People have long dreamed of using broadband communication to reduce business travel, consult with distant specialists, and narrow the opportunity gap between urban and rural communities.

To be sure, broadband communication has not yet delivered everything it promises, but it has had a dramatic impact. Webinars and online document sharing are now common.

5G wireless could turn out to be a catalyst for taking broadband service to the next level, enabling higher speeds, ubiquitous access (from the office, home, and while mobile), and a new generation of remote collaboration features.

Lessons from false starts

The first forays into videoconferencing and telecommuting did not live up to expectations. During the 1970s, there was much excitement about end-to-end digital phone networks based on ISDN (integrated services digital network). The AT&T Picturephone was supposed to make video calling routine. It never achieved a critical mass of users.

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