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5G Wireless Networks? Prepare for a Ton of New Equipment

5G, the nickname for the next generation of wireless networks, seems great—until you think about all of the very real wires that will need to be put in place to ensure its promises of faster data exchange, lower latency, energy savings, and cost reductions.

Aren’t today’s cities crowded enough? I asked Michael O’Hara, chief marketing officer for mobile-industry trade group GSMA, in September at the Mobile World Congress Americas convention in Los Angeles.

“When you go to this very high speed, you go to shorter range, so you do have to have more antennas and data centers close to where the content is being consumed,” he says, adding: “You need to have, essentially, an antenna per lamppost.”

In other words, in exchange for making the data “pipe” bigger, you need to make it shorter.

“When you get back to that latency conversation, a datacenter in the Arizona desert doesn’t do you a lot of good when you’re trying to do a VR experience in L.A.” O’Hara says of data-intensive virtual reality technology. “So there’s got to be some infrastructure investment.”

For more, watch our interview above.