5G is the newest generation of mobile communications technology. It’s faster and has lower latency than 4G, which is a significant improvement for wireless technology. In this article, we share views from various experts from the telecoms operator, vendor, and analyst communities to get a consensus on 5G’s definition and significance.
What is 5G?
To begin, let’s clarify 5G’s definition. Phil Kendall, the Executive Director of Service Provider Group at TechInsights, describes 5G as a faster and more responsive wireless technology. Huawei Technologies Vice President Andy Purdy says 5G is a new technology that enables vast amounts of data to travel faster than ever, using higher frequency radio waves on new frequency bands. The result is ultra-reliable connectivity to billions of devices with near-zero waiting time, while using ten times less energy per bit of data than 4G.
5G offers greater capacity, allowing thousands of devices in a small area to be connected simultaneously. It also has lower latency, meaning a 5G network is more responsive. This lower latency is a key new feature of 5G, but how it will be best used has yet to be seen. The telecoms industry offers typical use cases, such as long-distance remote control, autonomous vehicles, and wireless access to the metaverse through augmented and virtual reality peripherals.
Greater flexibility and access to the network are also considered key 5G innovations, thanks in part to the fact that true 5G, also known as ‘standalone (SA),’ has recently started its rollout. Greg McCall, Chief Networks Officer at UK operator group BT, says that 5G standalone networks will see the realization of cutting-edge consumer use cases in VR and AR and powerful enterprise use cases to support Industry 4.0 objectives.
Why should you care about 5G?
So, why should you care about 5G? Paul Kells, Director of Network Strategy & Engineering at UK operator group Virgin Media O2, says the real reason consumers should care about 5G is not because of what it offers today, but about what it could offer in the future. As our hunger for data continues to grow, and new use cases come to the fore, we need to be ready to meet those data needs head-on.
BT’s McCall explains that 5G is the mobile technology that is best suited to support modern applications like live streaming and online gaming, which have grown significantly in popularity. But 5G is also enabling the creation of more sustainable mobile networks and is a key component in closing the digital divide – helping connect more people and unlock economic growth.
While 5G has some benefits for consumers, beyond the speed bump, Kendall believes that to the extent that 5G is just a faster version of 4G, the average consumer probably doesn’t and shouldn’t care too much today. In countries with good 4G connectivity, watching YouTube or Netflix on a six-inch screen has not been a user experience pain point that 5G needed to fix.
Business case for 5G
One of the most immediate benefits of 5G for businesses is the ability to create private networks that are more secure, reliable, and customizable than traditional Wi-Fi networks. These private networks can be tailored to specific business needs, allowing companies to prioritize critical traffic and control every aspect of connectivity. This is particularly useful in industries that rely on sensitive data and require high levels of connectivity, such as healthcare, manufacturing, transport, energy, and smart cities.
In addition to private networks, 5G has the potential to transform a wide range of industries by digitalizing processes and increasing efficiency. For example, in manufacturing, 5G can enable real-time monitoring of production lines, allowing for predictive maintenance and reducing downtime. In healthcare, 5G can enable remote patient monitoring and telemedicine, providing better access to healthcare services for patients in remote areas. In smart cities, 5G can facilitate better traffic management and reduce congestion.
Another key benefit of 5G is its low latency, which enables faster and more responsive communication between devices. This is particularly important in applications such as autonomous vehicles, where split-second decisions can be a matter of life and death. In addition, the increased bandwidth of 5G allows for higher quality video streaming and other data-intensive applications.
While it’s difficult to identify a single “killer app” for 5G, there are a number of emerging applications that could be transformative. For example, extended reality (XR) applications, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR), have the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with digital content. XR applications can be used in a wide range of industries, from gaming and entertainment to education and training.
Another potential application for 5G is remote learning, which could benefit from the immersive experiences that XR technology can provide. By creating virtual environments that mimic real-world scenarios, students can gain hands-on experience in a safe and controlled environment.
Overall, the business case for 5G is compelling. By providing faster, more reliable, and more secure connectivity, 5G has the potential to transform a wide range of industries and enable new business models and applications. While the full impact of 5G is still to be realized, it’s clear that the technology will play a critical role in the digital transformation of businesses and society as a whole.
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