Connecticut prepares for 5G revolution

Buckle up. Your fast-paced world is shifting to warp speed.

It may have received little attention, but concerning how much it will change our lives, the biggest news this week wasn’t tolls or racist comments or stalled development projects. It was 5G.

An ultra-fast digital network built on a fifth-generation (5G) wireless platform is coming. Connecticut joined the high-speed communications rush Monday when Gov. Ned Lamont signed a bill to accelerate 5G deployment in the state.

The bill won near universal support in the legislature. The House approved the measure 145-1. The Senate vote was unanimous.

With current 4G connectivity, data travels across a network in 100 milliseconds. With 5G, that travel time should be 1 millisecond, virtually instantaneous.

There’s a lot more to 5G than faster download times. The upgrade will herald a new communications age of smart, connected devices gathering massive amounts of data. It will change the way we live, work and play.

The legislation signed by Lamont establishes a Council on 5G Technology to review requests from wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T to place equipment on state-owned and municipal property.

AT&T and Verizon have pledged to spend hundreds of millions of investment dollars in Connecticut for the upgrade. This includes more antennas, base stations and fiber-optic cables.

The connected 5G world will rely on small tracking sensors placed everywhere. It is estimated that more than 1 million sensors will be deployed per square mile; more than 50 billion worldwide.

The sensors will gather and transmit data to a hyper-connected world. So-called “smart cities” will be formed to manage the bureaucracy, control traffic, respond to emergencies, monitor the environment, and turn on the streetlights.

If the experts have it right, a technological revolution awaits.

Mobile devices and robotic machines will educate themselves. The devices will communicate with each other to make decisions and learn from those decisions.

5G technology will enable mass production of autonomous cars. These self-driving smart cars will connect to other vehicles, travel lanes and traffic signals. They will learn to instantly re-route and avoid congestion.

Aerial drones will deliver packages along monitored flight patterns and schedules. Drones also could be dispatched in emergencies to deliver information to police or assist in rescue operations.

In the health care field, robotic surgery will enable surgeons to perform operations from remote locations using a holographic overlay on the patient.

Factories will deploy high-precision robots to manufacture products, monitor inventory, order parts and manage the supply chain.

In the home, 5G could replace your cable company as the broadband provider. A home antenna could receive a beam for 5G service directly from a cell tower.

The viewing experience on our screens will be enhanced with augmented and virtual reality content that creates tactile sensations.

Special eyeglasses, like Google Glass, will have a dedicated 5G connection. Digitally connected apparel worn by the viewer will bring touch sensation to video and gaming experiences.

Full-sized 3D holograms will appear before your eyes.

Augmented reality will expand learning tools for educators. Geography students could walk on the Great Wall of China, or hover above the Sahara Desert.

The lines between real and artificial experiences will be blurred.

This vastly enhanced virtual existence is coming soon to a life near you. Verizon already has installed 5G upgrades in 20 metropolitan areas, including Providence. AT&T has 5G capacity in 19 cities. Both carriers are expanding coverage areas aggressively.

Smaller markets like southeastern Connecticut will take another year or two before being fully connected.

5G will have an enormous impact on humankind. Fantastic new things will be invented. The world will shrink, becoming more homogenized and automated.

For all its transformational promise, the human upheaval this new era will unleash should not be underestimated. Hundreds of millions of people stand to lose their livelihoods to automation. Traditional business will be disrupted. Many will collapse; replaced by models that adapt better to the technology.

The dark side of human nature that advanced with social media will have a more powerful platform for spewing hate and disinformation. The technology will be another tool for criminals and tyrants.

Governments will be overwhelmed to keep pace with regulations and liability laws to protect the public.

Like every other great era of human advancement throughout history, this brave new world will deliver generous and volatile doses of good and bad.

But it can’t be ignored. The state is right to prepare. The countdown to the 5G revolution has begun.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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