5G is the proposed fifth generation of wireless systems which boasts data rates of ten megabits per second for tens of thousands of users and actually denotes the next phase of mobile telecommunications standards beyond the current 4G/IMT-Advanced standards. This major upgrade, however, is much more than a simple network upgrade that boosts our cellular data speed, which is what our current networks are for.
By enabling several hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections for a massive wireless sensor network, 5G will be the sole driver of the future connected world - the IoT ecosystem comprised of connected cities, self-driving cars, smart gadgets, and millions of sensors.
Gartner predicts that the number of connected devices will skyrocket from a current 5 billion to 25 billion in 2025. But our current data networks weren’t designed to handle such a huge demand. Further, the current bandwidth offered by 4G spectrum poses serious limitations in the functioning of crucial applications. Take the case of a self-driving vehicle as an example. Generally, we don’t mind the buffering period of a couple of seconds but for a self-driving car, even a lag of milliseconds counts. With 5G, we will be able to get lightning-fast responses among applications and devices. As such, an autonomous vehicle will receive information about the movement of the vehicle ahead of it in a matter of milliseconds and help prevent accidents.
We have already witnessed the huge success of VR and AR devices among the common public and their wide-scale applicability across many industries apart from mere entertainment. But to unleash the true potential of such devices, especially the AR consoles which provide a blend of the real and digital world experiences, we need mega speedy networks that can provide information about the particular image/object such as walking directions, product prices etc. literally without any waiting period.
The future world will rely on constant and instant flow of information and automated responses. We have already seen sensors installed in traffic lights, building entries, shopping malls, and even garbage bins to collect data about commuting behavior, traffic congestion, shopping behavior, waste collection and disposal patterns, etc. In the future, a multitude of such sensors will be installed all around cities in traffic lights, public places, trains and other public transport media, personal vehicles, buildings, parks and entertainment centers to always keep the users updated about the pollution levels, traffic congestion, weather forecasts, commuting recommendations, personal offers and promotions, etc.
At a much personal level, such sensors installed in our fitness bands will collect data about our body parameters like heartbeat, temperature and blood pressure. Combined with more advanced medical technology of the future and analytics engine, these sensor-enabled bands will not only enable us to be more aware of our physical and prevention of chronological disorders, they will also help us predict cases such as heart attacks as more data is available for research and a relationship between such parameters’ values and malfunctions is established.
For proper functioning of such a connected world, we need a robust and ultra-fast network able to cope up with the huge demands. It’s true that the devices will add little to the already huge mobile carrier traffic, but they require fast signaling to communicate. An average sensor requires about 2500 transactions to consume 1MB of data. So it isn’t simply about the volume of data consumption in the case of IoT systems, rather the response and latency of the network are of more significance.
5G will build on top of existing 4G networks and hence, investments in new devices will be relatively low. It simply isn’t a case of throwing out old systems to replace them with new. 5G, in fact, complements the existing 4G and Wi-Fi networks and will be a combination of existing and evolving systems.
To start with, mobile operators will have to tap into relatively uncluttered frequency bands- the ones above 3GHz. Present generation phones operate at less than 3GHz.
But as the frequency of the waves is increased, it’s harder to transmit them over long distances. As such, the current long-range macrocells which administer places 20 miles apart will have to be replaced with short-range smart cells which cover areas of about 200 feet. Further, antennas need to be upgraded to the MIMO (Multiple input Multiple Output) ones which send many radio waves at once and utilize beamforming that directs the radio energy in one specific direction.
5G is expected to hit the market by 2020. It is still too early to predict the network penetration of 5G bands, as network operators will be reluctant to invest in devices without prospects of a market that is willing to pay. The future connected world with its millions of sensors will definitely create a new market for mega speedy applications. So get ready to revamp your current apps and systems not to miss out on the opportunities 5G will provide in just 3 years if our renowned IT fortune tellers are right in their predictions.