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What is 5G and when will we get it?

What is 5G and when will we get it?

The development of new mobile network communication technologies is always in progress. In a highly interconnected world, the demand for increasingly efficient, high performance communication protocols is relentless. So, while there are still areas not covered by 4G, many of the major telecommunication players are moving to be the first in offering their customers the 5th generation ultra-speed connection – more commonly known as ‘5G’.

How will 5G be delivered?

In 2013 the European Commission allocated 50 million euro for research on 5G technology for the introduction of 5G by 2020 and has also recently published a 5G action plan. In the United States, in 2016 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a plan to make the United States ready for 5G networks and opening up airwaves that allow for faster data speeds.

5G technology was one of the most important topics during the last Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where Borje Ekholm, President and CEO of the Ericsson Group, presented some examples on how the 5G network will change our daily lives.

At the moment, the largest mobile operators have already begun or are about to experiment with 5G networks. This is of course pre-commercial experimentation, as at present no universal standard for the 5G exists, even though a draft document with guidelines has been published by the International Communication Union.

Key players in the telecommunications industry such as Verizon, AT&T, Ericsson, Huawei, Samsung, Vodafone and many more are involved in these tests at a national level. The goal of all of them is to be ready to launch new compatible devices together with new services and applications when 5G technology enters its commercial phase. The business opportunities are huge; Ericsson in a recent report said that the 5G market will grow to $1.2 trillion US dollars by 2026.

What’s the difference between 5G and 4G?

Modern communication networks must be able to ensure specific requirements. In the fifth generation network there are three important dimensions to be considered:

  • Number of connections – a 5G network provides up to a million connections per square kilometre, while 4G only provides thousands.
  • Latency – this is the response time of a system, therefore it’s important to be as low as possible. 5G technology can reduce the latency up to 1ms, as opposed to 40ms experienced on 4G networks.
  • Throughput – this is the transmission capacity of a communication channel. 5G will allow the transmission of billions of bits vs thousands of bits allowed by 4G networks.

All of this is exciting news for both manufacturers and consumers. Here’s just a few of the technologies that will benefit:

  • Internet of Things (IoT) – 5G will offer better support to the growing number of personal devices (like wearable technologies) and IoT devices that need to be connected to a network.
  • Online gaming and VR – thanks to low latency and high bandwidth, 5G will encourage the development of new online gaming platforms and offer the best experience to consumers. It will also be a key factor for the success of upcoming Virtual Reality applications. Many big players in the IT industry (for example Facebook) are hoping for a fast and wide adoption of 5G networks.
  • Cloud and video streaming (4K/8K, 3D) – 5G technology will provide consumers with an improved experience when using cloud storage services and streaming platforms to watch 3D videos or other content in HD like 4K or even 8K. In theory, the speed of a 5G network should be 10Gbps in download and 1Gbps in upload – lightning fast by today’s standards.
  • Smart cars – Car manufacturers are also very interested in 5G. The extremely low latency time should allow commands and information to be sent to cars in very short timeframes and over large distances. In a future automatic traffic management system, where cars are able to ‘talk’ one with each other, a 5G network will allow the sending of a brake command to a car that is driving at 100Km/h in just 1ms. In this very short time, the car will have moved just 2.8cm before the brakes are applied. This reaction speed is not possible with 4G technology, as due to the relatively high latency time the car would have moved 1.4m before it started braking.
  • Telemedicine – future applications could involve the health service, for example getting health assistance remotely. Also in this case (thanks to the very low latency time) 5G may allow remote surgery to be possible, where the surgeon and the patient are in two different locations.

When will we see 5G?

5G technology promises a revolution and there are many expectations that come with it. Larger bandwidths and extremely low latency times will allow the development of new services and the improvement of the existing ones. With the publication of the new draft report ITU-R SG05 in February 2017 by the International Communication Union, the guidelines for the 5G standard have been delivered. The standard itself should be defined by 2020 but the first business applications are expected by 2022/2023.

Don’t hold your breath though; these dates are only estimates and you can bet that some countries will see the availability of 5G networks and mobile devices before others.

What do you think of the upcoming 5G technology? Where do you think it will benefit you the most? Let us know by tweeting @KrollOntrackUK

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