5G to reach a billion people by 2023, with VR and AR firing up development

virtual reality
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Mobile infrastructure experts Ericsson predicts that in 2023 20-percent of the global population will have access to a super-fast, next generation 5G phone connection. Although that doesn’t sound like much, it’s around a billion people, and the United States is primed to be at the forefront, due to 5G tests already taking place. However, despite this, 4G LTE will remain the most likely connection you’ll see on your phone, even in six years time.

What will push 5G development during this time? Ericsson says mobile video will be one of the primary uses for faster 5G connections, but interestingly adds that virtual reality and augmented reality technology will push networks and infrastructure firms like Ericsson and Nokia to get 5G connections up and running quickly. It expects VR and AR to shift away from gaming and entertainment use, to become helpful and widely used by more people. Fast, reliable, low latency data connections will be imperative.

Ericsson echoes predictions about 5G we’ve heard already. It expects the very first 5G signals to go live in 2019, with a larger, more extensive launch in 2020. Along with the United States, South Korea, Japan, and China will also be among the first to provide commercial 5G networks. In September, Qualcomm said it expected the first 5G-ready smartphones to be available in 2019, a year earlier than the company had previously expected.

Where will you need to live to get a strong 5G connection after 2020? Ericsson says, “dense urban areas,” will be the first to enjoy 5G speeds, which means major cities to you and me. Among the networks working on 5G tests now is Verizon, and it has even more ambitious plans. It intends to test the first 5G connections in 11 different U.S. cities in 2018. T-Mobile, hot from its win to use the 600MHz spectrum, said it intends to have a nationwide, working 5G network by 2020.

How will the 20-percent 5G coverage compare to 4G LTE’s coverage in 2023? According to Ericsson, 4G LTE will be available to 85-percent of the global population at that time, reaching about 5.5 billion people. That’s a big difference, and likely gives us an indication of just how often we’ll see 5G speeds on our phones at that time, even in large cities.

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