The sheer thought of 5G spills excitement galore for any tech enthusiast, just as much for the average person. The technology that has been in the making for about a decade now finally seems to be ready to come off the shelf. In fact, there have been instances of carriers starting to roll out 5G to very select cities so far, with extensive roll outs expected in the upcoming 2020. However, right now, there are is a lot of inquisitiveness about this technology and many people would like to have an idea about what is to be expected.
In this article, we shall take a look into the basic technology, the upgrades it brings about, advantages and disadvantages and when to expect its rollout.
What it is?
To simply put it, 5G stands for fifth generation of wireless telecom technology and is expected to replace and augment the prevalent 4G LTE networks. The idea behind 5G networks is not only to provide faster speeds of connectivity but also to improve on reliability. In fact, a lot of 5G is expected to power and interconnect machines, devices and objects. It is slated to play a large role in the inter-connectivity of the IoT, deliver greater efficiency in terms of performance and drive new experiences.
Summing up, 5G will deliver multi-Gbps rates, increased capacity, and lower latencies, all of which will result in new user experiences.
How it differs from 4G?
The primary difference between 4G and 5G lies in the underlying technology. Unlike 4G, 5G networks will operate on three broad spectrum bands, namely – low, mid and high band spectrum. The low band spectrum is the sub 1GHz spectrum, which provides great penetrative power and speeds generally max out at 100Mbps. The mid band spectrum is known for lower latency and faster coverage but has lower penetrative power. Speeds are known to top at about 1Gbps. The high brand spectrum, also called the mmWave, is the cherry on the cake with speeds going up to 10Gbps and low latencies. The only drawback is the low coverage area that it can cater to.
The prevalent 4G technology ushered a new era of mobile internet. Developers, likewise, began to push more content via mobile and much of the development is tailored to provide a superior mobile experience, be it for an application or a content streaming service.
5G, on the other hand, will bring about a lot of changes. It will not only improve on broadband services but also serve as a platform for numerous devices and services. It will connect newer industries, from retail to education, transport to entertainment, etc. It is also expected to play a very transformative role in industries like automobile and electricity. A fine example to support this would be the development of autonomous cars.
A very obvious distinction lies in terms of the speeds offered by 5G connectivity. While 4G connectivity has made 100Mbps connections available to us, 5G will jump up a few notches to provide multi-Gbps rates. Estimated averages suggest that speeds are likely to reach 10Gbps. For example, an full length HD quality film may be just take a few seconds to download, just as much as software updates will become so much fast and easy. As such, high speeds will mean that 5G technology will carry larger amounts of data, giving way to a better connected world.
Why people are excited about it?
5G does usher a great sense of excitement amongst people. As mentioned earlier in the article, a lot of it does resonate with higher speeds but 5G will also have various other uses.
The use of autonomous vehicles is expected to rise with the implementation of 5G technology. It will bring about a new era in terms of transportation. In fact, vehicles on the road are expected to communicate and learn from each other, thus bringing about better safety.
5G is expected to bring about a lot of efficiency in terms of operations of cities and municipalities. Utility companies shall be able to remotely track usage or problems and can then inform respective departments to take action. Likewise, surveillance can also become easier with the usage of 5G.
Healthcare is another industry that will see great strides and does bring about a fair amount of excitement. The possibility of ultra reliable low latency communications (URLLC) can change healthcare. It is expected to bring changes in the fields of telemedicine, precision surgery, physical therapy with AR and even remote surgery in the near future. Hospitals, on a similar note, can make use of a massive sensor network that can help monitor patient health and conditions.
What it means for smartphones and other devices (IoT)?
Probably one of the most crucial developments that will come with 5G is its effect on the Inter of Things. Presently, the current usage of sensors for communications means that they deplete 4G data capacity. However, 5G will change that case. With top notch speeds and low latency, one can expect a number of smart devices to take the center stage with seamless connectivity being the key. Virtually everything will be connected, scaling down to the lowest levels in terms of mobility, power and data rates. It also means an era of highly efficient and low cost solutions is likely to arrive.
Smartphones, on a similar note, will undergo an up gradation in terms of staying technologically relevant. In fact, Qualcomm has already shown the Snapdragon 855, which is the world’s first commercial mobile platform boasting of multi-gigabit 5G.
Why people are worried about it (health)?
As evident with the implementation of new technologies from time to time, rumors have been around that 5G can cause health hazards. However, this is highly unlikely considering that much of the 5G spectrum consist of non-ionizing radiation. The frequency bands used in 5G are mostly low and even the highest bands in usage do not reach ionizing wavelengths.
Also, being bound by FCC’s safety standards, means that there is nothing to worry about.
When is it coming?
3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), the standards body that defines 5G has accelerated the development of the technology. In fact, as of 2019, there have been various instances of rollout of 5G. Verizon started offering pre standard 5G in areas like Houston, Los Angeles, Sacramento, etc. Much of these deployments have used fixed wireless, very much similar to wireless broadband used at home. In fact, at Verizon’s CES 2019 keynote earlier this year, the carrier demonstrated speeds of 900Mbps, although slightly short of expected Gigabit speeds.
Likewise, AT&T have made headway in areas like Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans, Lousville, etc. Their phones have started to feature a 5GE logo, which they have termed as 5G Evolution. It primarily refers to advanced LTE technology. The company has turned to a mobile hotspot as its first 5G capable devices rather than a smartphone. It is being called the Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot and has been built by Netgear. It comes with the same bands as in LTE, WITH 5G built on top.
Therefore, to say, much of 5G implementation has happened on a small scale and also on a trial basis. Another point to note is that much of the technology is still an advanced version of 4G LTE and true 5G is yet to take light. Also, owing to the scarcity of hardware for 5G, much its implementation has been slow. 2019 looks like the year of network launches and it is expected that 2020 will be the year when fully phased implementation of 5G will really happen.