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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.

CCP releases two jailed Canadians after Huawei CFO deal with DOJ

Photo: Sheldon Cooper/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Two Canadians imprisoned by the Chinese government for over 1,000 days have been released and are expected to arrive in Canada on Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.

Why it matters: Their release comes hours after Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou reached a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice that resolves the criminal charges against her and could pave the way for her to return to China.

Updated 15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona GOP's private recount of 2020 election confirms Biden's win

Contractors working on behalf of the GOP examine and recount 2020 ballots at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix in May. Photo: Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

In an odd coda to the 2020 election, private contractors conducting a GOP-commissioned recount in Arizona confirmed President Biden’s win in Maricopa County.

Why it matters: The unofficial, party-driven recount has been heavily covered on cable news as part of former President Trump's continued effort to sow doubt about the election result.