G wireless technology will make global mobility faster, more efficient, more connected.
A student in Kazakhstan gets a degree online, a businessman in Nairobi sends money to his family in a remote Kenyan village, rice farmers in Cambodia predict rainfall, North African protesters shake the world on social media. The common thread between them all is that they connect to the Internet using wireless mobile technology that is becoming a way of life for many around the world.
As industry insiders descend upon Barcelona for Mobile World Congress (MWC) in early March, it’s clear that wireless networks aren’t just about cell phones anymore.
“Mobile technology is becoming a core element of humanity,” said Aicha Evans, vice president and general manager of the Intel Platform Engineering Group.
“It’s about the problems and opportunities in our global community.” Global-minded Evans was born in Senegal. She grew up there and later lived in Paris before attending the George Washington University in Washington DC. She has attended MWC almost every year since 2003.
MWC is the premiere business technology show that focuses purely on wireless and mobile. Attendees come from around the world to showcase new products and discuss everything to do with wireless — from trends and devices to government regulation and what global connection really means.
At this year’s event, Evans, who has been attending for more than a decade, predicts the air will be buzzing with discussions about next-generation 5G wireless network technology,the future of the connected home, connected car and all categories of IoT and wearables.
Evans says 5G, which is expected to become widely available in 2020, will make everything in our lives faster, more programmed and predictable. It will be built for almost anything that both computes and communicates digitally.
“We’re talking about the underpinning of the global middle class,” she said, likening the building of the 5G infrastructure to Roosevelt’s New Deal, where the deliberate building of highways, railways and dams enabled the ability to move goods even to remote parts of the country.
She said that effort behind the New Deal was the underpinning of the industrial revolution. “Mobile internet is exactly like that — instead of getting information in hours, you’re going to get it in microseconds,” she said. “[5G technology] is an instrument that will dictate how we communicate, educate, how to move goods and services, in terms of getting even basics.”
She said we’re seeing the graduation of mobile into anything and everything.
According to ABI Research, there were more than 16 billion active wireless connected devices in 2014. By 2020, that number is expected to surpass 40 billion. So when 5G becomes broadly available, everything from personal computing devices to smart cities, autonomous cars and so many other things that will connecting and communicating via wireless Internet.
High-speed wireless is what makes our email travel thousands of miles in a blink of an eye, lets us download movies in the time it takes to make tea, allows a student in Uzbekistan to learn coding online, can give silenced protesters a voice.
Evans says underdeveloped countries are sometimes the ones driving innovation. In Kenya, for example, people in cities use their phones to send money to relatives in remote villages.
“It’s not like in the US where there’s a bank or post office available,” Evans said.
But everyone has a cell phone.
“This is the first time we’re seeing an innovation that happened in developing world (born of bare necessity) coming to developed world,” she said.
People like Evans stay up at night thinking about how to create enough spectral bandwidth to support 5G, how to keep it secure and make it accessible across the globe.
“It needs to be more efficient,” she says. “We’re talking about using the most efficient connection — without the user even know that it’s happening.”
Mobility is changing, connecting more people and places, and the buzz is palpable. Evans is excited by the possibilities inherent in 5G’s capability to connect more people, places and everyday things.
“When people get a glimpse of what’s possible, they’ll want more.”
And she’s ready to make it happen.