Unlike most epochs, those of the wireless age have come and gone with convenient numerical designations. And with each came marvelous new capabilities: 2G let us all text for the first time, for example, and 3G empowered us to surf the Web.
So now, as phone makers and Internet service providers begin hashing out the details of what 5G will be and how it will work, speculation is high about what new marvels will be possible when carriers can deliver data to smartphones at rates as high as 100 megabits per second [PDF]. Soon, we’ll start to find out: This year, Verizon and AT&T plan to deliver broadband Internet to select homes or businesses using fixed wireless networks built with early 5G technologies. These 5G pilot programs will give the public its first glimpse into a wireless future that isn’t due to fully arrive until the early 2020s.