5G Steals the Spotlight at CES 2019

Photo Credit: John Locher/AP/Shutterstock
January 7, 2019
Updated 2mo ago

By Chloe Aiello

The world's biggest tech event, CES, is upon us. In past years, the Las Vegas-based trade show has presented such memorable innovations as the first-ever home VCR and the (short-lived) Nintendo PlayStation ー but this year will be all about 5G.

"Just like the transition from 3G to 4G, this transition from 4G to 5G is inevitable ー it is happening," George Slefo, Ad Age technology reporter told Cheddar Monday. "There is nothing that is going to stop this from rolling out. If it's not this year, it's definitely 2020."

Skeptics of the new, faster network can point to Apple ($AAPL) as proof the 5G era has not yet arrived. Apple is reportedly sitting out 5G until at least 2020, when it plans to introduce a compatible device ー just as the company did with both 3G and 4G. But Slefo emphasized 5G is about much more than just phones.

"The most important thing to think about when you think about 5G, is that smartphones are the least important thing," he said.

Slefo said 5G will be much more about the rural internet revolution and the Internet of Things (IoT).

"While we are talking about Apple and everything, it is important to think about the Internet of Things, [virtual reality] you know, smart cities ー that's a whole other world over there," Slefo said.

One of the most important ー if least glamorous ー innovations to result from 5G may be a solution to the last mile problem, which means individuals in rural areas will finally gain access to the same internet that urban populations enjoy.

"What 5G is able to do is its able to beam internet to someone's home," he said. That capability will enable a "rural revolution. These people they don't have Netflix ($NFLX), they don't use Amazon ($AMZN) because they're on dial up. What's going to happen when this whole population suddenly gets internet?"

The flashier side of 5G universe is IoT, wherein devices are connected both to the internet and each other.

5G is "being developed with the intention that everything is going to be connected ... people are talking about the shirt on your back being connected to the internet," Slefo said.

And at CES, Slefo said, virtually every type of device is fair game for IoT.

"It's like Homer Simpson said it: take an existing product and maybe put a watch on it and that's your new invention. At CES it's like, take an existing product and connect it to the internet," he said.

For full interview click here.