On Monday, Samsung Electronics announced it had developed a new “5G” wireless standard that could be hundreds of times faster than today’s 4G networks.
The new wireless standard is at least seven years away, so you won’t be streaming full seasons of Game Of Thrones in 3D soon. And seven years is a lifetime in tech—taking nothing away from Samsung’s accomplishment, I’d be surprised if we didn’t see a few standards competing for our bandwidth by 2020.
Already, Alcatel-Lucent has a ridiculously fast landline system in France. In the U.S., Google Fiber has brought gigabit Internet to Kansas City, Mo., with Austin, Tex., and Provo, Utah, next up for installation. That’s because the rush for more bandwidth is akin to an oil rush. Get data-transmission speeds fast enough, and it doesn’t mean people can simply open Web pages faster; it means whole new businesses can thrive.
For Samsung, one of those businesses is ultra-high definition TV. This new, incredibly high-resolution format was a big deal at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show but remains more theoretical than real, as movies encoded in this format have a file size that would sink a ship. Trying to stream a UHD movie over today’s networks takes days, not minutes. But if Samsung’s new network technology is for real, UHD will suddenly become viable. And if you’re Samsung, that’s nothing to sneeze at, since you’re already the world’s largest TV manufacturer.
Samsung also said that a faster wireless network could help give rise to advanced medical services, since doctors would need high-resolution images to work remotely. That also lines up with the conglomerate’s goal of expanding into health-care technology. Indeed, the company’s goal is to be a major player in that industry by 2020—the same year its new wireless standard is expected.
Wireless standards used to be developed by consortiums that included wireless providers. But Samsung’s move into this field indicates two things: Bandwidth is the life-giving force that allows new devices (and new revenue streams) to flourish, and innovation in this area may no longer come from third-party groups, but directly from the businesses that stand to benefit the most from it.