It’s shaping up to be a transcendent year in the world of wireless. Fifth-generation wireless, or 5G, technologies are finally coming to market. Commercial 5G phone networks and 5G-enabled smartphones, like those from Samsung, LG, and Huawei are already rolling out in early 2019. (Source: Phandroid). But what’s the big deal, you might ask? We’ve already gone through iterations in wireless standards, which have brought us gradual connectivity improvements - moving from 3G to 4G LTE, right?
What’s the big deal about 5G?
The Eureka! A moment for 5G is that we’re talking about much more than improved speeds of connections. Yes, 5G networks will improve speeds. Data network will be capable of handling more devices and delivering 1,000 times more speed, which will be critical in an ‘always-connected’ world. More importantly, perhaps is that the upgrade to 5G will mean the most for improving data capacity because networks can handle 1,000X more traffic. (Inverse). That’s an important differentiator from 4G, considering 4G broadband has just about reached its limit in terms of the amount of data it can handle. The cloud, mobile, and the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution has brought nearly everything online - from lights and thermostats to soon-to-be cars, and the current infrastructure is struggling to keep up. 5G taps into a ‘new’ patch of the radio-frequency spectrum, the home of "millimeter-wave" radio signals, which were previously inaccessible due to high costs and government regulations. Today, the FCC is moving fast to make spectrum available across every band from low- to mid- to high-band spectrum, according to FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr. With these upcoming wave spectrum auctions, these bands will be available and used by network providers to deliver connectivity, meaning it will help unclog overburdened 4G networks.
Big data improvements
There are roughly 300,000 cell sites across the country today, but 5G is going to require a 10- to 100-fold increase in the number of cell sites. In addition to new cell sites, old towers can be modified by attaching small antennas to existing cell towers across the county, which can bean these high-frequency signals. 5G will not only improve speeds in cities and have the capacity to handle high volumes of data, but it will also deliver wireless connectivity to rural areas that aren't hooked into the faster, urban internet infrastructure. In prepared remarks in January 2019, Commissioner Carr talked about the implications of 5G and the role of regulators. Source: Fierce Wireless).
“I think we’re at a really unique time for consumers in telecom. There are two great trends that are merging. On the one hand, we’re seeing these great technological breakthroughs, including the use of millimeter-wave spectrum for mobile,” Carr said. “On the other hand, we’re getting our regulations right to support the deployment of these next-generation networks.”
Big for IoT and augmented and virtual reality
We all know that there’s a growing number of connected devices in our homes, offices, and public places. 5G will take the breaks off adoption of connected smart devices which means there will be more smart TVs, smart lights, smart fridges, digital assistants and more coming online in the transition to 5G. The speed and scale of 5G can support a smooth transition to experiencing truly connected homes and offices, making it possible to easily connect a growing number of devices, sensors, and things. Additional developments will also be possible in commercial and industrial industries supporting ‘industrial IoT’ or IIoT. Advancements in agriculture, manufacturing, supply-chain coordination or city and traffic planning are possible with 5G networks because the technology can send and receive massive amounts of data quickly.
Similarly, 5G will also be able to support extremely data-rich, immersive digital experiences, that have been somewhat hindered by the speed and latency limitations of 4G. Applications like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality will be being more popular not just in consumers’ homes, but they’ll also be going mobile. It’s no doubt 5G will open up tremendous opportunities for consumers as well as cloud service providers, telecom, SaaS, IoT providers, and much more.
There’s no doubt that 5G is unleashing a wave of innovation in today’s digital world. Greater data capacity, low latency, and faster connectivity speeds will together have a profound effect on the global economy. As we move forward, consumers should get ready for a flurry of new connected devices, and enterprises should prepare to leverage the faster networking standard to drive new and exciting innovations across their businesses. We’ll see the biggest impacts in IIoT, including advancements in wireless, the cloud, Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication, computing power, data storage, and artificial intelligence.