Smartphones became truly powerful after the dawn of 4G networks. The improved speed and capacity of LTE 4G connections gave phones the juice to power myriad applications and services. It was a watershed moment.
Now, nearly a decade later, the industry has reached another landmark: the launch of 5G. It’s easy to overhype 5G, and Geldmacher didn’t want to overdo it, but it’s safe to say he’s excited about the possibilities.
Latency — the time between when a device makes a request over the network and receives a response — falls in the 10 milliseconds to 100-millisecond range in LTE 4G networks. Along with gigabit speeds, one of the key improvements of 5G is to drop latency down to one to five milliseconds. This may not sound like much of an improvement, but it is.
Think robotics and automation. Geldmacher said Sprint is working with Boston Dynamics to see how well robots can be controlled remotely. The low latency allows a controller in Boston to safely operate a robot located in Pittsburgh, for example. This isn’t yet possible with 4G. Similarly, Sprint is working with a handful of companies in Greenville, South Carolina, on autonomous vehicle technology, and in Peachtree Corner, Georgia, on air-based projects.
With latency essentially eliminated, 5G represents a paradigm shift in what things can do.
That doesn’t mean smartphones are going away. Geldmacher believes smartphones will continue on indefinitely in one form or another. He didn’t want to speculate too much on what that form might be, though it’s safe to assume smartphones will become even more powerful than they already are.
Geldmacher also noted Sprint is ready to go it alone should its proposed merger with T-Mobile fails to be approved. The deal has been given the green light by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. but is still awaiting approval from the FCC and DOJ. Should everything work out as Sprint hopes, the company believes combining T-Mobile’s 600MHz low-band spectrum with its own 2.5GHz mid-band spectrum will give it the leverage it needs to fend off AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
(And yes, Geldmacher thinks AT&T is making a fool of itself by insisting that LTE is “5G E”.)