As wireless operators such as T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T switch on some of the world's first 5G networks, they're concurrently cultivating 5G entrepreneurs in the hopes of fostering new applications and services that will take advantage of their 5G investments.
T-Mobile is the latest wireless network operator to plant seeds among startups in the hopes that they will sprout and help grow their 5G-related efforts. According to a report in the Seattle Times, T-Mobile is teaming with the likes of NASA and Intel to create the "5G Open Innovation Lab" in conjunction with the University of Washington and the city of Bellevue. The lab -- which will include T-Mobile's 5G connections -- is scheduled to open next year, and is designed to provide an unspecified amount of funding for investors and startups to create 5G products and services. The lab stems from Washington state's Innovation Partnership Zone (IPZ) -- a teaming among private companies, educational institutions and municipal governments -- to promote economic opportunities. Previous efforts have focused on areas such as aerospace, agriculture and craft brewing.
Of course, T-Mobile isn't the only carrier pushing inventors to create fancy new 5G offerings. Verizon's "Built on 5G Challenge" offers a $1 million prize to the team that produces the best new product or service using 5G. The company plans to announce the winner at the upcoming MWC Americas trade show in Los Angeles.
Similarly, AT&T has held a number of events aimed at encouraging 5G innovations. Most recently the company hosted 20 software development teams in its "Foundry" in Plano, Texas, offering $10,000 in total prizes for applications using spatial computing and the Magic Leap One headset. And later this month in New York City, AT&T is planning to use virtual reality and 5G to show off "iconic moments" from the TV show Friends, and an example of the new levers AT&T can pull following its acquisition of Time Warner, which owns the rights to the show.
Of course, these kinds of efforts are not exclusive to the wireless industry; a wide range of other high-tech sectors employ similar tactics to generate new ideas. But for those who continue to view 5G through a skeptical lens, it may be somewhat worrisome that operators appear to be casting about in search of applications that can actually make use of their new wireless networks.