Households are in the midst of balancing e-learning, working from home and countless video calls to stay in touch with family and friends, causing total internet hits to increase by up to 70% since the start of the pandemic. To keep up, today’s digital world is demanding faster cellular network technology than ever, which is why 5G is one of the biggest trends for technology in 2021. 5G has been a buzzword for some time, but many consumers are still in the dark about what the next-generation wireless standard is and what it will mean in their own lives. 

5G is the fifth generation of wireless communication technologies and standards used by devices like smartphones. Technologies using wireless networks have evolved alongside each generation. Mobile devices were first made possible with 1G, shortly followed by 2G that brought consumers SMS messaging and putting people on hold. 3G networks gave birth to social media, smart phones and streaming music and videos. 

Today, more than 80 percent of Americans have smartphones and are most familiar with 4G networks. These networks have added another layer of connectivity that eliminates buffering and allows high-definition streaming. As we move to 5G as a country, everything will continue to become even more connected.

What is 5G?

The fifth generation of wireless networks will bring lower latency, faster speeds and, like previous generations, emerging technologies that will make use of these new capabilities. 5G allows streaming and downloading content from the internet at least 10 times faster than average 4G browsing and has a much larger bandwidth. 

As networks have evolved, so have the number of devices able to use a network at once. Not too long ago, it was common for people to have access to one, maybe two, computers in their day-to-day lives. Now we have multiple smartphones, computers, smart TVs and wearable devices at our disposal. It’s not unheard of for us to have four or five smart devices within reach at any given time. 5G can handle the growing need to have fast internet access on multiple devices at once. It has a much larger capacity than the networks that came before it. Access to this new technology is monumental for those who rely on fast internet while working from home and balancing all other digital needs in 2021 and the years to come.

How can consumers access it?

5G networks are available in most urban and suburban areas and are expanding every day. In order to connect to and reap the benefits of a 5G network, consumers have to have 5G-enabled devices — Samsung, Motorola, Huawei, LG, OnePlus and Apple have all released 5G phones recently. Added fees for 5G access varies between carriers, but if there is an added fee, it’s usually minimal. 

Customers typically have their devices for between 24 and 36 months. A lot can change in technology during that time, so upgrading will almost be paramount to keep up with innovation and relevant technology. While most phones will remain compatible with current 4G networks, it’s worthwhile to upgrade to a 5G-capable phone now, because at some point in the device’s life cycle you will benefit. The future of technology is speed, and we could see exponential growth in industries like education and telehealth as 5G technology is explored more, especially during the remainder of the pandemic. 

What does it mean for technology?

No industry has seen as much growth in the last 20 years as the wireless industry. Network upgrades, increased access to the internet and an ever-evolving technology landscape means there is always a new reason to upgrade your phone. 5G helps stimulate innovation that has been somewhat stagnant over the last 3-4 years. A lot of our most-used technology has been around for a while now, and with the evolving technology cycle, some devices will eventually become obsolete. 

5G grants consumers the speed and bandwidth they crave as the world discovers how to interact digitally more than ever before. Especially now, there is a spotlight on businesses’ ability to conduct remotely. Quicker connections enable your business to be more nimble and allow your employees to work anywhere. This year has opened companies’ eyes to see they can operate as normal in a remote setting, but employees must have high connections to properly operate video calls and multiple devices at once. Even more than the average consumer, businesses will be tapping into the power of 5G networks and into the new world of business.

None of us knew how important 3G and 4G networks would be until they arrived and changed the way we use our phones in nearly every aspect of our lives. So much technological innovation stems from network enhancements, and just as 2021 is bringing changes to how we function in our everyday lives, 5G will change how our devices help us along the way. 

Damion Delph is a regional field director at TCC, a Verizon Authorized Retailer located in Carmel, Indiana.

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