The next generation of wireless technology is far from being ready for prime time, but the nascent fifth generation, known as 5G, could bring far-reaching benefits to numerous sectors, including the travel industry. 5G networks, which experts estimate are about five years from reaching the ubiquity of current 4G networks, will enable large amounts of data to travel at high speeds with delays imperceptible to humans.
The road to 5G
The predecessors of 5G each enabled different levels of mobile communications. The first generation was an analog system introduced in the 1980s that enabled mobile phone calls. It was followed in the 1990s by 2G, a digital system that enabled services like text messaging.
3G networks, introduced in the late 1990s, enabled internet connectivity. 5G’s higher bandwidth and lower latency will enable it to better support things like virtual reality, augmented reality and gaming, she said. It also holds great promise for industrial uses.
Uses in travel
5G will undoubtedly have an impact on the travel industry at both a consumer-facing and operational level. Norm Rose, senior technology and corporate market analyst at Phocuswright, said the enhanced connectivity possibilities offered by 5G present an opportunity to travel advisors. For one thing, 5G will give agents a better way to connect with travelers during their trips, something Rose has advised they do for years now.
“If your traveler has a 5G connection, that means you should be able to have [better] video calls with your traveler, you should be able to be there with them, assisting them along the way,” Rose said. “I think that’s the opportunity for 5G with the traditional travel agency community: to extend that relationship throughout all elements and all parts of the trip.” Kimmel said 5G has clear applications in the car-rental sector, where suppliers will likely introduce self-driving cars.