How Will 5G Change the World?

KEY TAKEAWAYS

The latest iteration of mobile network technology provides higher speed and capacity, lower latency, and increased reliability. The proliferation of 5G is set to bring about a revolution in a range of industries, such as healthcare, education, transportation, and more, potentially transforming our work practices and lifestyles.

The advent of fifth-generation (5G) mobile telecom technology has ushered in a new era of innovation and connectivity that has the potential promises to reshape the way we live and work in ways that were previously unimaginable.

This latest iteration of mobile technology promises to enhance connectivity by offering super-fast download and upload speeds, lower latency, and higher reliability. The higher speeds, larger capacity for simultaneous connections, and increased security that 5G enables can transform a wide range of applications from communications, entertainment, and education to healthcare, manufacturing, and transportation.

Since its launch in 2019 in South Korea, China, and the U.S., 5G technology has been adopted faster than any of its predecessors. By the end of 2022, there were more than 1 billion 5G connections, according to the GSM Association industry group.

The first wireless technology that is stable and fast enough to replace fixed-line broadband cables for mission-critical applications, 5G brings greater flexibility while reducing costs. In some parts of the world, this allows remote communities where fixed networks are impractical to be connected for the first time.

However, the relatively bigger changes will still take time to materialize all over the world.

In this article, we explore some of the ways that 5G will facilitate a new wave of technological advancement.

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Lightning-Fast Connectivity

One of the most noticeable impacts of 5G is its high data transfer speeds, which can reach up to 100 times faster than 4G. Near instantaneous downloads, high-definition video streaming without buffering, and low latency enhance the user experience across a wide range of applications, from video conferencing to gaming and augmented (AR) or virtual reality (VR).

The availability of 5G networks has fueled the gig economy and the work-from-anywhere phenomenon. Freelancers and full-time employees can work remotely. High connection speeds and low latency enable seamless participation in high bandwidth-consuming activities like video calls, virtual meetings, file uploads, and productivity enhancement without time or location limitations.

The number of communication service providers offering commercial 5G services could climb to 60% by 2024, up from 10% in 2020, driven by business and customer demand for remote work needs, according to a forecast by research firm Gartner.

Internet of Things (IoT) Revolution

The capacity to support a massive number of connected devices simultaneously makes 5G a game-changer that will fuel the growth of Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Smart cities, connected homes, autonomous vehicles, and industrial automation will all benefit from the ability to handle vast amounts of data in real-time. This will not only make our lives more convenient but also help to optimize resource use and reduce energy consumption.

As 5G improves the transmission of data in extreme conditions, such as high temperatures, harsh environments, and remote locations, and is more flexible than traditional WiFi networks, it can support a wider range of devices, sensors, and wearable devices.

Advanced Industrial Production

There are multiple use cases for 5G to enhance industrial processes in manufacturing by enabling advanced automation and monitoring, facilitating what is known as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” or “Industry 4.0.”

Manufacturing plants can use 5G connections to enable process automation, remote monitoring of production assets, and collaborative robotics to increase efficiency. They can also use advanced data analytics to identify and plan preventative maintenance and use augmented reality to carry out repairs. Unplanned downtime has been one of the biggest problems for manufacturers, preventing the optimum use of assets. In the U.S., unplanned downtime caused by equipment failures costs $50 billion annually.

For example, 5G can enable a smart factory where all production assets are digitalized and connected. The factory supervisor or manager does not need to be physically present to monitor and manage operations. Instead, the smart factory can send data on production assets to the manager’s system, and the manager can remotely guide the robots to automate various tasks.

This approach not only improves production efficiency in terms of time, quality, and accuracy but also significantly reduces the number of human accidents while performing hazardous tasks.

This level of automation will also extend to agriculture, enabling precision farming and resource optimization.

Medical Treatment Redefined

The healthcare sector is set to benefit significantly from 5G, transforming the ways medical treatment is delivered from telemedicine to remote surgery, data analysis, and training.

Telemedicine will become more accessible and efficient as high-quality video consultations and remote patient monitoring become more common. The low latency of 5G connections enables remote surgery, allowing skilled surgeons to operate on patients from a distance. This could save lives in emergency situations and increase access to healthcare for people in remote areas.

Connected wearable devices can transmit critical data about patients with chronic conditions to healthcare providers. For instance, wearable devices such as smartwatches can transmit data on heart rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and sleep quality. These devices can even incorporate personal emergency response systems (PERSs) that send alerts to hospitals if a patient collapses.

