The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to set the stage for 5G wireless service in the United States.
The unanimous vote will lay the groundwork for mobile devices to be able to send and receive signals on a high-frequency spectrum that could be used in the next generation of broadband wireless services, according to the LA Times.
“These new rules open up nearly 11 [gigahertz] of high-frequency spectrum for flexible, mobile, and fixed use wireless broadband,” the FCC announced.
The airwaves that the FCC has set aside are located in higher bands than current wireless service. They include 28GHz, 37GHz and 39GHz, according to USA Today.
This higher spectrum could be used for 5G broadband service — which could lead to speeds up to 100 times faster than currently 4G networks.
In a second vote, the FCC also made it easier for service providers to turn off old landline networks and replace them with newer wired or wireless systems. Copper landlines, for example, could be replaced with fiber or wireless equivalents, Arstechnica reports.
These high-frequency bands have not been thought useful because, although they can carry large amounts of data faster, they travel shorter distances and are blocked more easily than 4G frequencies, USA Today reports.
Because of this, they saw limited use. But technological advancements are making the spectrum’s use in commercial wireless service a reality.
The FCC designated a large portion of the spectrum to be auctioned to wireless companies, but also laid groundwork for the rest to be openly shared.
The LA Times reports that both AT&T and Verizon are planning 5G trials next year — but the tech probably won’t be commercially available until at least 2020.
Experts say that 5G service is the key to applications such as self-driving vehicles, Internet-connected appliances, virtual reality, and a myriad of other uses.
“There is seemingly no limit on how what we refer to as 5G could impact our everyday existence,” FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn told the Times.