5G Is Coming: So What Does This Mean for Music (If Anything)?

5G was the hot topic at CES 2019, with numerous companies sharing their ambitious plans.

This is more than just an enhancement for mobile telephony.

5G has the potential to make loading websites, streaming music, and downloading up to 10 times faster than 4G.  The United States isn’t expected to see the first 5G-compatible networks until 2020, but that hasn’t stopped telcos from openly bragging.

Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T all have plans to launch 5G-compatible smartphones this year. Even smartphone manufacturers like Samsung and Qualcomm discussed 5G innovations on the horizon. But for now, it’s unclear just how much the protocol upgrade will impact music-specific properties.

One quick possibility is that higher-fidelity streams can be consumed more readily, and production collaboration could be catapulted.  Another impacts the live experience: with a 5G connection, companies like BASE Hologram, which has produced hologram shows featuring Amy Winehouse, Roy Orbison, and Maria Callas, could upgrade these experiences and bring them to broader audiences.

The advent of 5G could also impact VR/AR concerts, with immersive experiences suddenly more realistic and realtime.  But even without VR, performance collaborations in realtime could become strikingly like the real thing.  Here’s one 5G-distributed music concert experiment involving performers from separate locations.

But within music and beyond it, attendees at CES got the sense that we’re just scratching the surface.  Here’s a quick peek at everything 5G revealed at CES.


Verizon dedicated a portion of its CES event to detailing how 5G will affect transfer data speeds. It also showcased augmented reality and how it could be used in both practical and gaming applications.

Verizon expanded its fixed wireless 5G technology to several US cities last year. The company also released a 5G Home router to convert a 5G signal into WiFi for use in customer’s homes. This version of 5G cannot be used with mobile devices until the first 5G-compatible phones are released later this year.


Samsung CEO HS Kim believes that 5G technology will allow innovations in artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. Think of it as more devices in your home capable of interacting with one another to form an ecosystem of devices.

Samsung showcased a 5G-connected car this year that could allow the driver to control several functions with just their voice.

Samsung showcased its first prototype 5G smartphone underneath protective glass. The device is expected to launch in the coming months. We’ll probably hear more about the show at the mobile-focused Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month.


Perhaps most important was Qualcomm’s presentation on what a 5G connection could do for both smartphones and VR headsets.

The chipmaker demonstrated a VR headset playing a video streamed over 5G with absolutely no latency.  This type of connection could mean that virtual performances like concerts and live shows could be streamed to the masses live.

While plenty of this year’s CES show was dedicated to showcasing the potential of 5G, very little actual hardware was shown off.

For now, the potential of the network remains just that, until more 5G-capable devices are released on the market.

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