It may still feel quite novel to connect your mobile phone or tablet to the internet via 4G, but the buzz around 5G technology is already gathering pace.
Without a doubt, 5G is set to revolutionise the way the world is connected and how we interact with the mobile internet. But, do we really need 5G?
In short, the answer is yes, absolutely. According to an updated market forecast from ABI Research, the number of active wireless connected devices exceeded 16 billion in 2014, about 20% more than in 2013. By 2020, this number will rise to 40.9 billion. This growth of demand from consumers and corporations is simply not sustainable based on the infrastructure behind 4G.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) defines 4G as anything that offers a “substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities”, so it is safe to say that 5G will look to further enhance the performance and capabilities of its predecessor. In fact, this is an understatement. In 2013, Samsung announced that it had tested 5G at 1GB per second, and the media were quick to report that a high-definition film could be downloaded in less than 30 seconds. However, it is thought that 5G networks will be running at speeds in excess of 800GB per second – an astonishing rate that equates to downloading 33 HD films in a single second. Technology analysts are, understandably, very excited by the speed implications of 5G, which will far exceed anything currently on offer.
Another key implication of 5G technology is that, crucially, it shouldn’t drop off in the same way that 3G and 4G networks occasionally do.
Currently, mobile broadband is susceptible to signal drops and peak time performance issues, unlike a fixed line where the speed is typically consistent throughout the day. This is a big problem if your business relies heavily on remote working and cloud computing, or if your Skype calls to international suppliers cut out mid-conversation. The reason why this is currently the case is principally because 3G and 4G networks are reliant on bulky, static masts to emit signals. These masts, however, tend to struggle to penetrate certain areas of coverage. However, improvements in the technology behind antennae means that it will be possible to install small 5G base stations on virtually every home and lamppost, ensuring coverage is constantly maintained. In essence, an individual user will have access to his or her own antenna, which ensures that the network continues to operate at super high frequencies in order to create the blistering speeds predicted. Businesses will no longer be frustrated by Prezi presentations not loading, and won’t have to worry about the dreaded ‘buffering circle’ whilst waiting for a corporate video to load.
Already there is much talk about some of the wider implications of 5G technology, such as to enable driverless cars to communicate with each other, air traffic control centres to monitor multiple airports at once, and the use of networks to conduct smart surgery, where a human can remotely operate a robot to carry out complicated operations. Small businesses and start-up companies might consider using 5G in place of a fixed line service: not only could this reduce operation costs, but it would also take advantage of the increased portability from the technology.
Rural businesses will particularly benefit from 5G technology.
Many developed countries have ‘black spot’ areas that only have access to basic broadband due to the cost of installing lines. If telecoms operators use mobile masts to deliver faster internet services instead, then very fast internet could be brought to even the most remote areas. Fundamentally, businesses will be able to grow at the same pace as 5G infrastructure is introduced around them.
As we have already seen with other technological developments, such as mobile payments and Near-Field Communications, it is highly likely that emerging markets will adopt 5G technology at a much faster rate than developed economies.
Unlike most developed nations, emerging markets will not have legacy constraints, and there will be fewer infrastructure complexities to overcome when introducing new 5G technology.
It is difficult to imagine the extent that some countries will benefit from adopting a 5G network, because 5G will help increase people’s living standard in unprecedented ways. It is the countries that have particularly poor road and rail networks that will benefit most: 5G connectively will help bring everything from market information to financial and health services to the most remote areas in developing markets.
With speeds of up to 800Gbps, an obvious benefit to business is the time and money that will be saved through using 5G technology
We are already using mobility to transform every business process (not to mention how we live and play) and the introduction of 5G technology will only increase mobility further. For example, 5G will make it easier for staff to work from home or on the road. Not only does this improve efficiency, but spending less time commuting will make for a happier, healthier work force.
Crucially, 5G technology will have the same reliability currently received through fibre connections. Latency will be greatly reduced, and advances in antenna technology promise to end sudden data connection drop-outs, therefore no longer causing headaches for businesses.
5G connectivity has the potential to spark innovation and pave the way for new, life-changing technologies. Think about it: video streaming using a platform like Netflix would not have been possibly using 2G technology, yet this form of entertainment has thrived under 4G.
The development of 5G will increase the number of inanimate objects that will communicate with businesses. Already heating systems, kitchen appliances and lighting can be connected to a wireless network. The Internet of Things, as it is branded, will become embedded into business life through the introduction of 5G technology.