When it comes to the internet, the need for speed is everything. With the promise of 5G internet in a few months or a year from now, it may be possible to experience download speeds of up to 10 or 20 times faster than is available now.
But there are several questions that must be answered if we are to embrace 5G in the nearest future. We will be answering those questions in this article.
What is 5G exactly?
You are familiar with 3G and 4G, but what exactly is 5G? When we talk about 5G, we are referring to the fifth-generation of mobile internet as we know it.
This internet connectivity is one that promises a faster upload speed and faster data download, more stable connections, and wider internet coverage.
5G is all about making the best possible use of radio spectrum at present, and to enable more devices to gain access to the internet at a time.
What will it enable us to do?
Ian Fogg from OpenSignal, a mobile data Analytics Company says that whatever we can do with our mobile devices at the moment, we will be able to do much with the speed of 5G.
He added, “Think of smart glasses featuring augmented reality, mobile virtual reality, much higher quality video, the internet of things making cities smarter. But what’s really exciting is all the new services that will be built that we can’t foresee.”
Imagine lots of drones working together to engage in search and rescue missions, traffic monitoring, and fire assessments, all having a wireless communication effectively and ground-based station with 5G.
Some people also think the with 5G; autonomous vehicles will be able to effectively communicate with each other, and read traffic data and live maps.
More interesting to note, is that mobile gamers will notice little or almost no delay – or latency – when tapping a button on a controller and viewing the effect on the screen.
For mobile videos on 5G, expect a near-instantaneous and glitch-free experience. Video calls should connect faster and become clearer with less jerkiness.
5G enabled wearable fitness devices could be able to monitor your health in real-time, and alerting the closest doctors immediately there are any emergency arises.
How does it work?
There is a wide range of new technologies likely to be included – but standards are yet to be hammered out for all 5G protocols.
For Higher-frequency bands of – 3.5GHz (gigahertz) to 26GHz and higher – they have a lot of capacity, but they also have shorter wavelengths which means they have a lower range – they easily get blocked by physical objects.
So there is a possibility that we will have clusters of smaller sized phone masts, standing closer to the ground, and transmitting millimeter waves between a higher number of receivers and transmitters.
The result of this will be the enablement of higher usage density. However, it is costly, and not all telecoms company are fully committed to the idea yet.
Is it very different from 4G?
Definitely, 5G is a brand new radio technology, however, you might not take note of vastly higher speeds at first because it will likely be used by network operators at the initial stage as a means to boost capacity on already existing 4G (LTE – Long-Term Evolution) networks, to achieve a more consistent network service for customers.
Yes, you will experience different levels of speed, and the speed you experience will depend greatly on what spectrum band the service operator runs the 5G on and how much your service carrier has invested in new transmitters and masts.
So how fast could it be?
The fastest 4G mobile networks at present offer around 45Mbps (megabits per second) on average, even though the industry remains quite hopeful of achieving as much as 1Gbps (gigabit per second = 1,000Mbps).
The Chipmaker, Qualcomm says that 5G could provide browsing and download speeds as much as 10 to 20 times faster in the everyday world (as opposed to laboratory) environment. Imagine easily downloading a high-definition video in about one minute or maybe less.
This expectation is for 5G networks that are built alongside already existing 4G LTE networks. For standalone 5G networks, operating within super high frequencies (say about 30GHz) could freely provide gigabit-plus browsing speeds as a standard.
However, these are not likely to be available until a few years later.
Why do we need it?
The world is fast going mobile, and people are consuming a larger amount of data every year, specifically with the increase in popularity of video and music streaming.
The existing spectrum bands are fast getting congested, causing cases of breakdowns in service, especially when hundreds of people in a specific area are trying to gain access to online mobile services simultaneously.
5G is a lot better at catering for thousands of devices simultaneously, from mobile devices to equipment sensors, smart street lights to video cameras.
When is it coming?
Most countries are not likely to start operating 5G services before the year 2020, but Qatar’s Ooredoo says that it has launched a commercial service already, while South Korea has aimed to launch 5G in 2019, with its three major network operators agreeing to kick off usage at the same time.
The Chinese are also racing to launch usage in 2019.
Will I need a new phone?
Yes, you will have to let go of your old devices. But as at 2009/10, when 4G was introduced, it was compatible with smartphones that came onto the market before 4G infrastructure had fully been rolled out, causing some frustration amongst mobile network consumers who felt they were spending more in subscriptions for a patchy service.
With 5G, says Ian Fogg, smartphone makers will likely not make the same mistake as before, as 5G handsets will only be launched when the networks are ready and running, most probably towards the last months of 2019.
The next-generation phones are expected to be able to switch effortlessly between 4G and 5G networks in order to achieve a more stable service.
Will it mean the end of fixed-line services?
In a single word, the answer is no. Telecoms companies around the world have invested too much time and money in fiber optic and copper wire fixed-line broadband, and we do not expect them to give those up all of a sudden.
Both domestic and office broadband services will remain primarily fixed line for several years to come, even though the so-called fixed wireless access will be available in tandem.
However, the good wireless connectivity turns out; many people prefer the stability and the obvious certainty of physical wires.
It is safe to think of 5G mobile network as a complementary service for when we are going around, interacting with the larger world around us. We also know that 5G will also promote the much-preached “internet of things.”
Will it work in rural areas?
Low internet speed and lack of signal in rural areas is a very common complaint both in the UK and many other places in the world.
But 5G will not necessarily fix this issue as it will run on high-frequency bands – at least to begin to with – that possess a high capacity but cover a shorter distance. The 5G network will majorly be an urban service for areas that are densely populated.
For long distances, lower-frequency bands (600-800Mhz typically) are better, so network operators will focus on bettering their 4G LTE coverage side by side with 5G roll-out.
What the commercial reality of 5G means is that for the people who reside in very remote areas, mobile connectivity will remain quite patchy at best in the absence of government subsidy making it more difficult for network operators to gain access to these places.
What do you think about 5G? Let us know in the comments section.