CES 2022: Where will 5G go next?

January 28th, 2022 | John Poelking

For the past few years, the future of telecom has been 5G. Today, it’s becoming less of a concept and more of a reality for consumers. Mintel research on US tech consumers shows that 8 in 10 smartphone owners are interested in getting a 5G plan or have already signed up for one.

As 5G networks have steadily rolled out, carriers have been compiling use cases for the low-latency connections promised by 5G. Mobile gaming has been a popular display of an improved experience using 5G compared to 4G/LTE connection, while the possibility of live streaming outside the home has extended to VR/AR interactions in an increasingly-rapid race to develop metaverses.

The deployment of C-band spectrum coverage from Verizon and AT&T will bring 5G to even more users across the country. As it becomes more available, the big question then becomes: what happens next?

Panels and products showcased at CES 2022 aimed to answer this question, and three avenues presented themselves in regards to where 5G can best be deployed.

In the cities

5G networks, thus far, have largely been limited to larger cities, as the close structure of cities lend themselves to the needs of 5G network infrastructure. As a result of this and their early adopter tendencies, urban residents tend to be more familiar with 5G capabilities. Once urban dwellers adopt 5G as their standard network connection, the next step will be deploying 5G across cities to connect different public services. The interconnection of public service offerings (transportation, safety, etc.) will be instrumental to city planning going forward. Low latency means sending and receiving information more quickly, and 5G connections will help deliver vital information across urban areas.

In rural communities

While smart cities will be instrumental to the evolution of 5G, there are still many places that don’t have any access to 5G connections. Much of the 5G discussion at CES 2022 revolved around making sure that everybody would have access to the next wave of innovation, no matter where they live. Reaching rural communities will be as difficult as it has been for every other step in the history of wireless networks and residential internet. However, accessibility and transparency will be important for brands to demonstrate while there are still many communities that can’t utilize 5G advantages in order to capitalize on the huge white space 5G coverage presents.

In the streets

The future of autonomous vehicles depends on the deployment of 5G networks. Self-driving cars will need to understand how they move and where they are within space, and delivering that information quickly to the cars ensures greater safety for passengers and pedestrians alike.

In addition to autonomy, there is a growing list of reasons why the cars of the future will need to be connected. The vehicle cockpit has become more tech-focused and is moving towards an updateable operating system seen on mobile devices. Many new electric cars sold today have screens and audio systems that rival the at-home experience, solidifying the growing demand for convenience, entertainment and productivity. In an autonomous car, it’s not a stretch to think of the cockpit as a second living room, one in which you’re just passing the time until your destination is reached. In the future where smart homes and communities are fully integrated, so too with your “personal assistant” vehicle; It could notify your child’s school that you’re running late for pickup, ping you to take your medication 20 minutes before you eat, and submit a prescription refill to your pharmacist. It could provide the final ETA to your thermostat, your slow cooker, and the rest of your family so that dinner is ready and the temperature is just the way you like it when everyone gets home.

More immediately, remote access and monitoring features that require an always-on cellular connection will present another upgrade possibility for network providers. Wireless networks will likely tout partnerships with auto manufacturers to bring a clearer future of 5G streets into focus.

John Poelking

John Poelking

John Poelking is Comperemedia's Associate Director - Tech, Media, and Telecom, providing omnichannel marketing analysis and competitive intelligence for syndicated and custom insights.