Your Guide to 5G | Carolyn Cui

The future of wireless technology is (almost) here! And ushering us into this new age of discovery is none other than 5G, the next generation in connectivity. It will open the floodgates to new innovations-- innovations that were once dreams but will soon be reality. The tech industry is about to embark on a long but promising adventure in the digital age. It’ll bring better service, faster Internet speeds, and increased efficiency in all of your mobile devices. Of course, that’s not all there is to it. If anything, we are but on the tip of the iceberg.

 

Currently, we are on but the cusp of 5G. It’s not here yet, but numerous carriers are certainly hyping it up. Thus, it’s hard to accurately predict what the impacts of 5G will be on our lives. It’s plausible that we won’t be immediately influenced, even with San Diego’s proximity to Silicon Valley. In fact, it’s highly likely that the newest networks that will be rolling out soon are only precursors for what’s to come. True 5G networks won’t be popping up until later on as the architecture required begins to meet industry standards. Though to fully grasp the implications of 5G, we must first understand what it is.

5G is the fifth generation of mobile communication, and it follows the release of 4G (LTE) that came some nine years earlier. This new generation will build upon the foundation set by its predecessor and is meant to be easily upgradable. In essence, that means we might not ever need a 6G. You think your phone is fast? Just wait until 5G networks roll out. Let’s say your phone downloads information at 35 Mbps (megabits per second) optimally and the theoretical cap is about 100 Mbps. If you maintained that speed consistently, you’d be able to download a whole movie (not in HD) in one to two minutes. But for speeds to be considered “5G,” they need to be many times faster, and those speeds must be sustainable across thousands of consumers. We’re talking a base speed of a couple hundred Mbps. However, many companies in the industry are hopeful that 1 Gbps (gigabits per second) will be the minimum, with a theoretical max of 10 Gbps. At just 1 Gbps, you’d be able to download a 5GB movie in mere seconds. Responsiveness (in computer speak, latency) is also going to skyrocket. In other words, the time it takes for a web page to load is going to be reduced. You’ll be able to subscribe to Pewdiepie faster than ever before!

 

Now that we’ve got a key component of 5G down, it’s time to discuss the good stuff. I know all you care about is speed and how quickly you can load Netflix movies, but bear with me, because we’re just getting started. There are more than a few things that will be greatly impacted by the introduction of 5G: driverless cars, virtual and augmented reality, drones, healthcare, asset management, smartwatches, and our phones, to name a few. While I can’t expand on every subject (you’d likely die of boredom by then anyway), I can expand on three pressing ones. One of the most widely anticipated innovations of our lifetimes is the self-driving automobile. In its current state, the autonomous car rouses much concern over public safety and functionality as a whole. However, the implementation of an almost instantaneous network (5G) will allow for quick communication between other self-driving cars and, if applicable, other sensors across a city. 5G will also bring innovations in the VR/AR industry. VR and AR are meant to be somewhat to fully immersive, and both rely on low latencies that are fast enough to fool our brains. 4G cannot achieve such speeds, and industry professionals have their sights set on 5G, as the next generation of connectivity will almost certainly do the trick. And finally, we have remote-controlled machinery. This technology is going to leave a lasting influence on the healthcare industry-- surgeons will soon be able to carry out their duties through robots without even being near the patient.

 

5G is not only about our precious phones. It’s about enabling faster connections in technologies everywhere, from smart cars to smart cities, to AI and cloud computing. With the arrival of this new network, millions of jobs will be created and economies globally will be bolstered. Though this next generation of connectivity may not be implemented as soon as we hope, there is no doubt that once it does happen we must ready to embrace the changes.

Soon, it will be our time to leave 4G in the dust and look towards a brighter and more integrated future than ever.