5G Is Much More Than A Flash In The Pan
5G is something most of us have heard of through one avenue or another, be it through a spanking new phone advert, an article on Buzzfeed, or even through your tech savvy friend who has pre-ordered a phone enabled with the technology. If you, like many others, are in the dark about 5G and what it means for the tech world and subsequently society, we will try to lift the fog for you.
London Calling for 5G Technology
A majority of the world’s population will have heard of, and probably use, 3 or 4G technology devices in their daily lives. This is a great start to grasping the concept of 5G (5th Generation). In fact, London is set to become one of the first cities to begin hosting the 5th generation of mobile technology by 2020. At least this is what the then-mayor, Boris Johnson, promised back in 2014. And it’s easy to understand why he was so interested – 5G technology boasts speed that massively outstrip even the fastest home broadband network currently on offer in the UK.
Johnson hopes this will revolutionize the way the population work with technology in both business and home lives. And by what we have heard of 5G this far, we must admit that it sounds more than just promising!
Need For Speed
With prospective speeds of up to an impressive 100 gigabits per second, 5G will prove to be almost 1000 times faster than its younger sibling, 4G, which is currently being used worldwide by mobile and internet providers. It is an extremely exciting prospect, especially since 4G has already proven to be extremely successful for many businesses. With the majority of today’s organizations often being on the move, or working remotely, their demands for fast and reliable services are ever increasing.
It is also important to notice that the gap between 4G and the previous iteration 3G, is not nearly as vast as the one between 5G and 4G.
But first, let’s dive deeper and find out what the key differences are.
A Mobile Timeline
3G was essentially the first widely available mobile data incarnation and revolutionized the mobile phone world upon its introduction. It does not however have the capacity to cope with modern mobile working demands such as working on the move, or any form of media streaming or file sharing. Those working in urban business hubs would feel the effects most severely with 3G, with the slowest and sometimes non-existent mobile connections occurring during peak working hours.
Those broadband-esque wireless speeds you are experiencing on your phone right now? That’s 4G. 4G has a far higher base speed, which means they experience less of this peak-hour strain, combined with more capacity for essential business services such as email and web browsing on the go. 4G is also far more equipped to offer entertainment and recreational material as it enables streaming and downloading. This has paved the way for streaming platforms such as Netflix, NowTV and Hulu to take their offerings to the mobile world, and with huge results thus far.
But what will 5G bring to the future?
It will reportedly make communications so fast they become almost real-time, making mobile internet on a par, and even in some cases faster than highly powered office services.
If preliminary tests are any indication, 5G will be extremely fast. At the recent Brooklyn 5G Summit in New York, Dove Wolter, assistant vice president of radio technology and architecture at American phone provider giants AT&T, said engineers at the firm had achieved speeds of up to 6Gbps in preliminary tests. In non-technical terms: that’s enough to download a feature length movie in two and a half minutes.
But Not So Fast...
As is the case with all good things, there is a catch with 5G.
In the first period of its introduction, the technology will seem more like being on Wifi rather than a constant cellular technology. This is due to its need for extremely low latency, in other words – the time it takes data to be stored or retrieved. This low latency, however, means 5G won’t provide as much coverage as 4G or even 3G, and in many cases it will act as more of a super-fast Wifi network.
Due to 5G’s high frequencies having corresponding low wavelengths, they have great difficulty penetrating solid objects such as walls, windows, large vehicles and even tress. However, this has been well thought out and planned by service providers and the result is proposed “pockets” of 5G coverage in densely populated areas such as business districts, public parks, coffee shops, train stations and airports.
Each phone service provider has different ideas about the rollout of 5G, so it is more than likely we will see several different scenarios in the preliminary stages. For example, smaller cities may only have 5G “pockets” surrounding heavily populated locations such as convention centres, tourist areas and shopping complexes, where larger tech-obsessed hubs such as Los Angeles, New York and London will likely have far more widespread coverage.
A Smarter Home
At this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show (or CES) in Las Vegas, 5G and its seemingly endless capabilities were the talk of the town, and how it would enable driverless cars (we’ll come on to that later), connected to homes and the Internet of Things (IoT).
According to tech giant Intel, 5G will mean that almost everything will be connected. They are positioning themselves in the 5G movement, with Asha Keddy, the company’s head of all things IoT leading the charge. "We're not just going to be connecting 6 or 7 billion people, we'll be connecting tens of billions of things," said Keddy. "It will be phones, lights, cars, buildings, appliances, you name it."
This widespread connectivity starts in the home, with the technology being showcased at CES, with mobile app-controlled door locks, smart cameras and even internet-connected fridges all being installed prior to the event in the Las Vegas Convention Center Halls. Gartner predicts that by 2020, over 20.4 billion things will be connected. So let’s think of that in terms of your morning routine before heading off to work. You wake up and your smart phone alarm which has been pre-set the night prior triggers your lights to come on and your blinds/curtains to open.
The heating has been turned on prior to your rise. You jump out of bed and head into the shower which has already been turned on and warmed up, triggered once again by your alarm. After your shower you head downstairs to your morning coffee which has also been made, triggered by the same alarm. You might even fancy a couple of bits of toast which can now also be connected to IoT. You then head out to your car to drive to work, which on a cold day (temperature activated) will start to defrost at a time of your choosing.
In other words, 5G combined with IoT will almost make life work like clockwork. Telehealth, as experts are calling it, is also set to be big, with the introduction of devices that monitor your body daily and automatically share data with your doctor.
A Drive For Change
5G has also begun to make its way into the automotive industry. A smart society needs smart cars after all. The giants of the car world are aiming for a future in which cars (human-driven and driverless) are able to communicate with one another, as well as with the city’s inbuilt infrastructure such as traffic signals and road signs. This information will also be sent to control centres in the city in question and will be used to better road planning, routing and even in a bid to try and reduce emissions. An example already showcased by a few driverless cars is that of 5G enabled speed limiting, So your driverless car could communicate with a roadside change in speed limit sign and adjust its speed automatically.
5G enabled cars are a key growth driver for the major automotive firms. Experts believe that the driverless vehicle of the future will exchange cloud management info, sensor data as well as multimedia content with other vehicles over the 5G networks in place in highly-populated urban areas and eventually everywhere. According to ABI Research, around 67 million automotive 5G vehicle subscriptions will be made, 3 million if which will be deployed in the early stages of the roll out of autonomous cars.
It is evident that 5G is an extremely exciting prospect for many facets of society and will turn the lives of many upside down for the better in both business and personal contexts, but there is still much work to be carried out to achieve its full potential on a worldwide scale. With networks starting to go live in 2019, and coverage set to reach 20% of the global population by 2023 there is no better time to start educating yourself on 5G and what it could do for you. However, its effect on society has already start to show itself, with Sprints recent stunt at the Copa America football tournament who rolled out 5G streaming in VR, as well as Huawei, who showed a demo of a 360 degree video of a match streamed live from a 5G network.
The possibilities are not only endless, but they excite and spark creativity in an already technologically advanced society.
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