What is 5G Technology?
As the naming convention for cellular mobile communication would suggest, 5G is the next iteration and latest generation telecommunication standard. However, while the name 5G might suggest iteration, the implications of 5G technology are more in line with a true digital revolution.
Is 5G the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
Previous iterations, with the exception of the first mobile data networks, or 1G as it has been retroactively termed, haven’t been truly revolutionary. In many ways, each new iteration built upon the one before it gradually expanding bandwidth, reducing latency, improving data transfer rates, and adding on new bits of functionality. However, they did not fundamentally change the way we organize our civil infrastructure or the way we organize ourselves in society.
5G will change and merge both our physical and virtual environments, and fundamentally change the way we interact with our environments and with each other within a society. This dramatic transformation has been deemed by some to be the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Just as the industrial revolution ushered in a new era of human civilization, so too might the deployment of 5G networks worldwide.
The Industrial Revolution completely remade society and the world. Industrialization swept away feudalism as a ruling order and ushered in the golden age of capitalism. This completely transformed who was in power and who controlled resources. Instead of kings and queens, capitalists and captains of industry became like new monarchs. Peasants who were once generationally tied to the land of their feudal overlords suddenly found themselves without both a lord or land. Instead, they were drawn to the cities and to the factories therein. Industrialization completely changed the way we organize ourselves by driving urbanization on a massive scale. In turn, urbanization and the dislocation of people from their ancestral lands brought with them massive social, political, and religious upheavals.
Some believe that 5G may have the same society-shaping potential that the industrial revolution did. While still in its early stages, 5G technology could usher in an era of permanent, constant, real-time connectivity to the internet and all the data therein through the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as access to ubiquitous cloud computing anytime and anywhere.
5 Ways 5G Will Revolutionize Your Life
1. The need for SPEED
Speed is a defining characteristic of our time --- that what we're experiencing is not merely the drama du jour, but a more-faster-now revolution. As a society, we are seeing that speed trumps privacy, expense, convenience, and even fear. While this can be terrifying to some, I believe speed has a unique power to enrich our lives on an individual, organizational, and even societal level. It is the lifeblood of the information age, it pushes us forward, and helps people spend less time doing meaningless things to make room for more significant living. Welcome to the age of speed.
Speed being the most headline-grabbing benefit of 5G-capable networks can transfer data at a stunning 10 Gigabits per second. Not only is that even faster than cable internet, but it is also 100 times faster than conventional 4G networks.
In comparison to the other massive technological advantages of 5G technology, speed is actually perhaps the least important aspect of 5G. Sure, it’s nice to get an appreciable bump in speeds, but ultimately the incredible data rates are just the tip of the iceberg of what 5G technology brings to the table. In fact, if lightning fast data speeds was the only thing 5G offered, it wouldn’t be revolutionary at all. Luckily for us, 5G isn’t just another bump in speed to get consumers excited. It’s a genuine revolution in the making with much more to get excited about than blazing fast speeds.
2. Low latency
Low network latency means that real-time processing and instant feedback are now very much a reality. Network latency, also known as network delay, measures how long it takes a bit of information to travel from one end, or node, of a network to another.
With 5G, latency as low as 1 millisecond is entirely possible. In practice, actual network latency of advanced 5g networks is in the single digits, making latency effectively imperceptible. In comparison, 4G latency is typically around 40 millisecond or more, which is detected by users as lag. Human beings have an incredibly keen vision and can readily identify lag past 10 milliseconds.
Once 5G matures and hits industry targets of latency less than even a single millisecond, real-time feedback will be a revolutionary reality. In applications where real-time feedback is crucial, such as operating complex machinery remotely, 5G will be a game changer. Coupled with much higher data rates, the real-time feedback provided by 5G will usher an era with all digital content, no matter how processor intensive, and will be available to nearly any so-called “smart” device.
3. True augmented reality and virtual reality
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), typically in the form of curated digital experiences through specialized AR/VR platforms, haven’t quite reached the mainstream yet. They are still limited to niche sectors, such as the gaming and entertainment industries as a result of three systemic challenges: a lack of processing power, limited bandwidth, and high latencies. However, with 5G, that will change. Recreating believable virtual environments and visually projecting digital information into the real world requires an enormous amount of processing power, massive, real-time data flow, and imperceptibly low latency.
