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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.

Scammers seize on COVID confusion

Data: FTC; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Scamming has skyrocketed in the past year, and much of the increase is attributed to COVID-related scams, more recently around vaccines.

Why it matters: The pandemic has created a prime opportunity for scammers to target people who are already confused about the chaotic rollouts of things like stimulus payments, loans, contact tracing and vaccines. Data shows that older people who aren't digitally literate are the most vulnerable.

12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden explains justification for Syria strike in letter to Congress

Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden told congressional leadership in a letter Saturday that this week's airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to Iranian-backed militia groups was consistent with the U.S. right to self-defense.

Why it matters: Some Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have criticized the Biden administration for the strike and demanded a briefing.