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Illustration: Sarah Grillo, Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The next generation of mobile networks will make or break the big tech ideas of the future, allowing each one to be field-tested at scale and checked off as a revolution or a dud.

Why it matters: Autonomous vehicles, smart homes, smart cities, "Internet of Things" devices, virtual and augmented reality — 5G will carry this raft of new technologies out of the labs and into our streets and homes, weaving the internet into the fabric of daily life.

Between the lines: Yes, 5G will mean faster data on phones. But it will also pave the way for billions of connected devices — everything from sensors that can measure water levels to surgery done remotely over the internet.

5G offers three upgrades to its predecessor, today's 4G (or LTE) networks:

  1. Minimal delay, or low latency, for real-time applications like gaming or remote piloting.
  2. Long battery life, for those days when you can't find a charger — and for devices that need to sit untended in the field.
  3. High speeds, for no-wait viewing of high-definition video and transfers of enormous hunks of data.

The big picture: 5G will take a long time to roll out. It's as easy to overestimate this transformation in the near term as it is to underestimate its impact over 5 to 10 years — just as, 10 years ago, it was hard to believe that the last generations of network-tech upgrades would make streaming anywhere, navigation everywhere, ride sharing, and mobile transactions our new normal.

What’s next: In the same way that 4G led to a never-forecast world of Uber, Spotify, and Square, we don’t know what new companies and services 5G will inspire.

  • And the providers don’t care. They’ve learned that their job is to keep creating new technical realities that entrepreneurs and engineers will inevitably explore and exploit.

The bottom line: Last time around, the arrival of a new network generation moved the internet off our desktops and into our palms and pockets. This time, it will transform the network from something we carry around to something that carries us around.

Worthy of your time:

  1. Read the full deep dive
  2. When 5G will arrive
  3. How to sound smart about 5G
  4. The global race for 5G
  5. Why 5G keeps security experts awake
  6. Smart-city tech sees a jumpstart from 5G
  7. Cities and feds clash over 5G costs
  8. 5G's great divide
  9. The fight for airwaves
  10. 5G's first adopters

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jan 13, 2021 - Economy & Business

American Towers paying $9.4 billion for Telefónica assets

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

American Towers agreed to buy the European and Latin American mobile phone towers businesses of Spain's Telefónica for $9.41 billion in cash.

Why it matters: This marks the first major foray by a U.S. tower operator into Europe, where Cellnex reigns supreme, and will help Telefónica eat into its €37 billion leverage load.

NYT: Khashoggi's killers had paramilitary training in U.S.

A vigil for journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, following his killing in 2018 in Turkey. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Several Saudis who took part in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi had paramilitary training in the U.S. under a State Department contract a year before his 2018 death, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Why it matters: While there's no evidence the department knew that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sanctioned Saudi officials to detain, kidnap and torture dissidents in 2017, the approval of such training underscores how "intensely intertwined" the U.S. has become with a nation known for human rights abuses, per the NYT.

U.S. attorney finalist trashes Labor secretary

Rachael Rollins and Marty Walsh. Photos: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images (Rollins); Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images (Walsh)

A finalist for U.S. attorney in Boston is publicly trashing the city's former mayor — Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.

Why it matters: Rachael Rollins’ approach is perpetuating scrutiny of a troubled Cabinet secretary and fellow Democrat — and hints at the independence she may exhibit if tapped for top federal prosecutor for the eastern half of Massachusetts.