5G Is Coming: A Conversation with AT&T Indiana's Bill Soards

Stephanie Cox Picture

by Stephanie Cox | Last Updated: Nov 30, 2018

I love having conversations with mobile experts, but I love it even more when they’re right in our backyard! Bill Soards is the President of AT&T Indiana, and ever since we heard that Indianapolis was going to be one of the first cities to have 5G connectivity enabled, I knew I wanted to sit down with him and talk about the impact this new technology was going to have on our city and eventually the nation. Bill has been with AT&T for nearly 20 years now, so he’s seen quite a bit of change in his time...so his passion and excitement in our conversation about 5G wasn’t lost on me. He knows this is going to be a gamechanger for not only consumers, but for big-picture things like IoT and automation. Here’s a bit of our conversation:

Lumavate’s VP of Marketing, Stephanie Cox: I'm so excited talk to you about 5G and what it’s going to mean for us as consumers and just from a technology standpoint in general. Can you tell me a little bit about what 5G is?

AT&T Indiana’s President, Bill Soards: We expect 5G to be a huge game changer. Ultimately, it's to help us connect more devices faster to enable lower latency. And I think one of the big differentiators with 5G is the billions of new devices that are going to be connected to the wireless network–cars and monitors and sensors and cameras–your imagination can run wild with the multitude of different devices that are increasingly going to be connected. We always hear about the hypothetical refrigerator and dishwasher and things in our homes that are going to be connected, and those things are becoming reality in front of our eyes.

SC: To me that's one of things that's so exciting about what is possible with 5G, it’s this latency idea of being able to access things even faster than ever before.

BS: And certainly there's going to be a heck of a lot of speed that comes with 5G networks. Instead of thinking about megabits, we’re going to be thinking about gigabits per second! But that's just one small facet of 5G. Latency is a huge part of what 5G is going to bring to us. Latency is that time when you press play to watch a video, or click a link to pull up that web browser., and it’s going to be almost instantaneous in a 5G world. When you think about Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, driverless cars, Progressive Web Apps, connected homes...these are applications that require really low latency to be effective.

SC:  So when you think about all that's going to be possible with 5G, what do you think the biggest impact on the customer experience will be?

BS: Well I think the customers are immediately going to be able to do the things they do today a lot faster. Video now makes up well over 50% of the traffic that happens on all wireless networks. And so watching video I think is going to be changing dramatically. But the innovation is really going to come from the products and services that don't yet exist because the network capabilities haven't been there in the past, and that's why we're spending an awful lot of time in our AT&T foundries and meeting startup companies and innovators and hosting hackathons to try to surface these next generation products and services and ideas, because we're really bullish on what kinds of innovation these 5G networks are going to help give life to.

SC: So one of the other things that you mentioned earlier was connected devices to the whole world of Internet of Things. I would love to hear your perspective on how you see the IoT world evolving because of 5G.

BS: Today on the AT&T network, we have over 20 million Internet of Things devices­–but those 20 million IoT devices on our network today are going to translate into about 20 billion devices in the next 10 years on our network. 5G is going to enable us to start connecting cameras and sensors and all kinds of different devices, whether they're in the home or on their mobile assets.

SC: I know that I’m excited as both a marketer and consumer to see what 5G could mean for my daily life. Tell me a little bit about what devices are going to be able to use 5G.

BS: Part of the benefit and the curse of being on the bleeding edge of this is there's not going to be a lot of devices available just yet. We’re going to launch a standard based mobile 5G network in Indianapolis before the end of the year, so within the next four to six weeks we're going to go live to device manufacturers, and we’re expecting that phones won't be commercially available until sometime in 2019. So it's largely believed that when we do launch, it will be with a kind of a MiFi device, which will be the first device to work on the 5G network. But if the network experts are correct, we could see anywhere from a gigabit or faster from that network. So that'll be really exciting to be one of the first markets to have that.

SC: Are there any phones on the market today that Apple or Android have released that are going to work with 5G? Or should we think about waiting another six months or so to cash in on that upgrade?

BS: The good news is that all of those device manufacturers have a lot of 5G evolution technology built into it. All the carriers have been making improvements getting ready for 5G in Indianapolis–again, we launched that 5G evolution network about a year ago–so all of the Samsung devices and the newest Apple devices have a lot of that technology built into it already.

Mobile Conversations are excerpts from Lumavate’s Mobile Matters podcast. You can listen to this episode in full here, and find more episodes with other mobile experts here.

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