I don’t usually work in a coffee shop – I don’t like not being able to charge my laptop, and my “home office” is the living room couch, with multiple computers strewn in front of me while I watch sports on TV – but on a recent nice and sunny day, I was convinced to go to one. Unfortunately, technical difficulties abounded. I waited in line, bought a drink and asked for the Wi-Fi password. I spent a few minutes trying to log in to various access points with no success – it turned out that my (brand new) machine could not see the coffee shop’s router.
Luckily, all was not lost. I fired up “Mobile Hotspot” on my LTE phone and, in less than a minute, connected my laptop to the internet using the phone’s software-based “Soft AP.” The only downside? My phone only lets me run “Mobile Hotspot” on Channel 6 in the noisy 2.4 GHz band – I’m sure that’s to prevent some crazy harmonic of the LTE phone transmitter from interacting with the Wi-Fi chip in the phone, but it was certainly inconvenient where I was sitting because there were at least a half-dozen access points set to Channel 6. In fact, I’m pretty sure Channel 6 is the most commonly-used Wi-Fi channel in the United States. So my data rates were in the range of 10 Megabits per second – probably better than I would have had if I had been able to connect to the coffee shop Wi-Fi, but not that great.
You probably know where I’m going: this is one of those times I wish I had 5G WiFi to go with my 4G LTE phone. When I use the internet directly on my phone, I’ve been able to get upwards of 25 Mbps in some places using first-generation LTE. If I had 5G WiFi, I’d have a lot more bandwidth to work with and fewer interferers, so I could get my full LTE data rate on my PC. And future LTE networks will likely offer significantly higher data rates, way more than I got at home with DSL and more than I can get with a cable modem. (I’ll never be able to get fiber to my house, so those are my choices.) In fact, with LTE routers becoming more common, they might become an alternative to cable modems – they take a matter of minutes to set up rather than having to wait for days or weeks for someone to come to your house to install the system!
Like Vijay mentioned in his inaugural post, I also think about technology a lot from the perspective of what my mom would find useful and interesting. When I was an IC designer, the work I did was so microscopic and so far from the end product that it was difficult to explain it to someone who wasn’t in the same field as me. Most people who asked me what I did had their eyes glaze over almost as soon as I started to answer, but now that I’m focused on technology strategy, I can see their eyes light up instead.
So here’s what I told my mom the last time we talked about what I do at work: two years ago, you would call me up to ask me to look something up on the internet for you because you didn’t have a smart phone. Today, you wonder how you survived so many years with your old flip phone. Two years from now, your phone will do so many new things that you’ll wonder how you survived with your first smart phone for so long.
Here are all the things you want your phone to do today (and more) that it will do very soon:
- You’ll have 5G WiFi, which will give you 300+ Mbps throughput for all kinds of applications ranging from streaming TV to fast wireless data transfer to and from your computer
- With 4G LTE cellular data networks, you’ll get significantly higher internet throughput with your phone than you get with your home cable modem today
- With 5G WiFi and Wi-Fi Direct and you’ll be able to use LTE to connect your laptop directly to the internet through your phone when you’re at a hotel or a friend’s house
- Your GPS will be much better at finding your location, especially when you’re indoors
- You’ll have an FM radio that’s so good you can even use it at the gym where all the concrete blocks cellular signals
- You’ll have a mobile credit card payment system integrated into your phone and you’ll be able to pay for things just by tapping your phone on a point of sale terminal in the checkout line in a store
- You won’t have to remember to plug your phone in when you get home – its battery life will be so much better that it won’t die if you go a day without charging!
- And you’ll have a whole bunch of other devices around the house that will play well with your phone. The possibilities are endless: you’ll be able to download and stream a movie to your TV, print wirelessly, turn the house lights on and off remotely, water the garden, check and set the thermostat when you’re not home, get an email when the washing machine and the dryer are done, and when you’re at the supermarket, you’ll even be able to use your fridge’s camera to look inside and see if you’re out of milk!
Needless to say, my mom was impressed and she can’t wait to have a phone that does all of these things. In the coming weeks, I’ll discuss some of the ways that 5G WiFi combines with many of the other wireless technologies coming to the marketplace to enable features I wouldn’t have imagined back when I was texting on my flip phone.