When will 5G be a reality?
When will 5G be a reality?
If you are like most consumers who own a smartphone, the quest for a faster, bigger, better, or even cooler, can be a never ending cycle. We have all heard the hype about 5G and the next generation of technology that will run our devices, including our smartphones, cars, connected devices and so much more. While there has been a steady trickle in 2019 and handful of U.S. cities launched for 5G by the wireless carriers, for the most part, 5G is not readily available and will not be available until sometime in 2020 or after.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson laid out the immediate vision on AT&T’s Q4 earnings conference call stating that “over time, 3 to 5-year time horizon, unequivocally, 5G will serve as a broadband- a fixed broadband replacement product.” Ericsson’s Mobility Report for June, 2019 states that even though the power of 5G is here and will continue to spread across the globe, it could take quite some time. In fact, Ericsson predicts that by the end of 2024, 5G subscriptions will reach 1.9 billion, with 35% of traffic to be carried by 5G networks and up to 65% of the global population could be covered by the technology.
Other industry experts like GSMA Intelligence, the research group for the mobile operators that hosts Mobile World Congress, conservatively estimates that by 2025, 15% of mobile connections in the world will be on 5G and that 5G will simply be a complement rather than a replacement for 4G LTE.
Changing the way in which we live
We’ve also heard that 5G is going to change EVERYTHING. With incredibly fast lightning speeds that increase coverage and overall responsiveness of the mobile networks, what exactly will this mean for us… once we get it that is?
Imagine downloading an entire season of your favorite Netflix or movie series in a matter of seconds. 5G speeds will be 10 to 100 times greater than what you have ever experienced before with max speeds reaching up to 1-10 gigabits per second. So instead of sitting there waiting and waiting for 10 minutes or even up to an hour for something to download, it will download, or upload, seamlessly in just seconds.
But perhaps 5G’s biggest wow factor is really the low latency, or reduced network communication delays, essentially how fast your phone or device reacts and completes what you tell it to do. And with low latency, 5G will allow us to do new things that we have never done before as well as improve in other areas where 4G could never keep up. Possibilities include self-driving cars, factory robots, multi-player gaming from mobile devices and much more.
Video video video
Video resolution will become super crisp and ultra-sharp, so whether you are video conferencing in with your team members, binging on your favorite show, or just chatting with friends, the 5G experience of video in general is going to go way beyond high resolution and sharp images. With 5G, the possibilities exist to actually reinvent how we watch and interact with video with augmented reality and visual imagery at its best. While we watch video with 5G, the technology exists for it to also be watching us. Kind of creepy, right?
So how exactly will this work? When you turn video into a 2 -way conversation, your phone’s front facing camera adjusts to what you are watching and how you are reacting with an ultra-responsive connection with virtually no lag time, so the network is fast enough to react your cues and physical responses. For example, your favorite character’s eyes could be changed to match your eye color to make them more relatable to you and therefore likable, a show’s time of day or weather could be matched up to your environment for sense that you are actually there.
But with all of this futuristic talk of intuitive video comes a whole host of privacy issues, stay tuned on these because with all this eye popping video and somewhat creepy interaction could come a privacy nightmare for many.
There’s been much in the news lately on autonomous cars or self-driving cars with tests by Uber, Tesla, Toyota, Waymo and others in cities like Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Boston. While the general public is still skeptical of the safety of this futuristic technology and self-driving cars becoming a reality, it will be the 5G networks that will bring them.
With 5G, the technology exists to give cars human-like reflexes with very quick reaction times due to the instant nanosecond back and forth connections the network allows, which surprisingly make these cars much safer than human-controlled vehicles.
Perhaps the largest area of growth in these autonomous vehicles are on not on the highway but off the highway with the agricultural, construction and mining sectors with this new way to engineer coming sooner than you think.
But when will these driverless vehicles be here? Many of the automakers believe we are just a few years away while other analysts predict 2024 as the first year of launch for the first models of automobiles with improvements coming in subsequent years.
Remote and smarter healthcare
While 5G promises to transform how we live, work and play, perhaps one of the biggest transformations will come regarding our healthcare. With the speed and reliability of 5G networks comes the ability to transport huge data files of medical imagery. Medical professionals will have the ability to send over PET scan files effortlessly to doctors who may be working remotely, therefore leading to better consultations, evaluations and expert timely patient care at the crucial time when care is needed most.
In the case of wearables, while we currently have all types of devices today that can report data back to physicians regarding a patient’s health and if levels reach various thresholds, but the current 4G networks do not have the ability to keep up with the demand and the instantaneous communication that is needed. 5G will enable these devices through the network to provide a stable and highly reliable source of data to doctors and medical personnel to receive real-time and accurate monitoring of their patients.
