The 5G is here. The superfast fifth generation of mobile internet could be deployed as early as next year in some countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, China and South Korea, promising download speeds 10 to 20 times faster than what is available now. On top of that, Qualcomm has just announced the release of its “first fully-integrated 5G NR mmWave and sub-6 GHz RF modules for smartphones and other mobile devices.” Even if this new technology is only scheduled to be fully deployed by 2020, on June 27, 2018, Elisa, a Finnish telecommunications company, has already launched the world’s first commercial 5G network in Finland and Estonia.
What exactly is this superfast fifth generation of mobile internet all about? It’s the next mobile internet connectivity with much faster data download and upload speeds, wider coverage and more stable connections. It’s all about making better use of the radio spectrum and enabling far more devices to access the mobile internet at the same time.
“Whatever we do now with our smartphones we’ll be able to do it faster and better,” says Ian Fogg from OpenSignal, a mobile data analytics company.
“Think of smart glasses featuring augmented reality, mobile virtual reality, much higher quality video, the internet of things making cities smarter.
“But what’s really exciting is all the new services that will be built that we can’t foresee.”Imagine swarms of drones co-operating to carry out search and rescue missions, fire assessments and traffic monitoring, all communicating wirelessly with each other and ground base stations over 5G networks.
Similarly, many think 5G will be crucial for autonomous vehicles to communicate with each other and read live map and traffic data.
More prosaically, mobile gamers should notice less delay — or latency — when pressing a button on a controller and seeing the effect on screen. Mobile videos should be near instantaneous and glitch-free. Video calls should become clearer and less jerky. Wearable fitness devices could monitor your health in real time, alerting doctors as soon as any emergency arises.
There are a number of new technologies likely to be applied — but standards haven’t been hammered out yet for all 5G protocols. Higher-frequency bands — 3.5GHz (gigahertz) to 26GHz and beyond — have a lot of capacity but their shorter wavelengths mean their range is lower – they’re more easily blocked by physical objects.
How different and how fast is the 5G?
The 5G is a brand new radio technology, but there might not be vastly higher speeds at first because 5G is likely to be used by network operators initially as a way to boost capacity on existing 4G (LTE — Long-Term Evolution) networks, to ensure a more consistent service for customers. The speed gained will depend on which spectrum band the operator runs the 5G technology and how much the carrier has invested in new masts and transmitters.
The fastest current 4G mobile networks offer about 45Mbps (megabits per second) on average, although the industry is still hopeful of achieving 1Gbps (gigabit per second = 1,000Mbps). Chipmaker Qualcomm reckons 5G could achieve browsing and download speeds about 10 to 20 times faster in real-world (as opposed to laboratory) conditions.
The world is going mobile and users are consuming more data every year, particularly as the popularity of video and music streaming increases. So, more speed is needed with the existing spectrum bands becoming congested, leading to breakdowns in service, particularly when lots of people in the same area are trying to access online mobile services at the same time. 5G is much better at handling thousands of devices simultaneously, from mobiles to equipment sensors, video cameras to smart street lights.
Fixed line services will remain, but the 5G only works with 5G phones
Telecoms companies have invested too much in fibre optic and copper wire fixed line broadband to give those up in a hurry. Domestic and office broadband services will be primarily fixed line for many years to come, although so-called fixed wireless access will be made available in tandem.
However good wireless connectivity becomes, many prefer the stability and certainty of physical wires.
Therefore, the 5G mobile connectivity is going to be a complementary service useful outdoors or when interacting with the surrounding world. It will also facilitate the much-heralded “internet of things”.
When the 4G was introduced in 2009-10, compatible smart phones came onto the market before the infrastructure had been rolled out fully, leading to some frustration amongst consumers who felt they were paying more in subscriptions for a patchy service. With the 5G, phone makers are unlikely to make the same mistake, launching 5G handsets only when the new networks are ready, probably towards the end of 2019. These next generation phones will however be able to switch seamlessly between 4G and 5G networks for a more stable service.