The defining point in modern human communication came when wireless telephone technology emerged in the early 90s, and voice communication was made possible through first-generation mobile network (1G). The progression to 2G unlocked text communication, before 3G made a combination of voice and text communication, and internet browsing a possibility. More recently, 4G unleashed fast, seamless video upload and download capability. Now the fifth generation of mobile cellular communication, or 5G, is upon us.
Downsizing to upscale
Current wireless networks require sporadic signal tower installation every few kilometers or so, which is undesirable both aesthetically and in terms of spatial planning. 5G networks, however, deploy small cell technology to enable the network to handle the exponential growth of data transmission, which, although denser in placement and volume, is far smaller and less visible. In suburban areas, for example, there may be numerous tiny, unobtrusive cells mounted on public infrastructure such as street lights and buildings.
Putting software first
5G networks employ forward-thinking sensibilities, essentially rendering the need for a sixth generation (6G) redundant. Whereas previous generations were somewhat ad-hoc in nature, 5G is based on a flexible system of readily up-gradable micro and macro cells. In the past, mobile technology was built around hardware, but the future promises software-driven innovation, allowing for faster updates and much lower costs.
The tenfold boost in data transfer speeds that 5G will facilitate means downloads that currently take minutes will take only seconds, transforming the way we work and play. 5G will utilize large blocks of a contiguous, high-band, commercially deplorable spectrum to revolutionize mobile data capabilities.
Unleashing IoT, eliminating latency
The technology is still in its infancy, so there are limited Internet-of-Things (IoT) and 5G test cases, but these will no doubt increase as 5G gains ubiquity. A few cases are already coming into focus as the targeted launch period of 5G approaches in the next few years. These mainly focus on the broader categories of connected services. Some of the significant test cases include fixed wireless which will provide Internet access to homes using wireless network technology rather than fixed lines, using 5G concepts such as millimeter wave (mm Wave) spectrum and beam-forming to bolster wireless broadband services.
Enhanced mobile broadband is yet another test case which will usher in the next era of immersive and cloud connected experiences with faster, more uniform data rates at lower latency and lower cost per bit. Massive IoT (or Massive Machine-Type Communications) presents the ability to seamlessly connect embedded sensors in virtually everything. The emergence of 5G will likely augment the evolution of IoT, allowing smart devices to process and make decisions in real-time, without relying solely on an underlying IoT platform.
One of the most important advances of 5G is the huge decrease in latency – the delay before a transfer of data begins. In multiplayer gaming, for instance, a lower latency is required to ensure an instant on-screen response to an input or action command. 5G will effectively help us save our most precious commodity: time.
As 5G evolves, it also has the potential to create millions of jobs, drive growth, and unlock exciting new technologies. From smart appliances on the Internet of Everything, to autonomous vehicles and faster downloads of even the largest media files, the next level in the future of more powerful and agile mobile internet connectivity is fast upon us. Are you ready?