“This is the future,” Grant Castle said, beaming while showing a large base station that’s about waist-high.
The base is part of Bellevue-based telecom company T-Mobile’s 5G testing. 5G is the next generation of wireless speeds. This month T-Mobile pledged to have 5G nationwide by 2020.
Don’t be fooled by the base's large size, warned Castle, vice president of engineering services and QA at T-Mobile.
“We also have a phone, but the test phone is currently the same size as the base station,” he said. “It shrinks in half about every year, so we’re getting close.”
5G has been the industry buzzword for the past few years. Developers say speeds could reach anywhere from 100 to 1,000 times faster than 4G speeds.
T-Mobile competitors like giants AT&T and Verizon have claimed they’ll be in the 5G field as early as 2018.
“The 5G standard doesn't exist, yet there are some companies out there trying to push that and get out ahead before the standards are written,” said Castle. “Our goal is to work with the industry get the right standards defined and then we're going to roll out in the 2019, 2020 timeframe.”
Castle admits the possible applications are difficult to picture because they haven’t been created yet, like instant translation and live virtual reality working in real-time. Other applications include improving augmented reality and virtual reality. He added 5G could help preserve battery life and help latency issues related to virtual reality headsets.
“In today's world, it's way more than you'll ever need, right? But for tomorrow's world when everybody has augmented reality and heads-up displays, that's got to be something that's important,” said Castle.
But technology expert Charlie Amadeus of GeekServ warned of the 5G hype.
“There's been no determinate policy for what the protocol looks like,” he said.
Those industry protocols could be in place in the next couple of years, said Castle.
Amadeus said once the protocols are established, it normally takes five years for a new generation of technology to be ready for the masses.
“That’s just how it is with technology. (There's) early adoption and then that mainstream wave finally picks it up, and then your grandma uses it,” Amadeus said.
Castle feels confident in his company’s timetable.
“I've no doubt about that,” he said.