How 5G Will Change the World
When 5G finally becomes a part of our everyday lives, we would only regret the time spent not having it.
Imagine a gathering of more than a hundred thousand people, and yet you are certain of ultra-high-quality simultaneous streaming of live events, immaculate speed in downloads, and access to social media platforms at high speed. Imagine a world of self-driven cars and multiple artificial intelligence channels accessible with ease. How would you feel in a world where your refrigerator communicates seamlessly with your smartwatch and other devices owned by you? Well, thanks to 5G, all those possibilities and more, will be here soon.
What really is 5G?
5G is the 5th generation mobile network. It is a new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. The G in 5G stands for “generation,” so 5G means this is the fifth generation of such standards. For the most part, each new generation of standards is defined by data transmission, with 1G being the first and slowest and 5G being the latest and fastest.
5G networks are the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, offering faster speeds and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices than ever before. 5G enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices.
5G should offer connections that are multitudes faster than previous mobile technology, with average download speeds of around 1Gbps expected to be the norm across many (if not most) next-gen networks. It can transmit data much more quickly than 4G, which many of us use to connect to the internet today.
With 5G, users should be able to download a high-definition film in under a second (a task that could take 10 minutes on 4G LTE). And wireless engineers say these networks will boost the development of other new technologies, too, such as autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things
There are other prominent features of 5G-lower latency, support for a larger number of simultaneously connected devices-but really what you need to know is that 5G is the newest generation of cellular networking, and it is going to be crazy fast.
The networks are expected to supercharge Internet of Things technology, providing the infrastructure needed to carry huge amounts of data that will enable a smarter and more connected world. Quite literally, info from tons of sensors could tell operators what’s happening in your home, town, or even city in real-time.
5G is a unified, more capable air interface. It has been designed with an extended capacity to enable next-generation user experiences, empower new deployment models, and deliver new services. With high speeds, superior reliability, and negligible latency, 5G will expand the mobile ecosystem into new realms. 5G will impact every industry, making safer transportation, remote healthcare, precision agriculture, digitized logistics — and more — a reality.
5G wireless technology is meant to deliver higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability, and a more uniform user experience to more users. Higher performance and improved efficiency empower new user experiences and connect new industries.
It’s a new cellular network technology, but it also requires towns and cities to set up a much higher number of small cells, or short-range transmitters, to provide the same geographic coverage as 4G.
Can you get 5G?
As of now, 5G is available in many countries around the world. However, just because you have a 5G phone or ready plan, doesn’t mean one would necessarily have access to it. In fact, coverage is still limited around the US, UK, and Australia.
In the USA, although where one can get connectivity is still limited, the main four carriers in the country now offer 5G connectivity. The coverage is also being increased every month by each carrier as they all strive to expand their offering and build a competitive advantage.
Verizon offers 5G in about 71 locations. As of two years ago — 2019 — Verizon had gone live in close to 31 cities including smaller cities like Columbus and Grand Rapids. Verizon surprised most of the world by launching its 5G Home network in late 2018, followed by its 5G mobile network at the start of April 2019, making it the first globally to offer the next-generation network. In Chicago, it has managed to obtain speeds of up to 1.4Gbps, which is almost 5 times 4G’s theoretical top speed of 300Mbps (because in reality, 4G speeds tend to be below 100Mbps). However, Verizon’s 5G coverage is patchy given its use of the ultra-high-speed but low-area mmWave tech — specifically in the 28Ghz and 39Ghz spectrums — so it’s more accurate to say it’s live in neighborhoods and areas within those cities — at least for now.
As for T-Mobile, asides from also using some 28Ghz mmWave frequencies, its broader expansion also includes sub-600Mhz frequencies that reach much farther to provide for suburban and rural communities but deliver lower speeds. Hence, T-Mobile’s mmWave coverage went live in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Las Vegas in June 2019 with plans to reach a total of 30 cities by the end of 2019. At that time though, the only phone that could harness 5G at the time was the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G. However, that was all in preparation for a sweeping nationwide 5G launch event at the lower 600Mhz frequencies in December 2019.
According to the company, the launch, activated coverage across 1 million square miles of US area to reach 60% of Americans. By June 2020, T-Mobile’s 5G smartphone lineup included all three Samsung Galaxy S20 phones (including the S20 Plus and S20 Ultra), the LG V60 ThinQ, and the OnePlus 8 5G.
