The future of connectivity is coming – but what will it look like? Too often, the hype surrounding new technology inhabits the world of the abstract, inconsistent with the lived experience of those who will ultimately interact with these devices. The Future of Connectivity Art Project explores this future through the lens of design, aesthetics and visual stimulus – and ultimately the eye of the consumer. Art can help to tell a different story about what our world could look like. This series aims to provide a more complete view of the options that exist with new connectivity technologies and the opportunities they present.
5G’s technical capabilities are well documented and the benefits, while not yet experienced at mass scale, are expected to be game changing. But as it begins to roll out, attention is turning beyond the hypothetical to how this technology will exist in our world.
There are many factors to consider in the deployment of new network technologies, and the recently announced inquiry into 5G by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts will seek to do just that. The major areas of interest for the inquiry include network coverage requirements for the various areas of Australia, proximity to existing sites and planned new sites, existing infrastructure we can leverage, the height of available structures, free space and capacity of those structures, topography and the surrounding environment. A less technical but no less important factor is aesthetics.
Already our suburbs are dotted with these marks of connectivity: node cabinets for residents and business, the 4G cell towers atop buildings and other infrastructure across Australia. With 5G and other technologies yet to come, we will see a proliferation of even more network infrastructure, in particular small cell network connections.
Projections suggest these small cells may be five to 10 times more visible than the infrastructure we have today. With this in mind, considering the impact they’ll have on our public and private spaces is key.
The focus of the parliamentary inquiry into 5G is a step in the right direction. It brings awareness to the opportunities and challenges of 5G at a time when approximately 30 percent of Australians are likely to switch to 5G when it is available or upon hearing good things. As the government and ecosystem involved in 5G deployment considers the factors necessary to deploy small cells, perhaps there may be space to consider an aesthetic framework. In doing so, we could set expectations for the visual identity of this new connectivity and its impact on the spaces in which we live.