There has been a lot of chatter around 5G technology recently. But, if you are anything like me, you are probably asking yourself why we need it. After all, if you can find one, a 4G signal usually proves more than enough. So, is it really necessary and, if it is, why?
All of this made my mission at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona clear: understand exactly what 5G technology is, and discover why it’s so important. In this video I will summarize everything I discovered, and answer some common questions about 5G technology.
What is 5G?
Well this is not exactly defined yet, because – while people have some ideas – no one is sure how it will be used. Currently it’s just kind of an amorphous concept that people know we will need, but with no clear objectives or standardization of protocols. It is assumed that by mid-2017 5G and its standards will be fully defined by operators, manufacturers, and companies.
The initial and somewhat obvious use of 5G will be as a connection technology to ensure greater coverage, reliably, and data transfer for mobiles. Plus, there is talk of incredible wireless speeds, with up to 1GB per second for multiple users at once.
5G will not stop at improving quantity, but also coverage and reliability thanks to a greater spectrum signals at a higher frequency. This should allow it to reach hundreds of thousands of people without any disruption of service. Talking to an Intel representative, he described this as lanes on a freeway, with a lane able to be reserved for each user thanks to technologies like MIMO.
Why do I need 5G when I can barely get 4G?
Keep in mind that 3G began to be implemented in 2000, and 4G began to appear in 2010. Back then most of us still had phones with buttons, so the idea of streaming full movies on the move over our mobile connection seemed alien. It seems likely that by 2030 5G will be the most common connection, but by then we will be complaining about its limitations and dreaming of 6G.
The point is that the mobile industry has always been forward thinking, but this time it’s not alone: because soon everyone will need 5G thanks to the dawn of the Internet of Things (IoT).
The Internet of Things
The future is becoming clear, and it is a world where man will no longer talk to machines, but machines and devices will talk to each other. You may have already seen this on a small scale, such as smart watches that connect to phones and lights that are controlled by your phone. But the future will incorporate many more things: smart cars, security cameras, refrigerators, beds, gloves, socks, doorknobs… Everything.
Experts speak of billions of devices being connected from 2018. No matter how little bandwidth each will need, the sheer volume will demand a huge – constantly open – connection to ensure they work reliably. And that isn’t even thinking about our personal media demands, as we start to consume videos in 4K, 8K, and even in full a 360-degree for VR.
Yup, 4G probably won’t cut it.
Latency needs to end
It won’t only be the number of things controlled this way that will rise, so too will their importance as critical systems start to rely on 5G. Because of this, latency will need to be eliminated: i.e. the time it takes for information to travel from point A (your phone) to point B (the door of your house).
We can tolerate some latency in a game, media, and services like text messaging. But a self-driving car needs to respond in milliseconds, movement in Virtual Reality must happen instantly or the illusion is broken, and a surgeon operating at remote drone for heart surgery needs information in real-time. 5G will enable all of this.
Ethical questions 5G
It is possible that, after seeing this video, you will realize why 5G is getting so many people excited. It offers a future filled with fun, along with a freedom of movement and information that was previously unimaginable. But, like all technological advancement, it raises moral and ethical questions.
The technology gap. The world is still full of gaps: gender, race, class, economic… And while many countries will ensure 5G coverage for all, there are others that struggle to provide any kind of connection for its population.
This is exactly the struggle Mark Zuckerberg is trying to highlight with the Internet.org foundation. Although some people consulted suggest that countries may leapfrog from 3G to 5G, it’s hard to imagine that this technology and information gap will be so easily bridged.
Will we be able to provide internet for everyone?
Big Data. The Internet of Things will not only connect to everything and everyone, it will also generate millions of petabytes of video and data about our habits, customs, and movements. Who will regulate and control the management of this data? Who will fight for privacy when it looks like a losing battle? And, how will businesses use this data?
The world exposed. Everything and everyone connected everywhere. Internet inside and outside the home, even in our clothes. What security will be needed?
Perhaps it is too early to see everything the next 5 years will hold, but it should be exciting to watch the dawn of this technological revolution.
What do you think of everything this 5G future holds?