Are you ready for the next generation of mobile connectivity? If you are a part of the technology industry, you are likely familiar with the roll-out of the next generation of mobile tech and what it means for the future of technology and communications. For those who aren’t, there is an exciting development in mobile generations currently spreading its way across the globe, reaching into all major UK cities and large town locations - the introduction of the 5G mobile network.
What is 5G?
The 5G network is the next generation of mobile connectivity and comes with a promise of faster speeds, greater latency and an improved capacity for connections. It works in the same way as 4G, making use of signals carried on radio waves that are transmitted between radio masts or antennas and your mobile phone.
However, 5G networks differ in that the waves are at a much higher frequency. While this allows for a greater number of connected devices with less drop-out, the waves are restricted in the distance they can travel, especially in built-up areas, and require a greater number of masts that are closer to the ground in order to maintain a strong connection.
5G is expected to be available across the vast majority of developed countries by the end of 2020. However, when you consider that 4G is still to be introduced to some rural areas in the UK, whether this goal is achievable stands to be seen.
Why is 5G a Big Deal?
As 5G becomes more widely available, we will start to see drastic improvements across internet-connected devices, covering a wide variety of technology from self-driving cars and smart home appliances to health and safety technologies and superfast mobile broadband that almost does away with the need for landlines altogether.
Additionally, anticipated smartphone numbers are expected to reach over 6 billion by 2020.
Ultimately, this means there will be a lot more users browsing online from their phones and businesses will need to ensure they are offering both an efficient online experience and working harder to connect their online presence with real-world customer service to accommodate this.
5G will offer peak speeds that can support up to an amazing 10Gbps, over 1000x what 4G is capable of currently. That doesn’t mean you should instantly head out to your nearest mobile phone supplier for a 5G enabled device based on this figure, however, as all networks will be capped about 10x less in the initial stages of rollout. That being said, EE are estimating speeds of 1Gbps and Three are offering up to 2Gbps on their home-broadband package.
Remember, a Gb (GigaBIT) is not the same as a GB (GigaBYTE)! To contextualise just how fast 5G will be:
- 1Gbps in connection speed is approximately a download speed of 125MB per second, allowing you to
o download a standard 5MB MP3 track in under a second
o download a 350MB HD TV Show in 3-5 seconds, and
o download a 15GB Blu-Ray movie in under two minutes.
With 5G connections comes an improved latency or reduced lag. This is a measurement of the time it takes data to be received at the end destination. To best explain this, consider the process of sending a parcel by registered mail. One-way latency is the time taken for the parcel to go from the sender’s hands to the receiver’s hand. While the round-trip latency is the time between the sender handing over their parcel and the sender then receiving confirmation of the delivery having been made.
By improving both these latency response times, we can see events closer to real-time, such as streamed sports games and concerts and use this faster receipt of information in aspects of safety, such as the highly important decisions made by self-driving cars. Currently, response times on 4G connections are up to 50 milliseconds, while 5G is expected to have a latency of 1millisecond, an improvement of 50x that of 4G.
However, it could be some time before real-world tests show latency times as small as this and the average expected latency on 5G will be around 10ms. In comparison, that is the same amount of time it takes our brains to process information sent from our eyes.
Another excellent advancement with the introduction of 5G connections is increased bandwidth or the greater capacity for simultaneous connections. Currently, while connection speeds are strong in built-up areas and busy cities, the quality of the connection is poor, with many users facing buffering videos and long page-load times. This is due to a restriction on 4G connections for up to 100,000 devices per square kilometre. As 5G rolls out, it’s expected to confidently handle up to 1million connections in every square kilometre, vastly improving connections and services in large business areas and highly populated residential areas.
Expected to be a critical component of the 5G offering, network slicing allows for the creation of multiple virtual networks from a common shared physical infrastructure. These virtual networks can be tailored specifically to different requirements, whether it’s an appliance, customer or device and provide greater cost and energy efficiencies than previous mobile network generations.
Each virtual network that is created can have the speed, capacity, bandwidth and coverage set according to the needs of the connection, completing isolating it from other connections with no interference from traffic received on the common infrastructure. Those using the split virtual network will experience no visible or usage differences, as though they were on their own separate physical connection.