The transition from 3G to 4G went largely unnoticed by the average consumer, but the coming shift to 5G will be very different. It was clear at Mobile World Congress Americas earlier this month that after years of talk, major US wireless carriers are going all-in on 5G. Verizon is solving transmission barriers, and AT&T introduced its Internet of Things (IoT) platform, revealing its intent to stay ahead of the pack. Knowing how this network leap will change your mobile experience will help you stay connected.
Wireless technologies are measured by generations, so the G in 5G means it’s the fifth generation of wireless technology. Each generation has produced faster data transmission speeds and a new encoding method, which is incompatible with the previous generations. Early 5G trials have achieved speeds 100 times faster than what 4G can offer, although, once 5G is scaled out, actual speeds could be slower. There are no 5G compatible mobile devices available yet, and rollout could be slow given that the different telecos can’t agree on standards. Additionally, the price to obtain a 5G device or service plan could be significantly higher than what we’re used to, resulting in a lag in adoption.
The most noticeable difference in the beginning will be the faster download speeds and shortened latency times. But the exciting part of 5G is the whole new world of innovation and connection it will enable. Qualcomm is calling 5G “the platform for invention.”
The automotive industry will benefit from the new network as progress continues to be made towards self-driving cars. These cars require a network that can facilitate multiple interactions between numerous connected devices. The stop lights, weather stations, and crosswalks will all send network signals instantaneously to communicate road conditions to the car, allowing for a safe driving experience. The amount of bandwidth required to connect these devices together isn’t possible on the 4G network. Also, due to 5G’s near-zero latency, autonomous cars will have the necessary reaction time to engage the brakes inches from obstacles, a feat also not possible on the 4G network.
The 1ms latency time is pivotal for other advancements, such as the use of haptic interfaces and real-time sensors to allow a doctor to examine a patient’s body from a distant operating room. Similarly, the construction industry can use 5G to operate heavy machinery remotely. Using a VR headset and controller, an operator could perform the same job but in a safer environment to effectively minimize occupational hazards related to construction sites. Virtual and augmented reality platforms will expand and thrive because of the network. Instead of watching the NBA Finals on TV, spectators can throw on a VR headset and have a 360-degree courtside view, feeling the intensity of the crowd while remaining in the comfort of their home. These technological breakthroughs are only possible with a network that provides instant transmission and no lag. The 4G network can’t provide frequencies high enough to allow such capabilities, but the new 5G network can and will.
Exciting changes are certainly in store as cellular technology improves and evolves. The emergence of the IoT is sure to expand significantly with the network changes, and every aspect of life will find itself integrated with the digital realm.