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Can You Hear Me Now?

Category: Technology Intelligence Jul 1, 2021


A fun history of cellular technology as we prepare for blazing fast 5G.

What does 5G even mean? 5 Gigahertz in the radio spectrum frequency? 5 Gigabits of data transmitted per second? 5 Grand for the July cell phone invoice?Actually, 5G stands for the fifth generation of mobile phone technology. Each generation of wireless technology becomes exponentially faster to satisfy our thirst for data, entertainment, and remaining connected. 5G speeds clock in at 10 gigabits per second (Gbps), up to 100 times faster speeds. How fast is that? You’ll be able to download a two-hour movie in 3.6 seconds compared to 6 minutes on 4G or 26 hours on 3G.

But remember when we could leave the house without our phone? Do that today and it’s like you forgot pants or left the baby back in the grocery cart. It wasn’t always that way. So the Millennials and Generation Z can appreciate the hardships those over the age of 25 endured, here is a brief history of G (all 160 characters or less to match their attention span).

1876 – Alexander Graham Bell invents the phone. He had three missed calls from Chuck Norris.

1973 – Zero G. Motorola’s Martin Cooper pioneers the first handheld cellular phone, known affectionately as “The Brick” because of its size. This also explains cargo shorts.

1983 – 1G. Chicago becomes the first U.S. city with wireless. A phone cost $3,995, about 25% of the average salary.

1992 – 2G. Digital encryption and the first SMS text message. It was “Merry Christmas” btw.

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2002 – Spotty coverage and poor signal hand-off between towers generates a catch-phrase Americans love to loathe: Can you hear me now?

2003 – 3G. The Blackberry web browser, soon followed by cameras, flip phones, and carpal tunnel thumb syndrome.

2007 – iPhone 1. OMG!!!

2009 – 4G. Data rates provide digital media enjoyment with minimal load times and buffering. Baristas go ballistic giving out WiFi passwords, so they write them on a chalkboard…invented in 1801 by a Scots headmaster.

2010 – 4G marketing malarkey. When not connected to WiFi, most of our current coverage is actually 4G LTE. LTE stands for Long Term Evolution. Technically, that translates as “not as fast as 4G, but close enough.”

2019 – 5G is an over-hyped hot mess.

2020 – Never mind. We’re so done with 2020.

2021 – Still waiting, especially those of us in the ’burbs and boonies.

And you’re going to wait a while if you live anywhere but the heart of an urban center. 5G wavelengths have a range of 1,500 ft. – about 2% the range of a 4G signal – without obstructions. Buildings. Walls. Trees. Pigeons. They all disrupt a 5G signal. That’s no problem in a factory where multiple routers can be installed for line-of-sight transmission but building all the transmitters for consumer communications will take time. That includes the time it takes to satisfy the aesthetic whims of urban planning boards and time to plant the sheer number of towers required in corn country.

Even if you live in smart city, don’t get your thumbs all twitchy. That phone you’re lusting after is already obsolete, as mobile phone providers are now launching 5G C-Band technology. Probably followed by D-, E- and F-Band. Which is coming soon. Promise.

5G mobile phone networks make all the headlines but some of the first “killer applications” for 5G will be in manufacturing. In fact, the factory of the future has been waiting for 5G to call. Industry stands on the cusp of implementing what experts call “massive machine-type communications” with billions of connections. 5G will act as the catalyst. Here are seven reasons why the technology will transform manufacturing.

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