San Francisco (AFP)

In the United States, 5G has reached a very advanced stage of marketing: operators promise revolutions, but the deployment of infrastructures and concrete applications are still in their infancy.

"5G could add $ 1.5 trillion to US GDP over the next five years," said Jefferson Wang, director of 5G strategy at Accenture.

The first smartphones adapted to the latest generation of ultra-fast mobile telephony were released in mid-2019, at Samsung and Huawei.

Apple launched last fall.

So 5G is spreading to phones, but that doesn't mean that their users can immediately download videos at speeds of 1 gigabyte per second, unless they have a Verizon subscription and are in the right city and town. good neighborhood, right on the right corner.

This operator chose to invest first in millimeter waves: They are the fastest but they do not propagate far and are limited by all kinds of obstacles (walls, rain ...).

Its competitors T-Mobile and AT&T are betting on low and medium frequencies.

The lower they are, the more they cover a large area, and the more the speed decreases.

Deployments progressed in 2020, but some tenders are still underway.

- "Not sexy enough" -

That hasn't stopped AT&T from naming its enhanced 4G network "5G E" for two years.

A widely criticized marketing strategy: consumers have high performance mobiles and the acronym "5G", but the speed does not follow.

"Today we shoot videos in 4K on our smartphone and we want to put them online instantly. Impossible with 4G, it's like driving a Ferrari in traffic jams", notes Alejandro Holcman, vice-president of the manufacturer of Qualcomm electronic components.

He was speaking at a panel discussion at CES in Las Vegas, the annual consumer electronics show held online this week.

For several years, companies have taken advantage of the high mass of technologies to spark the innovations that 5G and its low latency times will make possible, from autonomous cars to connected drones.

Hans Vestberg, the boss of Verizon, announced Monday the installation of the ultra-efficient 5G in 28 American football stadiums this year.

Fans will be able to watch matches from different camera angles live and view player info in augmented reality.

"But we don't need 5G for that, all you need is a wifi connection", laughs analyst Carolina Milanesi, of Creative Strategies.

"I would like us to talk more about the concrete benefits: the network is more reliable and more efficient with a 5G chip, even in 4G. But that's not sexy enough!"

- Omniscient glasses -

At first, 5G risks reinforcing the contrast between very well-served city centers and the countryside where all connections are easily lost, even 3G.

"18% of the American population does not have access to broadband," Elemental Content consultant John Penney recalled during CES.

The applications will first concern manufacturers, with private 5G networks that will run so-called "smart" factories, for example.

It will be more difficult to impress consumers who already have video games, encyclopedias and virtual assistants in their pocket.

But 5G could eventually pull us away from our precious handsets.

Because it must facilitate the advent of edge computing - clearly, more and more connected objects, with artificial intelligence capabilities, will be able to process information directly.

The security cameras will do facial recognition themselves.

We can "identify a criminal at an airport where there are hundreds of thousands of people," suggests Alejandro Holcman.

After the decade of convergence - all the functions in our mobiles - we are entering the decade of divergence, according to Accenture.

No need to take your phone everywhere: watches, headphones and other accessories will be sufficient on their own.

"For example, I meet Mélissa in the street. My glasses tell me that it's Mélissa, that we spoke three years ago at CES and that she is from Boston," imagines Jefferson Wang.

© 2021 AFP