5G has been at the top of the news and hype cycle for a few years now. The fifth generation of mobile is already starting to roll out across the world and we are told that once the rollouts are complete it will change our lives forever. Is 5G as revolutionary as some say or is it just the next evolution of mobile connectivity?
The introduction of 4G had a massive impact on global connectivity. It offered higher speeds and greater data caps to consumers and businesses and changed how we used the internet outside our homes. If you consider how you use your mobile has changed in the last ten years only some of this is down to hardware changes, most of this is down to connectivity changes. Consider how you watch Youtube videos while waiting for your Uber driver to pick you up and on the way home you might listen to some songs on a streaming service like Spotify. All of these things require high-speed connectivity and relatively low latency. 4G allowed this to happen.
5G will take things to a new level. The new technology standard promises to introduce higher speeds, lower latency, and the ability to connect more devices at once without losing quality. Let’s look at each aspect of 5G and see how that could change our lives.
One of the main things advertised about 5G is the incredibly high speeds it will offer. The service will be able to compete with fixed fiber connections that exist today in terms of the speed offered. This won’t change much for mobile users though. The reality is that 4G offers plenty of speed already. The average consumer uses 4G to stream video and that is our greatest demand for speed. 5G won’t change much here in the short term. In the long term, it will mean we can stream even higher quality content. Consider this one evolution, not revolution.
If you have a poor fixed-line solution in your home or are not being offered a great price. 5G will change that. 5G will allow competition across the world in the provision of fixed internet. This is great for poorer countries like Africa where it is too costly to lay fixed-line broadband and great for more developed countries like America where regulations protect companies from competition. Consider this one a competitive revolution.
While not always the headline advertisement of 5G, it is the lower latency that really matters. Consider the key applications on 4G; video, music, and some services. We are all used to our connection dropping for a moment on 4G and it doesn’t really matter. The services are built to allow for that. If you order an Uber and it says it is 5 minutes away, it loses connection and suddenly it says it has arrived. No problem. If you are watching a video on Netflix it pre buffers so you don’t even realize if your connection drops for a second.
With 5G there is considerable potential driven by the lower latency. 5G will have a latency of 1 millisecond or less. This means that your connection will never really drop. This opens up huge opportunities for technology. Driverless cars are one of the most talked-about opportunities. Until now a car could not be trusted to maintain a connection to the internet without dropping. If your car was connected to the internet today it could lose the connection and crash and regain the connection in a few seconds. On 5G that won’t happen. Consider how this will impact gaming, video conferencing, remote working, and more. This is a revolution.
One of the things that we often don’t hear about 4G is that there is a limit to how many devices can connect to a network site at a given time. The number is incredibly high so we don’t notice when everyone in the city is using their mobile phone but you may have noticed that after a music or sports event your reception just becomes useless. 5G won’t have this problem. It can connect millions of devices instead of hundreds of thousands and this creates huge potential. Instead of just connecting your phone you may choose to connect your watch, your car, and much much more. 5G enables what many people call the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things is the idea of connecting many items in our world to the internet. They will complete tasks and collect data without the need for our interaction. Picture every car space in your city is linked to the internet so that when you want a space it is identified and booked for you in real-time, no more driving around the city like a lost sheep. This is the power of IoT. This will be a revolution.
When any new evolution of technology is released there are those that say it will change the world and those that say nothing will change. The reality is usually somewhere in between. What is clear, from looking at every evolution in the past is that in the beginning we only have a small idea of the applications it will allow for. If you predicted a car-sharing service in 2009 when 4G was announced you would have been ridiculed (and now a millionaire). The same is true for 5G. It will change our connected world entirely as it opens the doors to Artificial Intelligence, IoT, smart cities, and much much more. There is no debate. 5G will not be just another evolution, it will be the next great technological revolution.