Patrolling the congested halls of Barcelona's Mobile World Congress, you couldn't help but run into some sign of “5G,” the full-throttle Internet aspirations for smartphone manufacturers, chipmakers, network operators, and government regulators.

But what precisely is 5G and when will it impact our everyday lives? The quick takeaway is that 5G, or the next generation of mobile technology, is all about blistering speeds on the smartphones in our pockets. But it’s also technology likely to have a broad bearing on society at large, touching everything from remote medicine to the Internet of Things.

“These are the kind of disruptions that happen once in a decade," says Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice president for Android, Chrome OS & Play at Google.

"Today no one ever questions why 4G should exist. Even if it’s just Gmail, or browsing the Web, you want to use 4G to do it. And I think that’s how it’s going to be with 5G. It’s faster, lower latency—why wouldn’t you want that?”

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