5G: What’s the Big Deal and How Will It Change Our Future?
With telecommunications carriers rolling out 5G networks in major cities around the world at a slow yet steady pace, consumers and businesses alike stand to see the promise of faster internet speeds, low latency, and higher bandwidth finally fulfilled.
According to Ericsson’s latest mobility report, 5G subscriptions are predicted to reach 580 million by the end of this year. Moreover, the adoption process is expected to maintain an upward trend in the next five years, amounting to 3.5 billion subscriptions by 2026. Apart from the new subscription, consumers will also need to upgrade their current devices to a 5G-compatible smartphone.
Fortunately, these initial adoption costs are overshadowed by the major impact 5G technology will have on our lives. And there’s more to it than simply enhancing everyday mobile experiences or meeting the post-COVID demand for high-quality connectivity that can support remote working, team collaboration, and online learning.
That is to say, 5G networks will be the main factor driving digital transformation across industries — from manufacturing and healthcare to retail and entertainment — through innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and extended reality (XR). Before we dive into use cases, let’s have a look first at what 5G is and how it works.
What is 5G and how does it work?
5G is the fifth generation of wireless communication technology that enhances the performance and user experience of 4G LTE connections.
In short, 5G networks promise to deliver high data speeds of up to 20 Gbps peak rates, massive network capacity supporting 1 million connected devices per square kilometer, and ultra-low latency of only one millisecond. (Imagine not having to see a YouTube video buffering or an endlessly loading app screen ever again.)
This new technology is designed to operate across a broader spectrum of radio frequencies than 4G networks, being divided into three distinct levels:
- Low-band: Low-band 5G is available on radio frequencies below 1GHz already used for 4G connections, providing the widest coverage up to more remote rural areas.
- Mid-band: Also known as sub-6, mid-band 5G operates at a frequency below 6GHz and is the most widely used, supporting the rollout of 5G’s low latency and high bandwidth in metropolitan areas.
- High-band: High-band 5G or millimeter wave (mmWave) uses high-frequency radio waves to deliver high data speed of multi-gigabytes per second within small, densely populated urban areas.
The hype around 5G networks is due mostly to mmWave’s impressive speeds and bandwidth, which could simultaneously power smart cities, extensive IoT systems, interconnected self-driving cars, and highly realistic VR/AR experiences. Nevertheless, mmWave connections are reliable only across short distances, getting disrupted easily by common obstacles such as windows and trees.
That’s why telecom carriers have to deploy a robust network of small 5G cells within the city instead of relying on cell towers. But there are also a few other alternatives — for example, implementing private 5G networks within the premises of smart factory building could be an advantage in terms of productivity and security.
Is 5G safe?
Chart source: NSW Safe Work
Despite numerous far-fetched conspiracy theories spreading online, some of them even mentioning 5G as the cause of coronavirus, we’re here to tell you that 5G’s radio waves don’t represent a threat to your health.
There are two types of radio waves — ionizing and non-ionizing. While ionizing waves, such as x-rays or gamma rays, are high-energy waves that can damage your DNA and cause serious health issues, non-ionizing waves, like the millimeter waves used by 5G networks, don’t have any harmful effects on human cells and have been given the green light by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)
To dispel the public’s safety concerns, ICNIRP has also recently updated its Guidelines on Limiting Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields, which apply to 5G technologies, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and mobile phones, among others.
How will 5G enable our future?
The amazing capabilities of 5G wireless technologies will unlock new opportunities, including smart factories systems, remote surgical procedures, immersive AR shopping experiences, and VR workplace collaboration. Let’s explore together how 5G supports innovation across top industries.
5G will help manufacturers navigate the fourth industrial revolution by accelerating the implementation of next-generation technology such as automation, AI, and IoT devices and sensors on the plant floor. Once deeply integrated into industrial operations and processes, these technologies will ensure fast access to real-time data, reduced machine downtime, and predictive maintenance.
Moreover, the unrivaled broadband speed and imperceptible latency of 5G networks will enable workers to control, monitor, and reconfigure tethered and untethered robots remotely, removing the need to bring more personnel on-site and maximizing the efficiency of factory assembly lines.
5G connectivity will also power interactive augmented reality training that can cut down learning time and ensure better worker safety. With step-by-step instructions and digital twins, new engineers will be able to complete their tasks more accurately and at record speed. If you want to learn more about this, check out our article on the role of AR in industry 4.0.
We’ve all witnessed how the spread of the coronavirus put unprecedented pressure on worldwide healthcare systems and created a demand for new crisis-related solutions, high levels of connectivity, and more reliable network infrastructures that can handle large amounts of data with little delay.
As PwC states in its 5G in healthcare report, this new technology could help meet the changing needs of both patients and providers more efficiently and affordably and support the 4P approach to medical care (predictive, preventative, personalized, and participatory).
In other words, 5G technology will be a valuable asset that could be used in healthcare areas such as deploying robots in hospital wards, introducing telemedicine for remote patient consultations, powering wearable devices for real-time health monitoring and disease prevention, and even performing remote surgeries.
If there’s one thing that dominates the post-pandemic world of retail, that’s online shopping, particularly mobile shopping. This transition to the online world makes 5G a fantastic opportunity for retailers to create frictionless shopping experiences and adopt innovative technologies that could increase customer engagement and confidence and boost revenues.
Numerous brands have already leveraged AR experiences for preview product placement and virtual try-on as a strategy to personalize the entire buyer journey from browsing products to checkout and help online shoppers find the best item in no time.
These new data-intensive customer interactions will be further enhanced (and made ubiquitous) thanks to the impressive speeds and extensive bandwidth capacity of 5G networks. Furthermore, the positive impact of 5G technology is felt all the way down the value chain, including warehouse IoT infrastructures and logistical processes.
5G will provide consumers with richer media experiences and new types of entertainment across a wide range of devices. For example, live sports experiences will become more immersive and personalized, providing viewers at home with increased control over the game’s presentation so that they can see what happens on the field from multiple camera angles.
On the other hand, fans watching the game from the stadium could use AR or MR wearables to overlay player information on top of their real-world view or access instant replays of important moments even as the game continues.
This is our favorite part of the 5G saga, and for good reason (and it’s not only because the metaverse keeps popping up in the news). 5G is expected to accelerate the mass adoption of augmented and virtual reality and solve the current limitations of 4G connections, such as slow data transfer speed and jarring latency.
With powerful 5G connections, VR and AR applications can deliver seamless on-the-go experiences that can, in turn, accelerate digital transformation in the business world. Things like VR training and VR onboarding will help employers attract and retain top remote talent in a highly competitive market.
5G: Building the connectivity of tomorrow
As 5G is becoming commercially available in more countries across the globe, we start to get a better picture of how this new wireless technology will impact top growing industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, and retail.
What we can say for sure is that, by enhancing the connection between individuals, data, and devices, 5G takes everyday business processes and interactions to another level and encourages the development and implementation of innovative solutions such as AI, IoT, and VR/AR.
At Flint Tech, we pride ourselves on helping our clients take advantage of the latest immersive technologies on the market by identifying the best use cases for their business and turning ideas into first-class applications. Schedule a quick call with one of our experts to find out more.