Mobile World Congress: Wireless Industry Prepares for Faster 5G Network

PHOTO:People walk past a 5G banner during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain Feb. 23, 2016. Albert Gea/Reuters
People walk past a 5G banner during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain Feb. 23, 2016.

The next big thing to revolutionize the way we connect may be 5G.

The super-fast wireless network of the future is still likely at least a few years away from becoming a reality. Nevertheless, it has been a hot topic at the Mobile World Congress this year, where some of the world's most innovative companies and influential technologists have gathered to discuss the future of connectivity.

"I always get excited when I think about what is next. 5G is going up the most compelling what's next we have seen in a long time," Gary Davis, Intel Security's chief consumer security evangelist, told ABC News. "You can run wild when you think of the ability to connect all these devices and have zero latency. It's an exciting time."

Here's what you need to know about 5G.

What Is 5G?

It's shorthand for fifth generation wireless technology. Imagine a world where more gadgets can easily get online via wireless network and respond faster than ever.

"We live in a 'we want it now' society and 5G will have that dramatic reduction in latency that will delight consumers and businesses," Davis said.

What Will We Be Able to Do With 5G?

The possibilities are endless!

"Think about automobiles, that would be a natural one," Davis said. "ATMs, gas pumps, industrial uses. ... It is almost limitless to think of all the opportunities that exist in a 5G world. There won't be an industry that won't be affected by the ability to connect at a super high speed."

There's a Downside

With so many new devices coming online, Davis said it's vital the industry address security risks now to ensure potential vulnerabilities are discovered in devices before 5G becomes a reality -- and eventually goes mainstream.

A study from Hewlett Packard in 2014 found on average 25 vulnerabilities were discovered each in the top ten Internet of Things devices.

"Granted these devices connect through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, thinking about those [vulnerabilities] will go a long ways toward ensuring the challenges we are seeing now we won't see when 5G comes online," Davis said.

When Will 5G Be Available?

Nokia has been one of the companies leading the charge in testing 5G. A number of other companies have been testing the technology or have said they plan to in the near future. A common timeline being discussed by the industry is sometime around 2020.

Despite the promise for 5G, Neville Ray, chief technology officer at T-Mobile, said in a blog post it's still in the early stages.

"When 5G is ready, you bet T-Mobile will be ready to deliver the benefits to our customers. But don’t be too distracted by certain carriers teasing premature promises of 5G today. The industry standards don’t even exist for 5G yet, but if you look at what T-Mobile has being doing to give customers an advanced LTE experience (a prerequisite to 5G), you’ll see that we fully intend to bring 5G to the market in a very real way when the time comes," Ray wrote.