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For a few years now, people in the know have heard about 5G technology and how it could help them access the internet faster than ever, not to mention improve other areas of the tech sector. Let’s take a close look at the likely ways 5G networks will impact technology this year.

What Is 5G?

5G is the next-generation technology that could feature speeds as high as 20Gbps and a latency of only milliseconds. Engineers are hard at work building 5G networks (many on existing LTE networks) that are energy-efficient and have “always-on” operation. Although analysts don’t expect widespread commercial 5G availability until 2020, some providers will roll it out this year in select markets. Here are five things to watch for this year.

1. Verizon Will Offer 5G for Home Use in 2018

Verizon Wireless announced plans to offer 5G-level home broadband in the second half of 2018. Sacramento, CA, will reportedly be the first market to receive it, with a few other places added soon after.

This development will bring 5G to more consumers, helping them get accustomed to its benefits before it becomes part of the mainstream. Verizon’s efforts may also highlight shortcomings that other providers can take into account while creating their own upcoming service packages.

2. 5G Will Be Used to Broadcast the Winter Olympics

Due to a partnership between Intel and Korea Telecom, attendees at the 2018 Winter Olympics will see a 5G mobile network in action. They’ll enjoy live-streamed content and other media to help them get engrossed in the Olympics experience. 5G technology and facial-recognition capabilities will also keep the spectators and athletes safer by broadcasting drone and camera footage to a security control center.

3. 5G Will Help High-Tech Cars Communicate

Honda set a 2025 deadline for its driverless cars, but the brand is already looking at ways to utilize 5G networks to help the autonomous vehicles “talk” to each other. Several communication providers in Japan have already tested 5G capabilities, and starting this year there will be 5G base station installations at one of Honda’s test tracks.

Those base stations will aid engineers in developing the antennas and other technology on the cars that could help the autos send and receive signals. This development will let Honda see how 5G works in a rural location, which could be particularly useful since prior tests were in urban areas.

4. 5G Will Fuel Medical Advancements

Experts also have high hopes of using 5G in health care, and you can expect the developments in that area to become more prominent this year. Due to 5G’s low latency and assumptions that it could connect with devices that have long battery lives, people say 5G is potentially a good fit for wearable tech products that help doctors monitor their patients from afar.

The low latency also opens up the possibility of doctors relying on telemedicine to make diagnoses even when they are not in the same country as a patient. In Portugal, doctors look at patient data via video screens to give their advice about people suffering from seizures. If 5G works well in remote areas, it could also help physicians provide information to individuals in the field who are handling tough cases.

5. Using 5G to Enable Better Experiences for Retailers and Customers

Merchants continually look for ways to appeal to customers and enhance their shopping experiences. AT&T has recently unveiled its largest-ever fixed wireless 5G trial at a retail outlet called the Magnolia in Waco. Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the building let customers and employees connect to the internet on their smartphones.

Some of the equipment on the site, which accommodates approximately 5,000 shoppers per day who come to Magnolia and surrounding shops, will also connect to the 5G network and facilitate smoother sales transactions with the tech used by workers, such as point-of-sale interfaces and apps.

Depending on the outcome of this large trial, we could see a greater number of retailers experimenting with 5G this year. If they can use the technology to deliver personalized material to customers as they enter certain shops, for example, people might be more likely to linger and buy more items than planned — plus avoid some of the frustrating factors that can accompany shopping.

This overview of how 5G could shape various technologies this year should be enough to get you excited about what’s ahead. Now we can all wait and see what develops over the coming months.

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