Mobile technology is advancing at such a pace that businesses and consumers often lack the information to fully understand how new developments can potentially transform their lives.
In the early ‘90s, data network access on wireless phones went from 1G to 2G with the birth of SMS, then to 3G with the ability to write messages, make calls and surf the Internet all on one device, and finally to 4G, which continued with 3G’s functions but at a faster speed. This evolution has been gradual and organic, with the increase in 4G’s processing speed as the highlight. However, expect qualitative changes when the 5G network emerges in 2020.
In this post we explain why 5G is set to revolutionize mobile communications. Rahim Tafazolli, director of the 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey has referred to this technology as offering users "the perception of infinite capacity", a future goal offered by smartphones that still don’t work “fast enough”.
This post is also available in Spanish.
5G's main features
With the advent of 5G, the speed of data transfer will increase by over 10 Gbps and if that wasn’t enough, 5G will also offer a much lower level of latency compared to its predecessor.
In a nutshell, “latency” is the time taken by two devices to communicate when one tries to access the other in terms of reading or writing data. The reduction in latency implies higher data transfer speed, but also the ability to connect more devices simultaneously.
This subtle yet substantial drop will make 5G on average 100 times faster than 4G and allow the new network to connect up to 100 devices per square meter.
In addition to the increased speed and reduced latency, another key feature of the new 5G network is its capacity to prioritize select connections over others, allowing operators to offer better connectivity to certain individuals or companies accessing the same network.
How this impacts our connectivity in general
There are several practical consequences likely to affect billions of users when 5G is introduced in 2020. It is predicted that by that time, the number of people regularly using smartphones will surpass 5,600 million, though not all of them will benefit equally from the higher speeds offered by 5G, since consumers will need to pay higher rates to access this network.
In any case, the new network’s deployment will take downloading and displaying online video to a whole new level, thus culminating the widespread of audiovisual format on the Web over the still omnipresent text.
Meanwhile, improved latency and the ability to connect more devices without saturating the network will mean the exponential expansion of the Internet of Things, as demonstrated by Samsung at the latest Mobile World Congress. Their presentation saw them deploying a 5G network that connected several vehicles at speeds of up to 7.5 Gbps.
It is also quite possible that cars, appliances and clothes will end up being connected to the network in some way, and that companies themselves will be responsible for an increased interconnectivity of machines and people, expanding the scope of the 4.0 industry, though nowadays it is still in its infancy.
With regards to operators having the prerogative to give network access priority to specific users, expect a more uncertain outcome and certainly not one without controversy. Although the premium access model seems legitimate and even justifiable for public services or network security, it also offers network operators a means of making Internet neutrality a thing of the past.
In this sense, it is crucial that governments and regulators anticipate illegal uses of 5G, and adjust legislation accordingly for the common good.
This post is also available in Spanish.
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