5G: The future of remote technology
Following the focus on 5G in the World Mobile Congress 2018, we look at how devices and carriers are looking to develop their technologies in the immediate future.
How 5G Compares to 4G
5G is the next wave of internet connectivity, promising faster speeds and lower latency (delays).
4G download speeds average 13-32MB/s in a realistic environment, with a top theoretical speed of 300MB/s. 5G, however, boasts download speeds of 10-50GB/s in the real world and an incredible 1TB/s in test conditions, and up to fifty times less latency. That’s the important news for the casual user who would like to know how a long a film would take to stream or a podcast series to download, but the benefits of 5G extend beyond handheld devices into larger, more complex tech.
It’s safe to say that all of the major phone, tablet, and PC companies will be looking at how to incorporate 5G into their hardware, and network carriers are already scrambling to provide it.
How 5G Works
5G works on a higher wavelength than 4G to avoid interference, although it also utilizes lower frequencies for better coverage. Although 4G networks were initially divided between WiMax and LTE, with LTE eventually emerging triumphant, 5G has already reached a consensus in its delivery, known as 5G New Radio (5G NR).
Mobile World Congress 2018
The unveiling of flagship phones from some of the industry’s biggest names generated a lot of interest at this year’s MWC, but promises of 5G innovation beckoned spectators to demos across many devices. After years of promises that 5G will revolutionize our connection, we’re finally seeing plans begin to come to fruition, even if we won’t be seeing 5G-enabled phones for another year.
Intel Demonstrates 5G Tech
At the MWC Intel showcased its 10” 2-in-1 detachable concept PC, which features a kickstand embedded with its prototype 5G modem that is extended from the main device for maximum signal clarity. Under the demo conditions, Intel claimed that its 4k video was streaming at 4-5 GB/s. (3)
Intel also illustrated with its 5G-enabled car how the network could be used in conjunction with the Internet of Things to provide interlinked services instead of simply high-quality video calls. Devices such as weather sensors, traffic lights and drones would interact with the car to provide information about the drive, including traffic obstructions or delays.
The instant transmission of data would, of course, be of particular use to self-driving cars, where information about potential hazards could be relayed without a user’s input.
Intel is already working in partnership with Toyota and NTT Docomo to bring 5G to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics. Not only will 5G streams provide an immersive experience for spectators at home, but additional applications such as facial-recognition software will provide heightened security for those there in person.
Huawei Propels the 5G Charge
Also at the WMC, Huawei launched its 5G CPE (customer-premises equipment), a portable terminal to bring 5G to the home, as well as providing a comprehensive portfolio that reveals how its infrastructure will connect users outside with 5G.
As well as traditional tower-mounted units, smaller devices are known as “5G EasyBlink” will be used on existing surfaces such as streetlights and walls to cover weak spots and boost hotspot coverage.
Huawei has already proven itself a forerunner in the bid for 5G supremacy. In November 2017, the Chinese company revealed its base station that was capable of running multiple network bands, including 5G, to facilitate its merge into the new network era. In February this year, Huawei worked with Telecom Italia and fixed-line provider Fastweb to test the first data connection on an end-to-end 5G network, the 5G New Radio standard (managing over 3GB/s). Huawei has also committed to investing between $10 billion and $20 billion every year into research and development of 5G technologies.
China Prepares to Become a 5G Powerhouse
Currently the world’s largest 4G provider, with more than 800 million connections in 2017, China is preparing to take its network provisions to the next level between 2020 and 2030. China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom, China’s three mobile network operators, are expected to invest ¥2.8 trillion ($411 billion) in the 2020s to connect the largest region of internet users in the world (721,434,547 in 2016 and continuing to grow).
China Telecom has set 2020-2025 as its major investment period for 5G connection, although it expects investment to continue for many years after. Currently connecting 255 million mobile and 135 million fixed broadband users with 1.16 million 4G base stations, the network company has already estimated that they will need between 2 and 2.5 million 5G-enabled base stations to provide service for its current and expected customers.
AT&T and Verizon Compete for 5G Coverage at Home and On the Move
AT&T, the world’s largest telecommunications company, already has plans to launch a 5G-network in twelve cities this year, but instead of connecting phones, it will be supporting “pucks”. Details are still sketchy at this point, but they are expected to work like mobile hotspots. Acting as a portable modem, pucks will offer consumers a taste of 5G speeds on laptops while phones are still getting to grips with incorporating the technology in a handheld device.
While AT&T focuses on the mobile aspect of 5G, Verizon aims to entrench it firmly in the home with residential broadband. Verizon plans to start small in California by launching its 5G wireless in the second half of this year.
T-Mobile Upgrades 4G for the 5G Experience
As both companies race to utilize 5G meaningfully in 2018, T-Mobile is working on combining 5G with its existing 4G coverage to bring super-fast speeds and reduced latency to thirty cities this year. By using both 600MHz and millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrums simultaneously, T-Mobile is, according to CEO John Legere, “leading the industry with the most advanced LTE network in the country” by propping users on its existing 4G network with LTE-Advanced upgrades as part of its 5G development.
The exciting thing about 5G is that it isn’t simply updating connection speeds but also bringing new applications revolutionise how we interact with tech, particularly with AR (augmented reality).
We’ve already seen with Intel’s 5G-enabled car how 5G can link AI and the IoT to create a seamless provision, such as a gas station refilling your fuel without ever leaving the car, but companies are extending beyond the obvious: There are AR “shooting” headsets that check for stroke damage and Therecare’s “incubator baby” experience, where parents can transmit their voice to a baby in hospital, while AR glasses, sensors, and a weighted “pillow” create the sensation of holding their child.
As both devices and networks get to grips with providing 5G service, we can expect to see more innovations that depend on the immediate relay of data. These may not come to full realization until 2019 or after, but they promise an exciting look at our world will be shaped by super-fast technology.