But perhaps one of the most exciting impact of 5G on healthcare will be in the area of telemedicine, and in the area of telesurgery. Because of the low latency of 5G, performing a surgery remotely becomes a possibility with 5G paving the way with smaller and better robotics, clear and crisp images and real-time information with no lag in communication. Telemedicine is expected to increase and grow at a rate of 16.5% from 2017 to 2023 due to demands for better healthcare especially in smaller hospitals, rural areas, developing countries and for militaries in combat.
P2P Communication (Peer-to Peer Communication)
In simplest terms, 5G means our devices will communicate with each other, not with the server. The way most internet communication works is information and data is transferred to a central server, for example, the sender may upload pictures to that server and then the recipient downloads the images from that server, many times with a lag time involved. 5G changes this functionality so that your phone or computer is capable of directly communicating with each other.
New 5G devices
In order to connect to the 5G network, you need a 5G phone, the 5G phones have arrived! However, the carrier networks are in various stages of build out of their 5G infrastructure so its best to do your research on devices and most importantly your particular carrier and coverage areas prior to upgrading to 5G. Other parts of the world are also in different stages of launching 5G. Here’s a list of global smartphones that offer 5G connectivity:
- Huawei Mate X
- Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Samsung Galaxy Fold (once it is launched)
- LG V50 THINQ
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 3
- OnePlus7 or OnePlus 7T
- ZTE Axon 10 Pro
- Sony 5G Prototype
- Motorola Moto Z3, Moto Z4, 5G Moto Mod
- Nokia 10
- OPPO R15
Challenges of 5G
We’ve heard about 5G for quite some time, why is it taking so long and what are the challenges carriers face with deploying this new technology? The answer to this is quite complex, so much so that we will address this in another blog soon. However, the network challenges with building out a 5G network include factors like the actual frequency bands themselves and how they are different bands from LTE frequency bands, and the fact that the networks will need to support a huge volume of data. Another challenge of 5G is the buildout of MIMO technology or the simultaneous sending and receiving, beamforming technology or a different way information is delivered to your device.
We can’t talk about 5G without mentioning the fact or limitations that include how the higher frequency bands travel, so even at super- fast speeds, the signals only travel short distances, therefore making building penetration a bit challenging. Trees, double-paned glass, and building structures can block the shorter-waved signals so the network must be designed to account for all of this. Remember when cellular first had handheld devices and you had great coverage outside but the minute you went in a building things changed? Will we be experiencing some of that frustration with the early stages of 5G? Bottom line, the move from 4G LTE to 5G is completely different from earlier network upgrades where 4G replaced 3G, so don’t expect the 5G devices to replace your 4G devices right away once the network is here. In fact, expect 4G and 5G to coexist for quite some time.
Current 5G cities
The list of cities and metropolitan areas the carriers have initially launched 5G networks at the onset seems to be a big step in the right direction with some heavily populated areas making the cut. However, a deeper dive shows that many of these cities have only sections or particular neighborhoods covered with the initial launch so if you live in one of these 5G cities, again, it’s best to check your carrier and their 5G coverage before investing in that 5G smartphone.
Here’s a list by carrier of what has been launched so far, and what is planned if communicated by each carrier:
- CA: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose
- FL: Jacksonville, Orlando
- GA: Atlanta
- IN: Indianapolis
- KY: Louisville
- LA: New Orleans
- NC: Charlotte, Raleigh
- NV: Las Vegas (June 27, 2019)
- OK: Oklahoma City
- TN: Nashville
- TX: Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonia, Waco
- MN: Minneapolis
- IL: Chicago
Verizon initially launched their 5G Home service first, a super-fast WiFi internet service with speeds at 300 bps and peak speeds up to 1 Gbps for your home in a handful of cities. (Sacramento, CA; Houston, TX; Indianapolis, IN; Los Angeles, CA)
Verizon’s 5G mobile network has been launched in parts of the following 4 cities with a long list of cities yet planned:
- Atlanta, GA
- Boston, MA
- Charlotte, NC
- Cincinnati, OH
- Cleveland, OH
- Columbus, OH
- Dallas, TX
- Des Moines, IA
- Detroit, MI
- Houston, TX
- Indianapolis, IN
- Kansas City, MO
- Little Rock, AK
- Memphis, TN
- Phoenix, AZ
- Salt Lake City, UT
- San Diego, CA
- Washington DC
T-Mobile has the year of 2020 targeted as their nationwide roll-out for 5G mobile services. They launched a handful of cities so far:
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
- New York
Sprint has launched the following cities for 5G mobile services:
- Kansas City
- Los Angeles
- New York
- Washington, DC
Waiting for the network to come
5G will mean that everything is on demand, no more buffering and waiting on things to download. Instant experiences, streaming effortlessly, consuming content in real time as we will start to experience the world around us from new and different viewpoints with augmented reality and virtual reality.
While the broad commercial network upgrade to 5G is expected to happen in 2020, 5G will evolve over a period of time and will go through various stages as network operators work to build out and optimize the entire infrastructure. And like anything, the early adopters may experience issues with the new devices, once they are fully available. But for now, it’s not about the devices, it’s about the network and waiting for it to come.