The sheer thought of 5G elicits 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 are some instances of carriers starting to roll out 5G to very select cities already, with extensive rollouts expected in 2020. However, right now, there is a lot of inquisitiveness about this technology and many people would like to have a better idea about what they can expect.
Here we'll take a look at the basic technology, the upgrades it brings about, advantages and disadvantages, and when to expect its rollout. (To learn more about hot tech trends, see 6 Tech Trends That Could Be a Thing in 2019 ... Or Not.)
What Is 5G?
Simply put, 5G is short for the fifth generation of wireless telecom technology, and it is expected to replace and augment the prevalent 4G LTE networks. The idea behind 5G networks is not only to provide faster connectivity speeds, 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 interconnectivity of the internet of things (IoT), deliver greater efficiency in terms of performance and drive new experiences.
How 5G 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 spectrums. The low band spectrum is the sub-1 GHz spectrum, which provides great penetrative power, and speeds generally max out at 100 Mbps. The mid-band spectrum is known for lower latency and faster coverage, but has lower penetrative power; speeds top out at about 1 Gbps. The high band spectrum, also called the millimeter wave, is the cherry on top, with speeds going up to 10 Gbps and low latencies. The only drawback is the low coverage area that it can cater to.
The prevalent 4G technology ushered in 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, similarly, will bring about even more 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, and more. It is also expected to play a very transformative role in industries like automotive 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. 5G is expected to be 10 times faster than 4G. While 4G connectivity has made 100 Mbps 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 10 Gbps. For example, a full-length HD-quality film may take just a few seconds to download, and software updates will become much faster and easier. 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 5G
5G does usher in a great sense of excitement amongst people. As mentioned earlier, 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 enhancing safety.
5G is expected to improve efficiency in terms of operations of cities and municipalities. Utility companies will 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 use of 5G.
Health care is another industry that will see great strides, and warrants a fair amount of excitement. The possibility of ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) can change health care. 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. (5G could play a big role in edge computing. To learn more, check out Edge Computing: The Next Phase of IT.)
What 5G Means for Devices
Probably one of the most crucial developments that will come with 5G is its effect on the internet of things. According to Paolo Colella, former head of Ericsson, India Region, "5G is the foundation for realizing the full potential of IoT." Presently, the current usage of sensors for communications means that they deplete 4G data capacity. However, 5G will change that. 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 upgrade in terms of staying technologically relevant. In fact, Qualcomm has already released the Snapdragon 855, which is the world’s first commercial mobile platform boasting multi-gigabit 5G.
Why People Are Worried About 5G –Health and Hackers
As is evident with the implementation of new technologies from time to time, rumors have been circulating that 5G may cause health hazards. However, this is highly unlikely considering that much of the 5G spectrum consists 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 the FCC’s safety standards means that there is nothing to worry about.
Although 5G promises better security and privacy, that it is not necessarily guaranteed. The reason is, 5G inherits lots of security protocols and policies from its earlier generations. So, there will be security threats in 5G, unless they are resolved well in advance.
When Is 5G 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 several rollouts of 5G. Verizon started offering pre-standard 5G in areas like Houston, Los Angeles and Sacramento. Many of these deployments have used fixed wireless, very similar to wireless broadband used in homes. In fact, according to Verizon’s CES 2019 keynote earlier this year, the carrier demonstrated speeds of 900 Mbps, although slightly short of expected gigabit speeds.
Likewise, AT&T has made headway in areas like Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans and Louisville. Their phones have started to feature a 5GE logo, which they have termed "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 is built by Netgear. It comes with the same bands as in LTE, with 5G built on top.
Therefore, much of 5G's 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 has yet to truly take flight. Also, owing to the scarcity of hardware for 5G, much of 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. According to Doug Suriano, an Oracle senior vice president and general manager, "Between now and 2020, a few things must still happen: The industry must complete the entire set of 5G standards."
5G is going to revolutionize all sectors. The excitement over 5G technologies will touch all of us in one way or the other. The most important aspect of 5G is the speed. There are lot of other characteristics also, which will be affecting all of us. Here we have tried to explore some of the basic questions asked about 5G, but there will be lot of new questions raised every day. Before long, you'll be able to learn the details of 5G firsthand!