After 4G (LTE) and 3G, we are heading towards a new and faster generation of telecom signaling classified as 5G or 5th Generation wireless technology. The technology is pitted to overcome several shortcomings of its predecessor technologies, including slow internet speeds, lack of popularity of next-gen technologies, and network latency lag.
With initial tests indicating that overcoming these barriers might be a reality, prominent countries such as Japan, South Korea, China, Canada, and The United States are running a rat race to be the first country to launch 5G for public use. Before 5G becomes a mainstay of our communication, let’s check what it brings to the table and the foreseen challenges.
The positive points
Increased Internet Speeds
Higher internet speeds are something today’s tech-savvy generation is yearning for. With 5G wireless technology, internet speeds will surpass the speeds offered by cable broadband and even fiber optics. The reason behind the high internet speed is increased bandwidth. Availability of more bandwidth per user means more ‘space’ is available for users downloading files, surfing the internet, or watching videos using mobile data. The increased internet speed would directly influence internet data consumption, in terms of video, audio and textual through mobile phones.
Penetration of Next-gen Technologies
The next-gen technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have been around for some time now, however, they have not disrupted our lives as expected. The primary reason for which is the slow internet speed.
It is too early to predict – but to be honest – 5G might just be the shot in the arm that would propel IoT and AI into our daily lives and make them household names. 5G network would not just revolutionize human-to-human interaction but also human-to-machine and machine-to-machine interaction.
Nearly every industry is expected to benefit from the confluence of 5G technology with IoT and AI. Think of such a situation wherein cars communicate with each other about traffic updates and suggest faster routes towards the destination. Another moment could be when your refrigerator connects with the departmental store to orders daily essentials, relieving you of the duty of keeping a check on the quantity.
Network Latency Lag
The network latency lag for the available 4G network is between 20 and 50 milliseconds, which is expected to come down to about one millisecond in 5G network. It means users would experience smoother and faster transactions with 5G network connection. Online gaming and over the top (OTT) services would be the biggest beneficiary of this lower network latency lag as latency lag of less than 1/20th of what it is today would result in quick responses and uninterrupted flow, augmenting the overall experience. Voice or video communication too would benefit immensely as the video won’t freeze or there would be less delay in receiving the feed, ensuring smoother conversations. Thus, with negligible network latency lag in 5G, real-time updates would actually mean the same.
Applications of 5G
The 5G network can turn the dream of having cities with interconnected facilities, ranging from healthcare to transportation to home security into a reality. Traffic management, emergency response, water resource management, weather update, the lighting of streets, power management etc. are eminent features of a smart city that require reliable 5G wireless network for functioning.
Video calls and conferencing
Video calls and conferencing is slowly becoming a norm in the professional and casual world. It is an inexpensive, excellent alternative to travel and face-to-face meetings while creating personal and realistic experiences with meet-anytime capabilities. With the fast and secure 5G connection, video calling may become the most preferred form of communication for long distance relationships and deals.
Remote operations have been touted as the next big thing in the healthcare industry for some time now. With the advancement of 5G technology, surgeons conducting intricate operations on patients thousands of miles away may become a norm.
On the flip side
Bigger bandwidth, smaller coverage
The higher bandwidth offered by of 5G technology will influence its coverage. Unlike 3G technology where the cell towers were able to cover more territory with fewer cells, the 5G technology would require more towers to cover territories and support the immense bandwidth. During initial rollout, the users may find out that their network coverage is not widespread.
High-range radio frequency spectrum
Cell towers communicate via radio frequencies. The 5G network is speculated to operate in a high-frequency range of above 6 GHz, which is already used by satellite signals. Crowding the frequency range may pose problems for users trying to transmit their data as the bandwidth might be affected, resulting in slow speeds.
Considering what 5G network brings to the table, there’s no denying that technology is the future of communication and will form an integral part of smart living. While pundits are expecting it to influence our lives on a large scale as early as 2020, it must be noted that many technologies introduced over the last decade or so have not had the impact as expected. It is, therefore, imperative that we first iron out the challenges before introducing the masses to the 5G wireless network, ensuring the technology truly revolutionizes the way we communicate.