5G – the next-generation mobile network technology – is perhaps the most significant technological shift we will see in years to come. In fact, to label 5G as a merely a mobile network does not do it justice, because it’s so much more. 5G will underpin an entire ecosystem of fully connected intelligent sensors and devices, and provide seamless, continuous connectivity for an array of applications.
Commercial availability is expected as soon as 2020, but carriers and technology vendors are already preparing.
While there is no official standard for 5G at this stage, the key performance requirements for 5G are being reviewed and finalised by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
The evolution – a brief history of mobile networks
From analogue through to LTE, each generation of mobile technology is driven by the need to meet requirements between that technology and its predecessor.
Mobile networks have come a long way over the years, with smartphones and an increasing range of other connected devices demanding higher standards and performance to deliver a better user experience.
Here’s a look at how mobile networks have evolved…
It’s hard to believe that the first-generation mobile network – sophisticated at the time – could only support analogue voice calls. 2G offered greater capabilities, including digital encryption, and basic data services – like SMS text messages. The 2G network connected millions of calls during the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. The technology started being phased out in late 2016, marking the end of an era for GSM.
The introduction of the 3G technology in the early 2000s changed things significantly. This network standard became synonymous with mainstream consumer adoption of smartphones, namely iPhone and Android devices. The third generation mobile network gave rise to the term ‘mobile broadband’, as its speed and reliability made it a viable alternative for browsing the Web over traditional connections like ethernet and Wi-Fi.
4G stepped things up even further performance-wise, bringing faster upload and download rates, and the capacity to support gaming and HD video streaming.
What can we expect from 5G?
Based on a cycle of studies from ITU members, including key industry players, national and regional standards development organisations, regulators, network operators, equipment manufacturers, and academia, we can expect to see the following from 5G:
Super fast wireless broadband
5G network technology is poised to push the performance envelope, with minimum requirements for peak data at 20 Gbps for download speeds, and an uplink peak data rate of 10Gbps – around 20 times faster than current 4G download speeds, and upwards of 60 times quicker than current 4G upload speeds. This is underpinned by a high bandwidth spectrum. These improvements to the network will enable more efficient data transmission, resulting in lower cost-per-bit for data transmission, which will be an important driver for increased use of broadband applications on mobile networks.
The faster your Internet, the more you can do with it. Faster internet will allow consumers to use live video and interact with brands in real-time. There will also be more virtual reality opportunities on the go with 5G.
5G will bring wireless Internet to businesses everywhere, and less cables. Your workforce can enjoy greater mobility and faster connections.
IoT at the heart of design
5G will build upon existing investments in traditional machine-to-machine (M2M) and IoT applications, moving from millions of devices to billions of things. This significant growth area for 5G requires high reliability and ultra-low latency connectivity with strong security and availability. Lower latency means faster application response times with Edge computing – having the applications in the cloud, near the edge of the network. This will allow wireless technology to provide an ultra-reliable connection that is indistinguishable from wireless to support applications such as autonomous vehicles and AR/VR experiences.
5G should support a 1000-fold traffic increase over the next decade, with an energy consumption roughly half of that typically consumed by today’s network technology. 5G’s improved low-power requirements, the ability to operate in the licensed and unlicensed spectrum, and its ability to provide deeper and more flexible coverage will drive significantly lower costs.
5G will support a wide range of applications and environments, from human-based to machine-based communication. As such, it must protect large volumes of sensitive data from unauthorised access.
5G will allow cities, transportation, and infrastructure to transmit real-time data for improved maintenance and greater operational efficiency. It will potentially expand business opportunities and models through monitoring, tracking and automation capabilities on a large scale.
5G will link infrastructure, people, machines, robotics, AI, and nanotechnology into a single ecosystem. 5G will support cloud-native attributes like network slicing and on-demand scalable resource provisioning, enabling agility of product and service innovation for all market segments. Improved capacity and speed means fewer constraints on data transmissions, providing the bandwidth needed for streaming high definition content, such as ultra-high definition 360 virtual reality videos.
Needless to say that with the powerful capabilities of 5G, users will rely on larger data allowances and new devices to support them. Chip manufacturer Qualcomm has already tested 5G on a mobile device, less than a year after doing so with a modem the size of a suitcase. No doubt all the big smartphone manufacturers are hard at work getting their own technology ready for 5G also.
5G is not just an incremental improvement – it’s a revolution.
Watch this space…
Content marketer, blogger, author and tech geek.