There is an awful lot of hype and excitement surrounding 5G. Some people are even talking 6G. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’re knocking on the door of the next generation of wireless, but it’s not yet a reality for the vast majority of consumers. But it is coming, so let’s take a look at why we should get on the 5G bandwagon.
Next Generation Wireless
What is 5G and why do we need it? Let’s start with why. The sheer number of devices we use and the stress put on bandwidth by all these devices demands an upgrade. We’re talking about improvements in speed, coverage, and reliability. Sounds good, right?
So how will 5G achieve what 4G hasn’t? The next generation of wireless will take a new approach. Two major changes include using different kinds of antennas and operating on different radio spectrum frequencies. This will enable more devices to connect to the internet with minimized delays and at breakneck speeds. How fast is fast? At peak speeds in ideal conditions, 5G networks are expected to reach up to 20Gbps for downloads. In layman’s terms, that’s about twenty times faster than today’s 4G LTE-Advanced capabilities. For a deeper dive into 5G, including a brief history lesson and a look to the future, check out the video below.
The Evolution of Wireless
You can think of the difference between 4G and 5G like the difference between tech used by Generation X and Millennials. Or maybe more like the difference between Generation X and Post- Millennials. That’s how fast technology is moving and changing. The 4G network we use now is operating at frequencies below 6 GHz, while 5G uses extremely high frequencies in the 30-300 GHz range. The advantage is that 5G high frequencies are highly directional and can be implemented right next to other wireless signals without causing interference. This focus means less energy and power is wasted. It also means that 5G can support over 1,000 more devices per meter.
Consider downloading a movie. Right now, if a bunch of people in your building download movies simultaneously, the network lags. Bandwidth, or the amount of data that can be moved through a network, is compromised by high traffic. Faster video loads and no lag time is what 5G promises, operating about ten times faster than 4G on average. So even if everyone in your area is downloading movies, you’ll be ready to watch long before the popcorn pops.
5G Network Slicing: Parts of the network can be allotted to specific use cases with priorities given. For example, a rescue drone would have access to ultra-low latency while a connected gas meter doesn’t demand the same kind of quick service.
Not everything about 5G is unicorns and rainbows. Most super-high frequencies work only under ideal conditions. That means clear weather and a direct line-of-sight between the antenna and the device receiving the signal. The frequencies are also delicate in that they’re easily absorbed by humidity, rain, and other objects. Translation: they don’t like rain or walls and the signals don’t travel as far. Ultimately, it will take a lot more transmitters to make 5G work.
The Future is Now
Back to the good stuff. Out in the world, 5G is projected to make a big impact on the IoT. Technology such as smart traffic lights, wireless sensors, and car-to-car communication are all part of what will make driverless cars a reality. When traffic is connected in real time, congestion and accidents can be eliminated. That daily commute sounds more doable when cars can safely travel at 200mph. But cars are just the beginning when it comes to the possibilities.
At home, one 5G router will be able to handle all our devices at once. Smartphones won’t interfere with the wireless thermostat or the video game you’re playing with a VR headset. Tablets and laptops will share a single router without slowdowns. Sounds like a happy and engaged household, right?
When Will 5G Come to Canada?
It’s estimated that by 2023, up to 32% of North American mobile connections will be on a 5G network. There are some 5G phones available now but to reach their full potential, they need a 5G network. As usual, it will take time for the technology and related devices to become widely available and smoothly operational.
There is some global 5G availability, albeit limited. In Canada, Rogers is already staging a 5G field test in the Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto. Testing is also being done in Vancouver. Carriers tell consumers that next year is likely when we’ll see 5G on a more regular basis. Initially, we may see 5G wireless hubs that act as fixed broadband substitutes like the Toronto and Vancouver test sites. As you wait, you can check for updates to see when you’ll be bragging to your friends about your 5G network.
Potential Yet to be Realized
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about 5G is its potential. This technology has been developed with future applications in mind. Things that haven’t even been realized yet. We’re talking virtual and augmented reality, an IoT explosion, and automated vehicles. Transformational is a word often attributed to 5G. People are expecting big things. At Key West Video, we’re looking forward to faster downloads of the videos we’ll undoubtedly make about new 5G enabled services. Bring on the future!