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How 5G can change your life this year

What will you have to look forward to as 5G makes its way into homes and devices in 2019? We made a special trip to Hawaii to find out.

Qualcomm, with its 30-year history of inventing groundbreaking wireless technologies, has collaborated with innovators throughout the tech ecosystem to usher in a new era of connectivity with 5G.

During Qualcomm Technologies' Snapdragon Tech Summit in Hawaii, some of their collaborations with AT&T, Verizon and NextVR were on display with interactive demos that utilized a live 5G network. Jonathan Rettinger of Technobuffalo.com was there to experience it all and spoke with Qualcomm Technologies and mobile industry leaders to gain a better understanding of what 5G means for their businesses and customers. Here's what he learned.

What is 5G, really?

5G is much more than just a marketing term. Overall, it's a faster internet connection for at home and on-the-go. With it, you can see multi-gigabit speeds that aren't possible with the 4G connection you're currently using.  Imagine home internet speeds on your mobile device.

For example, "Today, you probably stream music everywhere, and whatever signals you have in your smartphone, [the connection is] probably good enough to [support it]," said Cristiano Amon, the President of Qualcomm Incorporated, at the summit. With 5G, Amon explains, "You'll be able to [stream] 4K video. It's like bringing wireless fiber [connectivity] straight to your phone."

Beyond increasing speed and connectivity, 5G is designed to increase network capacity by up to 100x, proliferating "Unlimited" data plans even more.  And an increase in network capacity means not only can people connect more seamlessly, but also mobile networks can more efficiently interconnect and control machines, objects and devices. The result? We'll see a host of new user experiences and innovative new industries enabled by 5G technology.

When will we see 5G?

"5G is real. It's really here, and it's going to be launching in 2019," said Amon.

AT&T, Verizon, Samsung and others have initiated 5G rollouts in select markets and will continue to expand. Smartphones will be out in the first half of this year, and by the end of the year 5G will be much more widespread.

Benefits of 5G
5G brings with it the ability to introduce new apps and services. It can transform the way we connect and use our smartphone with unimaginable speeds, responsiveness and productivity. 5G is designed to pair with technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and extended reality (XR) to enhance current services and applications, offering a new level of user experience.

Below are recaps of notable demos at the Snapdragon Tech Summit 2018 powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 mobile platform.

Beyond private use: Medical demo

It's easy to think about 5G as a way to just download stuff faster, but there are real-world medical applications, too. A demo at the Snapdragon Tech Summit by Verizon and Qualcomm Technologies showed us how you can go through a rehab process using 5G and an Oculus VR headset.

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qualcomm-5g-test-physical-therapy

In the demo, Rettinger was able to work with a physician to perform rehab exercises, just as if he were in the doctor's office. This particular exercise focused on keeping a ball balanced on a platform using your arms. "So coming through my headset I could hear the doctor talk to me via voice over IP, [they] tell me what to do, to raise my hands, to lower my hands, to help guide me through the therapy no matter where I am," said Rettinger.

"This is all happening in almost real time. As I move my hand even a little bit I'm seeing it happen on screen. As a patient moves their hand, for the physical therapist, it's happening in their end too. It's like we are interacting in a real world, but it's completely virtual."

Previously, this may not have been possible due to latency or network lag, but with 5G, near real-time virtual interactions can be the norm.

The Grand Canyon test

5G is going to help make AR and VR experiences more photorealistic on your mobile device, and they'll be beyond anything you're able to experience on your phone today. AT&T and Qualcomm Technologies' collaborative demo virtually transported Rettinger to the Grand Canyon where he was able to explore in stunning real-time using just his phone.

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"There isn't any sort of loading or waiting to buffer," Rettinger says.

This is happening thanks in part to the power of the Snapdragon X50 mobile platform. The low latency that 5G enables allows for virtually instantaneous rendering.

Other things you can do with 5G
There is so much more we can do with low-latency and high-speed data once we unlock the full capabilities of 5G. Other demos at the Snapdragon Tech Summit highlighted some additional benefits of the Snapdragon X50 mobile platform.

For example, you and your friends can be on separate couches, miles apart and watch a live event together using real-time video chat and multiple camera feeds to share reactions with each other. This same setup could also be used to collaborate with friends and coworkers in real time.

5G can also make shopping easier. Imagine finding a couch in a brick-and-mortar shop, but you're unsure of how it would look in your living room. Using AR facilitated by 5G you could share a virtual rendering of the couch with your roommate using your mobile device. Then, you could watch your roommate place the virtual furniture in your home where you could evaluate it for fit and style.

If you're on-the-go and need to find a store or a restaurant, AR over a 5G connection can help with that as well. Just pan your phone's camera across your field of vision and you can almost instantaneously see reviews, menus and your friends' check-ins right on your phone.

Gamers will benefit from 5G, too. With reduced latency, multiplayer mobile games can be lag-free, live streams can be glitch-free and in-person multiplayer AR gaming can quickly evolve into massive, detailed interactive experiences.

In 2019 expect to see big changes ushered in by 5G technology and Qualcomm's innovations. 5G is expanding the horizon of communication and how devices, smart cars, smart appliances and other tech connect. It's also changing how we connect with each other. Soon, the things we once thought weren't possible may be commonplace afterall.

To learn more about how 5G may impact you, click here.

Qualcomm Snapdragon is a product of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries. Content sponsored by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.