The global market for wearable medical devices is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.9% over the 2022-2030 period, from $20.7 billion to $72.2 billion, research shows. The diagnostic devices segment is estimated to record a CAGR of 14.3% to $38.2 billion, with the therapeutic devices segment growing by a 20.7% CAGR.

In addition, 5G can enable data analytics to manage the massive volumes of data the healthcare system generates and transfer huge data files within seconds, enabling hospitals and clinics to provide better and tailored treatment.

Connected, Autonomous Vehicles

The era of self-driving cars and smart transportation systems will be facilitated by 5G connections. Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADASs) can provide enhanced features when connected to 5G networks, complementing the vehicle’s onboard sensors with data that is processed in the cloud or from external sources, such as infrastructure sensors, other vehicles, or ADAS service providers.

Autonomous vehicles require ultra-low latency and reliable high-speed connectivity to operate safely and efficiently. With 5G networks in place, cars can communicate with each other and with infrastructure, making transportation safer and more efficient.

Traffic management systems will also become smarter, reducing congestion and emissions. For example, traffic lights can potentially transmit signals to cars directly, and camera systems can warn of congestion ahead so that the vehicle can take an alternative route.

Connected traffic signals can send data to an ambulance transporting a critically ill patient to a hospital, informing them about the traffic conditions on various roads so that the driver can identify the shortest route with the least congestion.

Passengers can also access 5G-connected in-vehicle services and entertainment, enhancing the travel experience.

The number of connected vehicles on the roads could reach 367 million globally in 2027, a 91% increase from 192 million in 2023, driven by the advancement of ADAS and increasing capabilities of in-vehicle infotainment systems, according to Juniper Research.

Juniper predicts that 5G will account for 23% of automotive cellular connections globally in 2027, requiring effective collaboration between automotive manufacturers and mobile service operators.

This represents a $3.6 billion opportunity for the operators providing 5G connectivity.

Education and Training

The education sector is also set to benefit considerably from 5G. High wireless Internet speeds will make remote learning more accessible, allowing students to participate in virtual classrooms. The global e-learning market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 17.5% from 2021 to 2030, reaching $840.11 billion.

Interactive online learning platforms allow students to participate in virtual classrooms, labs, and field trips. These platforms leverage 5G’s capabilities to provide seamless, high-quality experiences akin to traditional in-person learning. As 5G networks become more widespread, the use of augmented and virtual realities in education becomes more accessible. These technologies can offer immersive learning experiences that engage students and enhance their understanding of complex subjects.

For example, medical students can practice surgical procedures in a virtual operating room, not only improving their skills but also reducing the risks associated with training live patients.

Moreover, 5G can extend educational opportunities to students and workers in remote and underserved areas, bridging the digital divide. With high-speed connectivity, students in rural or disadvantaged regions can access online resources, collaborate with peers and educators, and benefit from a broader range of courses.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

In addition to education, the entertainment industry is poised to undergo a major transformation driven by 5G connectivity. AR and VR applications place the user in an artificial environment, requiring the low latency and high bandwidth that 5G offers to reach adoption at scale. Gamers can expect immersive gameplay experiences, while educational institutions can provide virtual classrooms for students worldwide.

AR will also enhance tourism, shopping, and navigation by overlaying digital information in the real world.

AR and VR require frequent data transfer between a headset and a computer system, and 5G can provide this with limited data congestion, enabling higher-quality displays. Strong and stable wireless connectivity also enables mobility over wider areas while using a headset. It also increases opportunities for collaboration in virtual environments.

Moreover, private 5G networks are required to ensure that applications are secure and receive sufficient bandwidth, particularly if they require the rendering of 3D models.

The virtual reality market size is expected to grow at a 24.74% CAGR in terms of shipment value from $67.12 million in 2023 to $202.70 million by 2028, according to one forecast.

The Bottom Line

The rollout of 5G technology is poised to transform our work and lifestyles in numerous ways, some of which have yet to be realized. From faster and more reliable connectivity to the advancement of healthcare, transportation, entertainment, and industry, the impact of 5G will be wide-ranging.

While it brings unprecedented opportunities, it also calls for responsible management to mitigate potential challenges.

The 5G revolution is underway, and it will shape a future that is more connected, efficient, and innovative than before.

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Nicole Willing
Technology Journalist

Nicole is a professional journalist with 20 years of experience in writing and editing. Her expertise spans both the tech and financial industries. She has developed expertise in covering commodity, equity, and cryptocurrency markets, as well as the latest trends across the technology sector, from semiconductors to electric vehicles. She holds a degree in Journalism from City University, London. Having embraced the digital nomad lifestyle, she can usually be found on the beach brushing sand out of her keyboard in between snorkeling trips.