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When you use the LTE connection in your smartphone, that mobile data travels over invisible airwaves that support everything from Google Maps to FaceTime. But not long from now, all sorts of devices will be connected wirelessly to the Internet – from home appliances to automobiles to virtual reality headsets – and they’ll all need lots of fast, reliable bandwidth. That’s why the government announced it’s looking to open up a huge swath of these airwaves for companies to play with, more than they’ve ever had before.

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Companies will now be able to start developing devices and applications for 5G. What’s so special about this part of the radio spectrum? Well, at such high frequencies the airwaves don’t go through walls or very far; they just tend to bounce around instead of penetrating obstacles. But that may not be a bad thing; it means companies like Verizon or AT&T could set up hyperlocal cell sites around a hospital, for example, and the hospital could use all the bandwidth provided by that site without worrying about others clogging the site with demand.

As 5G technology is developed, it will become cheaper and more widespread, leading to less expensive devices and applications that can be used for social good.

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