Think about it. If the processing power isn’t there, you simply can’t render anything in high enough resolution to fool the human eye. With 5G, processing can be outsourced to the cloud so that almost any device can theoretically have the computing chops of a supercomputer. Without adequate bandwidth, you can’t gather the enormous amounts of real-time information necessary to inform a simulation. 5G can accommodate 100 times more data at 10 times the speed of the best technology available today.
Finally, without imperceptibly low latencies, you can’t have real-time information feedback. One problem particularly pertinent for VR applications is the issue of high latency causing motion sickness. With 5G networks, latency will be measured in single digit milliseconds (ms) versus around 50 ms for the fastest 4G networks. Low latency AR will be able to be used in even the most demanding settings, such as on a surgeon’s table, in controlled labs, and in manufacturing facilities where AR applications will help human doctors, technicians, and operators work more precisely and efficiently.
4. More data, smarter things
Currently, one of the biggest bottlenecks and hurdles yet to be overcome is the natural physical limitations of traditional, low-frequency networks. There is only so much bandwidth that can process so much data flow from so many devices. Low latency, high-frequency 5G greatly expands bandwidth and can accommodate a much higher volume of data from many more devices, thereby eliminating traditional barriers.
In other words, it’s open season on all devices, appliances, pieces of equipment and machinery. Nearly everything that draws power can be converted into so-called smart devices. The ramifications of this revolution may not be that far off from an Industrial Revolution 4.0. Think about it this way: What if every single device and appliance in the world, including at home, at work, in public, and in factories had the processing capabilities of your smartphone, and the ability to connect to and interface with every single device? Everything will interface will everything else and, through network intelligence, become that much more useful, accessible, efficient, and intelligent.
Imagine that a decade from now your car stops at a traffic light. First of all, in ten years time your car will likely be self-driving and communicating with the cars around it in real-time to avoid collisions and ensure the most efficient traffic flow. Your car will also be actively communicating with the traffic light. Perhaps the traffic light will sense that no other cars will be approaching that intersection within the next 10 seconds, so the light allows your car to go. No time wasted, no risk of accidents, no hands-on intervention necessary. The smart traffic light might also send a notification via your car’s dashboard to let you know that you have a 10-second window. Your smartwatch might also receive this data and automatically update your estimated time of arrival. It may also send notifications to your family that you will be home earlier than expected.
The possibilities of this kind of connectivity are truly endless. 5G could be the key technology that will finally usher in the much-speculated Internet of Things.
5. The Internet of Things (IoT)
The idea of an Internet of Things isn’t a new concept at all. As early as 1982 researchers were already experimenting with connecting consumer appliances, in this case, a Coca-cola vending machine, to the internet. The contemporary understanding of the Internet of Things was fleshed out in a paper by Mark Weisner in 1991. In his publication, Weisner laid out a vision of a world with ubiquitous computing in which networked processing and AI capabilities were distributed at all scales throughout everyday life.
With 5G, that vision of a seamlessly networked future is just around the corner and will change everything from how we socialize and do business to how we organize societies. Currently, the way we interface with the internet is through a limited series of both active and passive portals: televisions, personal computers, tablets, phones, and smartwatches. Networks are essentially contained within these devices. If the rollout of 5G technology is successful, however, this will no longer be the case. In fact, devices that you might think you can’t possibly live without, such as your phone, might just become another smart device within the sea of the Internet of Things. No longer will your access to the internet be limited by portals. Instead, everything will become a portal, from your refrigerator to your door handles. Everything will become a potential touchpoint and an opportunity to interface with the internet.
The industrial revolution created the first modern cities.
5G technology could unleash the first smart cities.
The industrial revolution resulted in the world’s first skyscrapers.
5G technology will finally deliver on the promise of self-driving cars.
The industrial revolution fundamentally altered the way people lived, worked, played, and interacted with each other.
5G technology will do the same by seamlessly merging the limitless space and abstract data of the virtual internet with the physical world, blurring the line between what is digital and what is real.
Welcome to the age of speed!