5G: The Premise, the Promise and the Reality

5G: The Premise, the Promise and the Reality

Where have you been if you haven’t heard that 5G is coming - and it’s coming soon. To cut straight to the chase, 5G is the next step forward in mobile networking and it is promising a lot.

5G has dominated the tech media over the past six months, a great example being the build up to the Mobile World Congress. Earlier this year,MWC was held in Barcelona and the one word which was uttered the most was Huawei. Huawei are hoping to be the principal carriers of 5G in Europe and their technology has shown promise from early tests. Meanwhile, the US and the UK both have plans for their own carriers to begin rolling out 5G in their respective countries in the coming months.

So what is 5G? To put it simply, 5G is a faster version of 4G and promises to bump network speeds up from megabytes per second to gigabytes per second, while latency times are expected to drop close to zero. Ericsson has been running tests in Ireland and reached speeds of up to 15Gbps while simultaneously dropping latency periods to under 5ms. The ultimate goal would be for a user to be able to download Mad Max: Fury Road in full HD to your phone in under a minute or, if in a professional situation, while typing from your phone to a laptop remotely, there would be close to no delay. Also, the ever wonderful Internet-of-Things will be even more communicative - your smart fridge will notice you’re low on something and will either tell Alexa to order more of it or send a reminder to your phone for you to buy it. If you have a self driving car, it’s reaction times will speed up immensely helped by the drop in latency.

5G is also an opportunity for businesses which can grab a chunk of 5G from a carrier for their own wifi purposes, which in turn will result in lower latency for remote working. While having faster download speeds for everything sounds like an obvious benefit, it will be incredibly useful for large file transfers. The aforementioned remote working can help businesses, especially with dangerous industrial sites and heavy machinery. Even something as simple as video calling will be improved - lower latency means near to no delay so no more buffering or asking a person “could you repeat that, the call dropped out”: the bane of all international and remote working teams. Increased standard of network activity will mean communication systems will have a heightened global reach.

Retail too will have the chance to reap the benefits. Faster responses from POS systems, integrated cloud applications and platform services will allow instant feedback when a customer commits to a purchase, so businesses can turnaround personalisation at a better rate due to the increased speeds offered by 5G. 5G will also allow for improvements in location data as the accuracy range will go from meters to millimetres. This enhanced accuracy will be as a result of numerous 5G points blanketing an area rather than a single 4G tower covering a larger area. Targeted advertisements benefit from increased location accuracy, as a brand can go from locating their audience in a city borough,or postal sector to specific streets. The dwell time of a person at a point can be analysed too with 5G's improved location accuracy.

This all sounds too good to be true, and yes of course it is! Here’s the reality - although most carriers plan to launch 5G in late 2019 or 2020, expect many and lingering teething problems as well as countryside and city coverage divide which is forecasted to be one of its socio-political knock-on effects . As much as 5G would be incredibly useful for connecting urban and rural areas, the reality is that rural areas are a lower priority due to the distribution of population.

Those wonderful speeds previously mentioned? They are only found in controlled environments such as press events! In the USA, AT&T quietly launched 5G with some user testing to a grand total of… 7Mbps faster download speeds from what’s been shared.It won’t be cheap either - 5G costs carriers a lot and the bill will be passed to the users on this one, as well as needing a new phone that supports 5G.

So far, not the greatest of endorsements, but it’s the usual tech early adopter stuff - remember the first generation of VR? Wires, cameras with stands, high prices, finding out your PC couldn’t run it and motion sickness was the norm. 5G is still crawling, it isn’t even at baby steps yet and won’t be walking until the early 2020’s.

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