Talking about a (5G) revolution
(Above) Stephen Wiktorski, head of networks for Samsung Canada, says 5G is a catalyst for change, paving the way to near-endless advancements to how we live, work and connect with each other. NICK MENZIES PHOTOGRAPHY
The very first text message sent in Japan asked its recipient a simple question: “Anyone up for a pint of Guinness?”
The year was 1996, and the author was Stephen Wiktorski, a young tech support manager and ex-pat from Ireland whose sole connection to family back home was through letters and the occasional exorbitant phone call. He can still recall the thrill of watching his message (only half joking) make history as it left his phone and appear on that of a friend.
Two decades later, Wiktorski is now head of networks for Samsung Canada, and still blown away by tech innovation, and the myriad advancements made possible to how we live, work and connect with each other.
With the launch this year across Canada of a revolutionary next-generation 5G network, that sense of excitement is stronger than ever. It’s enough to make that first text feel like it was chiseled out of stone.
“5G is a catalyst for change,” says Wiktorski in an interview from the company’s head office in Toronto. “It’s not just about communications in the narrow definition we have today. With 5G, everything and everyone will communicate with each other quickly, reliably, and with near-endless data capacity.”
Just the beginning
Beyond lightning-fast speeds, 5G will offer a leap in capabilities over today’s 4G networks, including increased capacity, ultra-low latency, network slicing, and edge computing. These advancements are the foundation to powerful new applications that will touch virtually every aspect of our lives -- from business, education, and community building to healthcare, food production, and communications.
“With the pandemic there was an increased reliance on virtual learning, and people now understand the need for a connected device that is reliable and ready for a faster connection,” says Wiktorski.
As the technology evolves, imagine Star Trek-like possibilities: appliances that not only tell us when we’re out of milk, but also place the order and have it delivered; drones delivering takeout food and retail packages to our doorstep; and reading glasses that allow our eyes to surf the web.
Instead of video chats or Zoom meetings on special occasions, families will be able to tap innovative wearable tech to virtually be in the room with loved ones, seeing what they see through immersive goggles and wristbands that allow them to interact with others in real time.
On the entertainment side, artificial, virtual and mixed-reality tech, combined with haptic feedback, will mean gamers will not only see and hear what’s happening in the game, but also touch and interact with the virtual world through precision vibrations that simulate everything from raindrops hitting the pavement to gunfire and explosions.
5G will also trigger major changes in how we care for one another.
"Namely," says Wiktorski, “The quality of health care will increase dramatically.”
“With high-speed connections, zero lag time and 8K video capability, a surgeon wearing virtual-reality goggles could ‘sit’ on the shoulder of a junior surgeon who may be a thousand kilometres away, and hear and speak in real time to guide them through a complicated operation.”
Critically, the challenging task of providing internet access in a country whose natural beauty is matched only by its vast and difficult geography, which complicates connectivity, will also benefit from the addition of a 5G network. As 5G continues to evolve and become more sophisticated, the acquisition of low-band spectrum -- the invisible highway of airwaves that transmit data -- will ensure Canadians, wherever they are, can reliably connect to their schools, jobs, medical professionals, and loved ones in ways that have previously not been possible.
“It allows us to go in and deliver high-quality internet to areas that are underserved,” says Wiktorski.
That’s great news for the future of our small and rural communities: families and young people won’t necessarily have to move to the city to thrive in a digital world.
“Five or 10 years from now, more workers will have the option to stay in the community they grew up in and still work for large multinational companies,” he says.
Anything is possible
Samsung is at the forefront of the 5G revolution, enabling Canadians to re-envision communication. Earlier this year, the tech giant partnered with TELUS, which has now launched its 5G network in 26 communities across Canada, including Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, and Montreal. By the end of the year, approximately 50 cities and towns will experience the reliability and quality of TELUS’ 5G connectivity, with blazing fast speeds up to 1.7 Gbps.
Samsung now offers Canadians an end-to-end 5G experience. In addition to 5G network solutions, Samsung was the first to launch a 5G-capable device and, today, offers 19 in total — tablets, laptops, and phones, including the Galaxy Fold, which has double the screen size of other options. More innovation is on the horizon to change how we connect within our homes, workplaces, and even cars.
“We’re hiring as many people as we can to make sure we can deliver on our promise to customers. I’m excited about the opportunity to develop and innovate on the 5G network,” says Wiktorski.
Still in its infancy, it’s almost hard to predict all that 5G will offer. The possibilities are near-endless.
“With 5G, we’re only at the start,” says Wiktorski. “It will make our lives even better.”
Originally published in partnership with Maclean’s.