What is 5G?
With faster speeds, lower latency and more reliable connectivity, we take a look at what the next generation of wireless communications could mean.
15:00 14 June 2017
Networks are evolving. As new network models continue to emerge, the world is becoming more and more connected.
A connected world with millions of devices simply calls for advanced systems that can handle greater bandwidth and provide blazing fast speeds for seamless data transmission.
And this is precisely where the next generation wireless network 5G comes in.
5G networks, believed to be a game changer for the communications industry, comes with a lot of promise. Whether it be faster speeds or more reliable connections across the network, 5G is not only expected to redefine how we connect with each other but also pushing the envelope of up-and-coming areas such as VR, multiplayer gaming etc.
Without further ado, let’s dive in and take a look at 5G, its applications, and how it can make our lives better.
What is 5G?
This term gets thrown around loosely in many consumer expos and mobile conferences.
Loosely speaking, it refers to the most advanced generation of wireless networks that boasts faster speeds and much lower latency whilst offering wider coverage than the cellular systems in use today.
The G in 5G stands for fifth generation. Whilst the custom is to define generations by their data transfer speeds, each generation also has distinct encoding methods or air interfaces. 1G was pure play analog. 2G represent the first generation of digital technologies such as GSM, CDMA. 3G used technologies like HSPA, EVDO and UTMS to take speeds from hundreds of kbps to a few mbps. With 4G, the carriers set the bar high thanks to technologies such as LTE and WiMax, which are capable of pushing the speeds through the hundred megabit level.
As such, the term 5G is supposed to cover any technological advancement that contributes towards taking current mobile connectivity to the next level.
Building on from the groundwork laid by 4G LTE, the 5G mobile network is set to take the communications industry to the next level. Currently in its embryonic stages of development, 5G is still a hazy notion that does not have an official definition yet. What’s more, the standards to be used in 5G are still being proposed.
The governing body that represents mobile carriers worldwide has laid down some key guidelines, specifying minimum requirements for speed, energy and capacity for 5G.
For example, the bodies involved with defining the standards are targeting speeds to the tune of 20Gbps and latency at 1ms, at which point the magic of 5G is likely to happen.
How does 5G work?
Broadly speaking, 5G is supposed to use very high broadcast frequencies that facilitate transfer of huge amount of data but typically a few blocks at any instant in time. This kind of a network standard is supposed to work with the whole spectrum of frequencies- from low to high- but mostly comes into its own at higher frequencies.
Moreover, 5G bets big on Multiple Input Multiple Output technology (MiMo), a technology, which uses a large number of antennas to improve network capacity and enable transfer of parallel data streams to multiple users operating on the same frequency. By using multiple antennas per user, MIMO base stations could also implement ‘beam forming’, a phenomenon by which the beam of the antenna could be focuses towards certain users in order to reduce signal interference and maximise network connectivity.
How fast will 5G be?
According to independent telecom regulator Ofcom, 5G networks in the UK, once ready to go, could offer peak download speeds somewhere in the range of 10 to 50 Gbps, a range that is significantly higher than what 4G networks typically provide: 5 to 12 Gbps.
Bear in mind these are theoretical speeds and such figures may be difficult to realise in real world use. In fact, those speeds are likely to plummet when a host of devices attempt to connect to the network, with each device trying to download and upload stuff, stream videos, and make video calls etc.
Even though industry trackers and experts expect the actual download speeds to be somewhat lower in reality, they agree that it would be good enough to zip a high definition movie to your device in a matter of few seconds.
Companies are pumping in tonnes of money to flaunt the 5G capabilities of their devices and applications, and, as a result, there is a lot of buzz around 5G and what you will be able to do with it.
Here are a few interesting things that we think will be possible with the 5G technology.
New Experiences of Augmented/Virtual Reality
When virtual reality works in tandem with advanced networks guaranteeing lower latency and faster response, it opens up a world of new possibilities that would not be possible otherwise.
Ever imagined what it would feel like to get front row seats to your favorite music concert? Wanted to play a Virtual Reality (VR) game against someone from the other side of the world?
Yes, it’s all possible with virtual reality and 5G.
With 5G, you will be able to use the power of advanced wireless networks to stream that virtual experience content right into your virtual reality (VR) device.
The grand vision for 5G is that it would make it easy for augmented reality applications to load on VR device and headsets, and to send and receive data continuously.
And that’s where we are headed.
One of the remarkable use cases for 5G, telemedicine allows doctors and medical professionals use advanced networks and smart computing so as to monitor patients from a remote location, and even perform surgery remotely.
