2019 is the year that the long-awaited 5G technology is starting to take off and many expect this to be a game-changer. According to Ericsson, a telecom equipment manufacturer that makes some of the 5G infrastructures, by 2024 there will be over 1.5 billion of us connected to 5G.
However, 5G technology offers far more than mobile calling or faster Internet browsing. According to a study from Qualcomm, by 2035, 5G technology could underpin up to £9.3 trillion worth of goods and services in industries such as retail, healthcare, education, transportation, entertainment and more. In a report from PSB Research, which surveyed over 3,500 people including business decision leaders, analysts, and technology enthusiasts, they found that because of 5G:
- 91% expect to see new products and services that have yet to be invented
- 87% expect to see new emerging industries
- 82% expect small business growth and more global competition
- 85% expect it to make companies more globally competitive
- 89% expect productivity to increase
What exactly is 5G?
The “G” in 5G stands for “generation”. We need to look back to the late 1980s when 1G technology was first launched, although it wasn’t called 1G at the time. This was the very first commercially available mobile network that was based largely on analogue technology.
2G technology came along in the early 1990s and was the first truly digital network. It brought with it encrypted calls and SMS text messages, although initially only between handsets on the same network.
3G was relatively slow to be adopted, and it wasn’t until the mid-2000s that it became mainstream. It added the ability to browse the Internet and send and receive emails.
4G took things a step further and provided a greatly enhanced service over 3G, adding the ability to stream or download video files. However, 4G hasn’t stood still; some providers have added LTE (Long Term Evolution). LTE became the fastest and most consistent variety of 4G, compared to competing technologies like WiMax. With a good connection, the 4G LTE transfer speed is about one gigabit per second and takes about an hour to download a short HD movie. However, you will rarely experience 4G’s maximum download speed because obstacles such as buildings, microwaves, and WiFi signals often disrupt the signal.
Now that the world has become connected, 5G takes things to a new level. It will still support calls, text messages and Internet browsing, but it will dramatically increase the speed at which data is transferred across the network and, most importantly, it will significantly expand the use of Internet-connected devices.
It’s not just about speed
5G will have an increased data rate of up to 10 gigabits per second (10 to 100x improvement over 4G), faster than many home broadband services and means that a full HD movie will download in a matter of seconds. Furthermore, the importance of a quick connection is only going to increase; therefore latency has been significantly reduced to about 1ms. In short, it will give wireless broadband the capacity it needs to support the ever-increasing number of IoT (Internet of Things) that will shortly reach our homes and workplaces.
However, it is not just faster speeds and latency, 5G technology has been designed to provide other benefits such as 100% coverage and 90% reduction in network energy usage.
Can 5G technology help my business?
Just as the Internet has changed the way we work in ways that we didn’t think were possible, 5G will make businesses more efficient, extend capacity to do more in less time and with fewer resources. In turn, saving costs and increasing revenue. The most exciting thing is, we couldn’t have predicted the advent of services like Uber or Facebook Live on your smartphone; similarly, we don’t yet know what applications will emerge from the use of 5G.
5G will unlock many new applications, and is already being considered for:
- Self-driving cars: The significantly improved latency will allow cars to exchange their location, speed, acceleration, direction, and steering, faster than we can blink. Many consider this “vehicle-to-vehicle communication”, the most crucial lifesaving technology to hit the auto industry in more than ten years.
- Drones: Just as 5G will allow self-driving cars to talk to each other, the technology will do the same for drones, ensuring the devices can fly safely without bumping into each other.
- Virtual reality: Some 5G applications require high data throughput or reduced latency. However, creating an immersive virtual experience requires both. The network needs to be responsive, but it must also provide large amounts of data.
- IoT: The use of IoT devices is set to explode. There are currently an estimated 6.4 billion connected devices in the world, but with home appliances, door locks, security cameras, cars, wearables, animal collars and so many other inert devices beginning to connect to the web, Gartner predicts that by 2020, that figure will rise to 20.8 billion.
- Remote Surgery: This isn’t new, but 5G could have an enormous impact in providing healthcare to millions of people in remote locations, as well as training doctors in surgical specialisms. Some Telecom equipment manufacturers, such as Ericsson, are already working with doctors at King’s College in London to test 5G compatible prototypes of touch-sensitive gloves connected to remote robots.
When will 5G be available?
5G is already available in some locations around the UK, and commercial 5G networks are starting to go live. EE has switched on 5G sites in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff and aims to launch in 20 additional cities throughout 2019/2020. Most networks are still in the very early phase of deployment, so we are unlikely to see full launches from them until 2020 at the earliest.
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