At the end of 2011, 30 petabytes of data traffic crossed our network on the average business day. By 2015, it was 114 petabytes a day. Now, we’re at more than 206 petabytes.

In fact, data traffic on our mobile network has grown more than 360,000% since 2007.

Since we launched the industry’s first enterprise 5G trial back in December 2016, we’ve been exploring how future business experiences will change in an exploding data-centric 5G world.

5G will eventually have a significant impact on how businesses work and engage with their customers. Technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning offer great potential but require high bandwidth and low latency for optimal performance.

Our trial with Magnolia Silos in Waco, Texas provided us a glimpse into how 5G could change retail for example. We observed wireless speeds of approximately 1.2 Gbps in a 400 MHz channel and RAN latency rates at 9-12 milliseconds. To put that in perspective, MIT researchers found the human eye can process images in 13 milliseconds. So, this is fast.

Whether you’re a retailer, car wash owner, hospital, manufacturer, public safety entity or a bank, 5G promises to change the customer experience and provide new economic opportunities for your business.

My team and Thaddeus Arroyo’s AT&T Business organization collectively think about this future all the time. And now we can dig even deeper into how the business experience will transform with our 5G trial performance data in hand.

I bounced a few questions about these future experiences off Thaddeus to get his perspective.

How do you see retailers using 5G technology?

Thaddeus: “Smart” retailers are bringing together the best of the digital and physical worlds to create new experiences for customers.

What if a clothing company could provide a digital kiosk at a location near you? It could help you determine the correct size, walk you through their inventory and place your order. It’s a digital transaction but also an in-person shopping experience – the best of virtual and physical for a new way to shop.

Imagine a future where you walk past a storefront with Internet of Things cameras. They sense you, virtually clothe you in their latest fashions, and render you and your new wardrobe on high definition screens in the store window. I don’t know about you, but this would certainly catch my eye and drive me into that store.

Or you could stand in front of a mirror and use augmented reality glasses to quickly scan through dozens or hundreds of styles that perfectly fit your frame. Then, you buy your favorites on a mobile device and have the store hand it to you immediately – or ship it to your home in a matter of days.

What about a hospital or manufacturing CIO. How can 5G change their world?

Thaddeus: 5G will be the latency tipping point. Speed is great. With 5G we will see the time between hitting the enter key and getting a response become nearly instant. So, a hospital could respond faster to changes in patients’ vital signs, doctors could employ remote telemedicine and a robotics-assisted surgery becomes a reality because of 5G’s latency benefits.

Or, take a consumer electronics manufacturer that operates fast-moving machinery. 5G means they could identify and fix or route around mechanical failures in record time. The capabilities of 5G could save time and money while enabling a new generation of real-time applications.

OK, keep going. A bank or someone in the public safety realm. What’s a 5G experience going to ultimately look like for him or her?

Thaddeus: Sure, a bank could transform the ATM into a full-service branch powered by video capabilities. In public safety, we can expect new waves of 5G-connected gear. You could see wearable cameras providing “see‐what‐I‐see capabilities” in near real‐time to support search and rescue. And along with cameras, wearable sensors could feed data to incident commanders and first responders as events unfold. Coupled with FirstNet, these 5G capabilities could truly be life-saving.

Finally, there’s a ton of talk about the future of automobiles and 5G. Give me an example of how 5G latency can change the game for them?

Thaddeus: I’ll give you an easy one. Self-driving cars using live maps in near real time for navigation is crucial to this autonomous vision. Ultra-low latency (or a high-speed, no wait connection) will be essential in making live maps effective – a key trait of 5G.

In each of these uses, milliseconds matter. Speed and latency come together beautifully in the future 5G world. The opportunities are endless – whether you’re a mobile consumer, small-and medium-sized business owner or large enterprise. Given the experiences your team is testing, Melissa, and the collective imaginations at work between our organizations, we are on the brink of tremendous innovation potential.

Well said, Thaddeus. Thank you for the business-minded insights.

As 5G evolves, it will eventually fundamentally change the way the world lives and works. And AT&T is the only U.S. carrier that’s announced plans to start introducing this ground-breaking technology to its customers in a dozen cities by the end of 2018.

Melissa Arnolid is president of AT&T Technology & Operations

Melissa Arnoldi
Melissa Arnoldi CEO, Vrio Corp