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What are 5G's killer applications?

5G's killer applications have yet to be fully realized -- or defined -- but some potentials include higher capacity, improved connectivity, private 5G and more.

5G hype has been considerable, but the real-world benefits of the wireless networking technology are sometimes hard to find. Beyond the marketing, 5G needs a bit of definition and context before it's clear what it does -- and doesn't -- bring to the table.

A look at 5G on the carrier side

5G carriers continue to tout what the technology might do someday, such as speeds in the tens of gigabits per second and ultralow latency, as if those capabilities are already here. However, 5G's current capabilities aren't any better than 4G. Without a strict performance definition, 5G speeds vary across mobile network operators (MNOs).

So, if 5G capabilities are varied across the board, what are 5G's killer applications? 5G's killer applications aren't applications in the traditional sense, but are features that encourage use of the technology.

Potential 5G killer apps could include the following:

  • Accessibility. If public 5G networks can't deliver on their promises of dizzying speeds, they are still becoming more ubiquitous as they grow at an appreciated pace.
  • Higher capacity. True 5G cells have better capacity than previous cellular technologies.
  • Increased connectivity. 5G offers wider coverage and better client density, which means more devices can connect, even in locations where they couldn't previously.
  • More device coverage. Greater connectivity also means more distributed IoT-type devices, along with more connectivity for consumer and business devices.

Private 5G: The ultimate 5G killer app?

Private 5G, an interesting use case of the technology, could also serve as a killer application. With private 5G, enterprises can purchase licensed space designated by the Federal Communications Commission, like the 3.5 GHz band, to build their own 5G networks for private use.

Although Wi-Fi is deeply entrenched in the business world, it might be advantageous for enterprises to move connectivity out of the crowded 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrums where Wi-Fi operates and opt for private 5G.

Private 5G works well in various sectors, including the following:

  • Manufacturing settings.
  • Port and refinery connectivity scenarios.
  • Operations of large public venues that require uninterrupted, wide-range connectivity for ticketing, sales and athletics sideline communications systems.

One issue, however, is there aren't many private 5G-compatible end devices yet. That could change in the near future, though, as enterprises in several industries can make use of private 5G.

More 5G killer apps to develop in the future

MNOs are only getting started with understanding how to use new networking technologies like 5G. They're figuring out where each new technology could fit compared to incumbent network access methods. The idea of real-world 5G killer applications is just starting to take shape and will become fully realized when 5G develops in the future.

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