Three months in to 2019 and the biggest tech events so far have both exhibited an impressive range of new tech but there’s been a consistent buzz around one thing: fifth-generation cellular networks, better known as 5G.
Mobile technology has been steadily evolving since the launch of 2G in 1991, especially with the increasing need across Business/Enterprise/Prosumer and consumer base.
Across the globe investment into mobile spectrum and cellular communication technology has since then given us 3G, 4G/4G LTE and now 5G is about to become a reality. If you’ve been keeping up to date with tech trends you would know that across the globe major telcos and communication brands have been talking about bringing 5G to market for a number of years now and it seems to finally be the year.
CES (The International Consumer Electronics Show) and the MWC (Mobile World Conference) 2019 also hyped about 5G both as a communication technology and also the Trinity – 5G with IOT and AI, equivocal to as much as it’s been flaunted around in the core tech circles.
SO what exactly is 5G and how will it impact our lives?
The New York times describes 5G it as “a set of technical ground rules that define the workings of a cellular network, including the radio frequencies used and how various components like computer chips and antennas handle radio signals and exchange data.”
TechRadar says, “5G networks are the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, offering faster speeds and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices than ever before”.
Now it’s important to know we’re not just talking about speeding up sending cat videos to all your contacts on Whatsapp, but actually downloading your favourite series onto your phone within minutes! Or even streaming 4K videos to your phone over your mobile network.
whistleOut says that while exact speeds an individual user can get will depend on “how the network has been set up, the number of devices on the network, and the device in their hands” – 5G does means users should get a minimum download speed of 100Mbps. Apparently that’s the fastest NBN speed as a minimum. (Don’t think the government would like the sounds of that.)
But – as Mobiddiction Digital Strategy Lead, Arun Satyanarayana points out – 5G is not just about speed.
“A larger spectrum becomes available and you can use that spectrum to do a lot more things. This is where IoT , AI and all M2M utility will come into play.”
This ‘spectrum’ Arun is referring to is further highlighted by Rahim Tafazolli, director of the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre, who refers to 5G as “a transformative set of technologies that will radically change our private and professional lives by enabling innovative applications and services, such as remote healthcare, wireless robots, driverless cars and connected homes and cities, removing boundaries between the real and cyber worlds.”
As an example, the possibility of 5G could see your car being able to communicate with other cars on the road. An example of this ‘vehicle-to-vehicle’ communication could be like if a car ahead of yours brakes really suddenly, it would then communicate this to your car which will pre-emptively brake as well and could save you from a potential collision.
The launch of a 5G network will push the envelope in terms of performance, to provide, where needed, for example, much greater throughput, much lower latency, ultra-high reliability, much higher connectivity density and higher mobility range.
How exactly will 5G do this?
Apart from speed, 5G will bring about three other improvements:
1. Lower Latency
Lower latency describes the time it takes information to get from your phone to the wider internet and back again. The typical latency for a 4G network is around 60 milliseconds, whereas 5G could lessen this to as low as 1 millisecond.
5G could become a technology enabler, not just a competitor, to remote service areas where getting physical cables to people’s houses can prove expensive. It would provide satellite service for a lot more users as well.
3. More simultaneous connections
5G will also allow more devices to connect to the network at the same time. As smartphone usage continues to grow, this is especially important because 5G is set to facilitate new developments in autonomous cars, connected machinery, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
As 5G networks go live around the world, we’ll see people trying to take advantage of ultra-fast connectivity with new technologies and applications. Just like 4G helped with social media live streaming, it’s no doubt our social feeds will be boosted even more by 5G. Think live streaming while sending videos and emoji’s to all those watching!
Clearly there is no arguing that 5G is the key innovative technology for 2019. But, before you all rush out and look to replace your 4G, it’s important to note that 5G will not replace it, rather they’ll exist simultaneously.
Our current networks will also be working with existing 3G and 4G technology to help power this huge rise in IoT technology, providing the infrastructure needed to carry massive amounts of data, allowing for a smarter and more connected world. Telstra have already started rolling out 5G in the major city CBDs of Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, initially aiming to extend coverage to a 2km radius from the city centre.
And, if your network does offer the tech, remember you will need a 5G-ready phone or mobile broadband modem to take advantage. We’ll be seeing the first of these devices later this year, Samsung has already announced it’s 5G phone with Huawei, OnePlus and OPPO expected to follow suite in Australia later this year.
However, it will probably take a few years for 5G to become a standard feature in our phones and modems. A wide availability of devices is likely to coincide with wide availability of 5G networks.
And whilst a lot of the news surrounding the tech it is just guess work, Arun assures us that one thing is for sure, “only time will tell what the full utility of 5G will be”.