We’re all going to be crazy data hogs by 2022 – CNET

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Wireless networks are going to be a lot faster in the coming years. 

James Martin/CNET

In the not-so-distant future, you’ll see driverless buses navigating city streets, robots performing surgery and the use of augmented reality in manufacturing – all thanks to next-generation wireless tech called 5G.

Just don’t expect it to show up any time soon. 

By 2022, 15 percent of the global population is projected to have 5G coverage, while 25 percent of subscriptions in North America will be for 5G access, according to the June 2017 Ericsson Mobility Report, out Tuesday. The global stat is up from a prior prediction of 10 percent, but the low number indicates that we have a long way to go before 5G is broadly available. 

Still, the report sheds light on the potential broad impact of 5G. With standards and devices emerging in 2018, Ericsson said consumers will more frequently utilize a lightning-fast wireless connection for virtual reality, augmented reality, smart homes, self-driving cars and drones. The use of 5G in self-driving buses, for example, will allow for remote monitoring and control capabilities to ensure safety, and potentially lead to greater public acceptance of autonomous vehicles.

It’s a good thing 5G is coming, because the technology will be critical to handling our increasingly data hog-like tendencies. By the end of 2017, North American users will consume an average of 6.9 gigabytes each month. In five years, that total will exceed 26 GB, a tick up from the 25 GB Ericsson previously projected.

What does 26 GB of data get you? About two and a half hours of 4G video streaming per day, according to Verizon’s data calculator. By the time 2022 rolls around, there will likely be more applications eat up your data. 

Take augmented reality, which projects digital images upon a user’s real-world view, and virtual reality, a three-dimensional image simulation with which users interact. They are two of the hottest trends in tech right now, with companies including Apple and Facebook taking part. As the technologies become more common, Ericsson predicts there’ll be a fivefold increase in data usage between the end of 2016 and 2022. 

Thank goodness the carriers have mostly moved to unlimited data plans

The June report also includes additional statistics surrounding IoT that weren’t present in November. At the end of 2016, the US and Canada were estimated to have 67 million cellular IoT connections linking industrial and consumer devices. By 2022, as more devices become available and are integrated into industrial and domestic environments, this number is projected to increase to 213 million.

Not surprisingly, phone use is projected to grow. In the first quarter of 2017, smartphones accounted for 80 percent of all mobile phones sold. As LTE and 5G technologies become more available, smartphones are expected to account for more than 90 percent of mobile data usage growth. 

The report also highlights efforts to extend internet access across social and economic platforms. Although more than 50 percent of the world’s population lacks internet access, upgrades on existing 2G sites and new deployments are expected to provide 70 percent of this population with mobile broadband coverage by 2022.

It’s not 5G, but some access is better than no access. 

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