At this year’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, among the technologies getting a lot of attention were 8K TVs and 5G (fifth-generation cellular wireless). While conceptually pretty exciting, it’s important to put both into perspective as neither are ready for prime time in the commercial audiovisual world.
It’s easiest to hit the hype pause button on 8K TVs. Firstly, no one is selling 8K TVs and moreover, even with nearly half of all consumer TVs sold being 4K, very little 4K content is being produced. So why even think about 8K right now.
It’s a little harder to keep the 5G genie in the bottle…mainly because wireless carriers are proclaiming it is already here. And it is…sort of.
A Look-Back at 4G
For a bit of perspective, 4G cellular wireless was similarly rolled out in early 2008. Any service that called itself “4G” had to adhere to standards that included peak mobile speeds of 100 megabits per second with applications such as mobile hot spots having speeds of at least 1 gigabit per second.
Ahem. As many of you know, the technology and infrastructure needed for reaching those standards are just now coming around. So, during the intervening 10 to 12 years, we had 4G LTE (long-term evolution) and most recently 4G LTE-A (advanced). While not achieving true 4G specs, 4G LTE was fast enough to let the smartphone era really take off by enabling video-driven social media like Snapchat (2012), video chatting (2013) and mobile consumption of TV and film through apps like Netflix.
And that brings us to 5G, which compared to 4G, will be giving us higher speeds, much lower latency and the ability to connect a lot more devices at once. Right now, there are three types of 5G: low band, mid-band and high-band – each being incompatible with the other.
For a great description of what this all means, you may want to read a recent PC Magazine article, What is 5G?
5G Over the Next Decade
For our purposes, suffice it to say, it may be another 10 years before the true capabilities of 5G are fully realized. But in the meantime, like 4G LTE, as 5G gets up to speed, there will be plenty of benefits, especially for smartphone users, over the next two to three years.
As such, even 5G’s early days will improve on-the-go connectivity and networking enabling employees to collaborate virtually anywhere.
5G will likely begin to impact video conferencing shortly thereafter. We can foresee intelligent cameras and omnidirectional microphones that will enable 360-degree viewing of entire conference areas.
Digital signage will also be one of the areas of early(-ish) 5G adoption by the AV industry. For one, the lack of cabling will greatly expand monitor placement capabilities. For another, low latency of 5G allows for, among other things, instantaneous facial recognition. And if you’re interested in what that looks like…the movie Minority Report gives you an example as store signage greets shoppers by name and recites their previous purchases (or other stored information) as they walk by.
But we do need to keep in mind, it wasn’t long ago that many commercial AV component manufacturers first transitioned their equipment from analog to digital.
But once 5G standards are set, we fully expect to see AV components starting to become 5G-enabled. When that becomes mainstream, all of sudden, AV signals won’t rely on any cable for connectivity. Now THAT (assuming security concerns can be addressed) is exciting and should be something we see as we get closer to 2030.
Of course, time will only tell. But in the meantime, you can count on E1 Audiovisual Technologies as your AV partner to keep an eye on it all – letting you be as close to (or as far away from) the bleeding edge of technology as you’d like to be.