Curious about all this “huff” over 5G? Tired of lethargic 4G or “LTE” speeds?
At least the telecommunication industry is abuzz about the arrival of “5G” on major wireless networks. After much speculation, the highly anticipated 5G rollout will finally reach mobile phone users this year.
According to research firm CCS insights, there will be over 1 billion 5G users across the world by 2023.
The shift from 4G to 5G is not only relevant to smartphone users. This next-generation wireless network technology will be a key to technological breakthroughs such as autonomous cars, super-fast internet speeds, virtual reality, smart homes, and many other devices and applications.
What is 5G?
For the uninitiated, “5G,” or the fifth-generation wireless network, is a set of technical ground rules defining the working of a cellular network including the radio frequencies used, how various components handle radio signals and how they exchange data.
The next generation network technology will eventually replace 4G connections. For example, where 4G allows users to stream videos in full high definition (HD), 5G will enable streaming in 4K high dynamic range (HDR) and at much lower latency (read: lag).
But the network won’t be publicly accessible for some time. To use 5G, users will have to buy new 5G-compatible phones, while carriers have to install new transmission equipment to offer faster service.
How fast is 5G?
According to industry experts, 5G will provide data speeds of 10 gigabits per second (Gbps). That is many, many times faster than 4G technology, which offers a speed of 100 megabits per second (Mbps). 5G speeds will make data requests nearly instantaneous from a user’s perspective.
Wireless chip maker Qualcomm commented that it had demonstrated peak 5G download speeds of 4.5 Gbps – that is roughly 20 times faster than the existing 4G technology. 5G will allow noticeably higher speeds in higher-quality streaming video.
But 5G is not just about speed. 5G also promises significantly reduced latency that translates to faster load times and improved responsiveness while using the internet. A lag of several hundred milliseconds is common with 4G, partly because the signals must pass between different carrier switching centers. But 5G is designed to reduce latency down to a few milliseconds and deliver more reliable signals than earlier cellular networks.
When will 5G be available?
Network carriers already started rolling out fixed 5G to select cities in 2018, although without 5G devices commercially available the new tech is just a preparation for a full roll out in a few year’s time. More 5G-enabled networks will make appearances around the world in 2019, with even more comprehensive rollouts to take place in 2020. Wireless service providers such as Verizon and AT&T are already discussing the rollout of 5G technology. T-mobile will begin its rollout in 2019, with nationwide network coverage by 2020. Sprint announced its goal to be the first company to switch on a 5G service, with its rollout also planned for 2019.
The hardware for accessing the network is not far away either. Samsung recently presented a prototype of its first 5G mobile phones that would probably operate on Verizon and AT&T networks. Similarly, Huawei, Google, HTC and a few more have promised to launch their first 5G phone in 2019.
Public expectation of 5G is high, and rightly so. The high speeds, low latency and reliability of the 5G network will provide the missing piece for many innovations that have been stalled due to needing a more reliable network to function properly. Autonomous or self-driven cars are a good example, as passenger safety depends on the vehicle being able to transmit and receive information almost instantaneously.
Public safety and infrastructure also offers many use cases for 5G development. 5G will enable utility companies to track usage remotely and easily, and sensors will notify public works departments and municipalities of public issues such as drains flood and faulty street lights. There are almost unlimited applications for 5G in a city environment, making “smart cities” a very real prospect in the near future.
This increase in the number of connected objects and devices is the beginning of the Internet of Things. Furthering the IoT is one of the most crucial outcomes of 5G deployment. While 4G technology does enable communication between devices, the sheer number of devices that need to be supported require a lot of resources and quickly deplete LTE data capacity. The IoT will use 5G speeds and low latency to allow faster communication between sensors and smart devices.
5G driving ahead
From self-driven cars to virtual reality, 5G will bring a new era of technology to the world. The Australian government is getting behind the 5G rollout, fast-tracking legislation and the permissions required to deploy the new technology. Everyone will benefit from 5G technology, including mobile users, businesses, and government-run establishments.
Expect to see future technological advancements that depend on fast internet transfers and connections, as we move into a future that is faster, more innovative and even more connected – with 5G as the driving force.
Ralf Llanasas is a Tech Columnist at Grit Daily.