Recently, in an event held at King’s college London, a qualified surgeon demonstrated how one could perform an operation with tools like a robotic arm and a connected glove using a simulated 5G network.
Sure it was impressive to see, but the talk is that there is a lot of work to be done in terms of developing the intelligence of these devices and gadgetry.
With 5G networks evolving, it won’t be long before such applications meet their true potential. And we can’t wait to see how it all turns out to be.
Search Quicker and Download Stuff Faster
With 4G and other networks, web pages never seem to load fast enough. No matter how close you are to the network and how fast the network connection is, web pages and search results seem to take more than a few seconds to load.
But 5G is expected to up the game.
With 5G, you will get to surf the web better where search results populate and web pages load almost instantaneously.
Or, if you wanted to chill out and download a full movie in HD quality, it would zip through to your device in a few seconds.
The concept of self-driving cars may call for advanced networks to come to fruition. The initial prototype of this technology will not have expansive communication capabilities, but future iterations will be expected to be in constant contact with a server, interact with other vehicles driving nearby, and smart signals and roads to ensure better safety.
Get Video Chatting
Today’s communication networks don’t have the capacity to facilitate real time communications. No one gets through a video conferencing session without encountering some sort of a lag or stuttering issues that usually play spoilsport.
However, not everything is lost. According to experts, things could improve with 5G. They believe the way we communicate will get more and more visual in future thanks to advanced networks designed to render video streams in high resolution.
Ever wanted to talk to your near and dear through a sophisticated chat program, with video resolution so high it looks like you’re right beside them. It’s all going to be possible with smart video conferencing applications that work best on wireless networks optimised for faster data transfer and higher bandwidth.
How will 5G make your life better?
Building on the foundation set by 4G technology, 5G is expected to allow you place calls, send messages, surf the web etc, but with a key difference- it will drastically improve the data transfer speeds across the network, allowing for faster and a much more reliable internet access for all devices and things connected to it.
In addition, rather than just providing speeds that are roughly 10 times faster than they are on 4G networks, 5G networks are expected to allow for more bandwidth and that means you can get more devices and things hooked up to the internet, which seems to be a critical requirement for the IoT phenomenon to take off.
Simply put, 5G will make it a lot easier for you to upload and download high definition videos, even the Ultra HD quality. In addition, it will also give you more room for the many devices entering our connected world.
The shift from 3G or 4G to 5G will be huge and likely take a few more years of time. But when it is ready to go, it will certainly make a lot of difference in our daily life.
5G: The Present and Future
In order to get a head start in the race to roll out 5G quickly, telecom companies are working hand in hand with chip makers to plan and carry out limited trials as well as pilot projects.
It’s worth mentioning that the South Korean government recently invested a whopping amount of money in upgrades that should see a quick roll out of a 5G network as soon as possible. And the whole tech world is watching eagerly to see what comes of it.
Remember, it’s these trials and experiments that will potentially determine what the official standard for 5G becomes.
Having said that, we don’t expect to see any development soon.
Though experts are happy with the way things are progressing, they think that 5G services won’t be available anytime soon unless and until there is an accelerated schedule in place. And that means you won’t get to use 5G anytime until the turn of the decade.
Given the scale of time and effort that goes into getting new networks ready, we would have expected to see a wider rollout of 5G networks around 2020.
But it will certainly be worth waiting for.
As you’d know, fast internet connectivity has become more of a necessity now. And with IoT soaring in popularity, the significance of a speedy internet connection is only likely to grow.
The mobile devices and smartphones in the market today are not designed to be compatible with 5G technology. New 5G devices are expected to have better battery life, more processing power, and multiple antenna for sustained throughput of mobile signal. Whilst it may be too early to say what a typical 5G ready device will look like, experts think that there will be many connected devices in our homes.
If at all we are going to get real close to achieving the vision of creating a connected world-where there will be more than one billion connected devices- high speed internet with blazing fast data transfer speeds is a must.
And so is the expansion to 5G.
5G may be the next big thing to happen in the world of telecommunications but it is still in its infancy.
With the next iteration of wireless technology promising faster connectivity, lower latency and greater throughput than current generation, the applications and opportunities provided by 5G are huge, but the prep work for it is quite complicated.
Of course, 5G is coming; but, at this point, we are still a few years away.
We don’t know exactly how it’s going to work but all we know is that 5G networks will have better specifications than 4G, but there is no agreement yet as to what those technical standards and specifications should be.
And that’s what makes a completely novel concept like 5G an exciting proposition to look forward to.
Read more by exploring 5G