Deeper Dive 5G: 5G: Up in the Air (Episode 3)

Mountains and valleys have been used as metaphors for everything from money management and marriage to job satisfaction and business success. Gartner took it one step further with the Hype Cycle, a graphic representation that uses peaks and slopes to show how technologies evolve over time. 

For Jim Love, CIO of ITWC, and Doug Sparkes, a lecturer at the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business, the Hype Cycle is an ideal way to separate the hype around 5G from what’s currently viable. As co-hosts of Deeper Dive, a 5-part podcast series created by ITWC and sponsored by Wipro, the duo are pleased to share the Gartner model as part of the podcast’s third segment, not surprisingly titled The Hype Curve.

The Ups and Downs of 5G

Metaphors are front of mind as Love and Sparkes introduce listeners to the symbolic topography of 5G adoption. “The hill represents the initial introduction of a technology or an idea,” says Sparkes. “We become aware of it, the hype starts, and before long, everyone is talking about how great this new development might be, what it will do, and how it will revolutionize everything.”

The problem, according to Sparkes, is that there is no way that anything could be that good, and certainly not in the early stages. As deployment takes longer than expected, and positive use cases fail to appear, the technology moves from Gartner’s Peak of Inflated Expectations to the Trough of Disillusionment. “People feel disappointed at that point and companies step back,” he explains, “but then they find the use cases and they work their way back up a more realistic slope of implementation and discover the technology is actually awesome.”

The Slippery Slope

Love points out the irony in understanding the universality of this implementation model, yet ignoring it every time we are faced with something exciting and new. “We are now at the top of that first hill with 5G – right before the fast slide into the trough,” he says.

For Sparkes, 5G is especially susceptible to this downward trend because it is an enabling or complimentary technology – in other words, a technology that is not particularly disruptive on its own. “The important thing to remember is what 5G can do for other technologies,” he says. “A lot of things will have to be put into place before it can reach its potential, but once there, it will allow other technologies to perform better than ever before.”

Although use cases are still few and far between, deployment is beginning in large urban areas, such as Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. There is also a roll out for 5G-ready phones. The caveat, however, is that there are not a lot of applications in place to take advantage of high-speed 5G.

“The pandemic might slow things down even more,” comments Love. “One of the great things about 5G is how it can manage massive volumes of data and connections. With people working from home, and with no massive stadiums full of people, and no full downtown office towers, 5G can’t show off what it can really do.”

Preparing for Peak Performance

It could all amount to what Love describes as a one-way, high-speed trip down the mountain, but not, he says, if we know what is happening and move beyond it. “We know there will be more developments,” says Sparkes, “and somewhere in a dorm room in Canada, there’s a whiz kid coming up with ways to use 5G that will change the way we operate.”

The question is, do we ignore it until then? And the answer, according to Love and Sparkes, is a resounding ‘no’. “As 4G moved in, we got comfortable with the higher speeds, and how video can be transmitted, and we realized that we could never go back to 3G,” says Sparkes. “Something like that will happen with 5G, and when it does, those who are ready will have the advantage.”

If you enjoyed the first three episodes of Deeper Dive, and would like to hear some real world examples of how 5G is making a difference right now, join Jim and Doug for episode four: 5G in Practice.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Suzanne Robicheau
Suzanne Robicheau
Suzanne Robicheau is a communications specialist based in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, where working remotely continues to fuel her passion for new mobile technologies -- especially on snowy days.

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