The company’s strategy to partner and merge with rival telecom, Sprint, gave both firms access to each other’s networks, this final move brought T-Mobile 5G to all 50 states, though speeds and coverage areas are still not universal. Due to the merger, from April 2020, Sprint’s customers began getting access to T-Mobile 5G. The plan is to fully combine both carrier networks and branding under a New T-Mobile banner, but it’s unclear when that will be formalized.
As for AT&T, they had the most limited investment in 5G. After a late 2018 launch, the carrier went so far as to expand to seven more cities including Los Angeles and Orlando. However, in April 2019, it still didn’t have a phone and had to rely on the 5G Netgear Nighthawk mobile hotspot for service. At&T reduced consumer confidence by hyping ‘5Ge’ or 5G Evolution, a ‘supercharged’ or souped-up 4G service AT&T claimed included 5G tech. These claims were widely criticized by people in the tech and telecom industry and gave the carrier a not-so-good reputation with regards to 5G. however, its 5G coverage has improved since then and it now offers 5G handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S20 range and the LG V60 ThinQ.
In the United Kingdom, there was a similar expansion endeavor, however, the reach and coverage may not be compared to those by the USA carriers. Vodafone launched its 5G service on July 3, 2019, in seven cities, rolling out to a further eight towns and cities on July 17. At the end of the year, that had expanded to 31 cities and towns, including London, Glasgow, Birmingham, Cardiff. Vodafone offers about seven 5G smartphones which include the Samsung Galaxy S20 5G, S20 Plus 5G, Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G, and the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G.
The competition is a little bit fiercer in Australia. Australia has some of the fastest 5G speeds in the world as of mid-2021, and the speeds are regarded to be well ahead of both the US and UK, with an average download speed of about 300Mbps. 300Mbps is quite a feat and is about double the global average. The three major telcos — Telstra, opus, and Vodafone — have all got well-established 5G networks in Australia at this stage, with Telstra and Optus leading the charge and Vodafone catching up after launching a little late. Telstra and Optus are locked in a fierce battle, with both variably claiming to have the fastest 5G speeds in the country. While the two are certainly comparable for download and upload rates, Telstra has an edge on national coverage at this stage, and as a result, the amount of its customers that actually use Telstra is more than double those that make use of Optus.
How fast is 5G?
Although 5G speeds vary based on locations, device, carrier, and countries, the average internet speed you should expect from the next-generation network, will be faster than 4G. 5G is said to offer about 205 faster download speeds than 4G. 5G is designed to deliver peak data rates up to 20 Gbps based on IMT-2020 requirements. Qualcomm Technologies’ flagship 5G solutions, the Qualcomm Snapdragon™ X65 is designed to achieve up to 10 Gbps in downlink peak data rates. 5G can also deliver much lower latency for a more immediate response and can provide an overall more uniform user experience so that the data rates stay consistently high — even when users are moving around. And the new 5G NR mobile network is backed up by a Gigabit LTE coverage foundation, which can provide ubiquitous Gigabit-class connectivity. In the UK, EE’s network maxed out at 550Mbps in our tests, but spotty coverage resulted in speeds averaging 200Mbps-400Mbps.
How 5G will change the world?
When 4G was rolled out, we saw companies take advantage of the superior technology to launch various forms of services like ride-hailing services, more sophisticated e-commerce businesses, or home food deliveries. All these business models would not have been as effective had these companies were still using the previous 3G network. Hence, due to the increase in network speed and data intensity, we expect that there would also be more sophisticated solutions and innovative business models. 5G takes the speed levels of 4g to another level and we would be shocked at the various forms of novel technological solutions that would spring up as a result of 5G.
We have looked at 5G and what it stands for, we have also considered major countries and carriers of the next-generation network. However, the most important aspect of 5G, is how it would revolutionize industries and sectors because of the effects of its superior speeds and advanced technological features.
Therefore, how would 5G affect you who is reading this piece? What does 5G really mean to you? There are so many sectors that 5G would influence in our daily lives. The most likely sectors and areas where 5G would influence our world are health care, self-driven cars, downloads, streaming services, and smart cities.
