The New Wave in Wireless

If you had any doubts that Brooklyn was fast becoming one of the hottest locales in the tech industry, look no further than the 5G Summit, held from April 23 to 25 at the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering. Co-organized by the NYU WIRELESS research center and Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN), the conference, scheduled to be an annual event, brought together industry leaders from across academia, business and government to explore the future of Fifth Generation—more commonly called 5G--wireless technology.

“Our vision is to make 5G a platform for innovation, a platform that can be used to improve business, life, and society,” Hossein Moin, the chief technology officer of NSN, explained to the audience. Recalling the 2002 earthquake in his native Iran, Moin asserted, “Networks were set up within 24 hours, and they undeniably helped save lives. That’s how powerful wireless can be.”

John Stankey, the group president of AT&T, who gave a keynote address titled “Better, Stronger, Faster: Unleashing the Next Generation of Innovation,” heartily concurred, and he additionally pointed out that mobile communication is a significant contributor to the global economy, projected to add more than $10 trillion to the worldwide GDP between 2013 and 2017 alone.  “There is insatiable demand for mobile connectivity,” he said. “No one wants to run wires or be tethered to a desk anymore.”

That insatiable demand shows no sign of being quenched. Thanks to steadily increasing levels of video gaming, Web browsing, and media streaming on mobile devices, demand for capacity reportedly doubles annually. “This is the reality, so in order to meet those demands, our future ecosystem must change and grow,” Stankey said. (5G is projected to become 1,000 times faster than 4G, with the ability to handle at least 50 times more traffic.) He found no dissenters among the many attendees, who were treated over the course of the conference to discussions of such topics as the evolution of millimeter-wave technologies (from Ali Sadri of Intel) and what lies ahead for cellular system design (from Professor Andrea Goldsmith of Stanford University). Other talks centered on antenna design, 5G spectrum availability and regulatory issues, and more.

Ted Rappaport, the founding director of NYU WIRELESS and the driving force behind the landmark gathering, said, “The Brooklyn 5G Summit has brought together the top minds from around the globe to accelerate our drive for wireless communication solutions.” He continued, “It’s gratifying to see so many of the industry’s leaders working together to address the challenge.”

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the world’s largest engineering organization, provided live coverage of the event through its television network, enabling those who could not attend the chance to hear the vital information being discussed. Katherine Fleming, NYU’s deputy provost, stressed the value of that information when she formally welcomed the participants. “NYU is proud to be hosting you,” she said. Recalling that as a child she was sometimes admonished for fiddling with rubber bands or other such activities with the warning that “small minds engage in small activities,” she proclaimed, “Today, we are seeing big minds engage in incredibly big activities.”

Equally complimentary was New York State’s Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy, who addressed the assembled over lunch. “I’m just an end user of what you’re creating here,” he quipped. “And speaking as someone who simply wants to hit a button and have my device work, I find the synergy and talent in this room awe-inspiring. You are truly helping to change the world.”