It may seem like mobile connectivity and network speeds are on a steep climb. We have 4G LTE now but we also have more users on cellular networks than ever before. Not only that, people are engaged in high-bandwidth activities.
Video streaming, voice and video messaging, uploading photos and videos on social media, and non-stop surfing and scrolling take their toll on networks. Don’t even let me get started on network gaming which can now happen on smartphones thanks to faster processors and graphics and games like Fortnite.
Where does this leave us in the future? We are seeing some innovative workarounds. Wi-Fi calling, which some service providers offer, uses nearby hotspots to route calls rather than depending on cell-sites.
This is ideal in areas where coverage may be poor or remote. It is also useful if you are indoors and have poor reception. Wi-Fi has gotten great for voice and video; end users shouldn’t notice when their mobile device shifts from cellular to Wi-Fi.
Google’s Project Fi or Google Fi, which is Google’s smartphone carrier company, takes this a step further and allows subscribers to jump on to open or certified Wi-Fi networks instead of using data and cellular connections. This means improved bandwidth use and clear reception.
Google Fi also has another cool feature, it can automatically switch between various carriers. Other companies allow roaming on competing networks to improve coverage, but Google Fi does this on a global level. This means if you travel to another country, you can continue to use your services and data as if you were on your home network, without incurring extra roaming charges.
Another upcoming technology is eSIM. This is a virtual SIM card that does not require installation. Some smartphone makers like Apple and Google have added eSIM functionality to their flagship smartphones. This means they can use the eSIM as their main number and add another nanoSIM card as a second number in an ad hoc dual SIM mode.
“5G infrastructure may be coming but it will take a few years before we see hardware that can support it. The race will be between companies like Samsung, Huawei, Nokia, and others who make smartphone and produce network hardware.”
The good thing about eSIM is that it is not tied down to one number or carrier and can be transferred. No more SIM card to damage or lose and a wider range of options in terms of carriers.
Another upcoming development is the much heralded 5G network. Expected to bring higher bandwidth and lower latency. 5G will be beneficial to smartphones and mobile devices, and it will also help with the growing Internet of Things (IoT) devices which are billions of sensors and smart home appliances that will connect to each other and the cloud.
5G networks are expected to launch across the world by 2020, working alongside existing 3G and 4G technology to provide speedier connections that stay online no matter where you are.
5G infrastructure may be coming but it will take a few years before we see hardware that can support it. The race will be between companies like Samsung, Huawei, Nokia, and others who make smartphone and produce network hardware.
We can also expect improved connectivity between nearby devices. Apple offers this in their AirDrop feature that allows you to send files locally to nearby iOS devices or Macs. Android has a similar functionality between Android devices and Microsoft has built-in some of this functionality with Windows 10. Can we expect smartwatches and tablets to be able to send and receive local files, too? It is possible. The Apple Watch even offers a walkie-talkie feature between users, so they can send short audio messages back and forth.
Connectivity will continue to get better across distances and will also improve between nearby devices as the world will continue to get more connected and in various new and exciting ways.