The emergence of a smart city is one of the most talked-about influences 5G is expected to have on our world. Data intelligence and data-intense technologies like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT), would most likely become mainstream and be brought into the public spaces. IoT is presently being used massively in the manufacturing sector to track factories, as well as being used in the transportation sector to track fleets.
Smart home devices also fall into the IoT realm, but lower-powered Wi-Fi networks struggle when you have too many devices connected to them. 5G has the potential to be faster than any wired Wi-Fi network and it can be virtually anywhere — as long as you get the signal there. That means that IoT devices can function anywhere, without being constrained to local wireless networks.
IoT and artificial intelligence can help cities be smarter; IoT can help manage traffic congestion and population inflow and outflow. Infrastructure and transportation networks can be well maintained and managed with the help of 5G. For example, with the speed and high connectivity of 5G, taxis and public transportation systems like taxis, would be located where they would be needed the most based on pedestrian density at certain locations. The impact of the potential seamless application of IoT would be felt a lot in commercial and business sectors. Factories and agro-tech businesses can optimize their operations even beyond existing technological endeavors.
The push for driverless cars would also be a reality due to 5G. Due to 5G’s low latency, it is the only generation of the network that can enable the possibility of cities with self-driven cars. The wish for self-driven cars is not just one borne out of the need to satisfy some whimsical tendencies or because they look cute in Sci-fi movies. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, nearly 95 percent of traffic accidents are caused by human error. Removing humans from behind the wheel could save up to 1.25 million lives every year. However, for this to happen and self-driven cars to become a reality, these cars have to communicate effectively with one another and also transmit data seamlessly with traffic sensors and technologies on the road. The need to get responses quickly from another and the embedded traffic technologies is why 5G’s low latency is highly required. Once the driverless infrastructure is in place, the streets may become less crowded and the air less polluted. With fully autonomous vehicles, fewer people will own cars and ride-sharing could become more common. The major players in the tech industry like Google, Apple, Uber, and Tesla are already working hard to make sure we have driverless cars in cities, hence, with the impending increase in adoption of 5G, it won’t be long when we see self-driven cars on our roads.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), were highly hyped a few years ago, but the enthusiasm around them has seemed to die down a little bit. The reason is AR and VR have struggled to effectively function in some use cases because they require wide bandwidth and high resolution for seamless implementation. Thanks to 5G’s high bandwidth and low latency, augmented and virtual reality could finally become a practical reality. VR telepresence apps will allow colleagues in distant cities to work “side by side,” or sports fans to experience the roar of a crowd first hand from the stadium. Shopping experiences would also be improved and more people could even buy and test clothes, shoes, furniture, or interior décor right from the comfort of their homes.
Streaming services and downloads would also be taken to another level. As already stated before, 5G is said to offer about 20% faster download speed than 4G. Some countries record faster download speed with 5G compared to Wi-Fi and that increases the possibility of a future where high-speed broadband internet will become accessible everywhere at all times. The effect of 5G on streaming services would also be notable. We are beginning to accept 4k as normal but with 5G, we will soon start talking about streaming our favorite movies and shows in higher resolution like 8K.
Finally, for healthcare, 5G can increase the rate at which lives are saved and improve the entire health sector drastically. We would be able to create seamless health solutions and combine the speed of 5G with facilities and equipment in order to carry out fast and improved health services and operations. Various medical equipment like sensors, screening machines, and diagnostic tools will benefit from the fast and reliable 5G network. Remote surgical operations will also become possible with 5G connected remotely operated surgical robots. A lot of equipment and surgical operations would be able to leverage the speed and low latency of 5G in order to maximize the impending capabilities that VR and AR would have been able to achieve then.
‘Rome wasn’t built in a day is one of the most used clichés out there, but its relevance cab hardly is ignored. The cliché also applies to our expectations about 5G and why we may be right to be excited about its possibilities but not exaggerate the timeline when all of these remarkable possibilities can become a reality. Remember, it took about 10 years for 4G to become the dominant cellular technology, and 5G might take even longer. As of now, the major carriers are busy installing limited versions of 5G in cities around the globe, devices capable of accessing 5G networks are just starting to appear, and ultra-high-speed deployments are still several years away.
The reality is, we might need to be patient, but when we 5G finally becomes a part of our everyday lives, we would only regret the time spent not having it.