Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
The mobile industry is beginning to experiment with new 5G data technology, and the results are mind-blowing. Some early tests have achieved 1 Terabit per second (Tbps) speeds — enough to download 10 full-length feature films in under a second. Seriously.
Fifth generation mobile data networks will eventually replace our current 4G technology, which operates at a comparatively slower 15 Mbps. It’s expected to revolutionize mobile technology as well as the Internet of Things (IoT), and it’s just five years away.
Mobile data use is expected to blow up over the next few years. From smartphones and tablets to connected cars and smart home devices, there will be more things connected to the Internet than ever before. Our current 4G networks won’t be able to support the Internet of Things at scale. 5G, on the other hand, could theoretically manage connections for 7 trillion devices — meaning everyone on Earth would have to have around 1,000 connected devices to overload the network.
Beyond that, 5G networks will be more energy efficient, saving up to 90% power consumption compared to current systems.
And yes, it will be fast. If speed is your concern, in just a few years you may be inclined choose a wireless 5G connection over a wired connection. We’re talking about something thousands of times faster than anything currently available wirelessly.
“We have developed 10 more breakthrough technologies and one of them means we can exceed 1Tbps wirelessly,” Professor Rahim Tafazolli, director of 5GIC, told V3. “This is the same capacity as fiber optics but we are doing it wirelessly.”
To be fair, these speeds were achieved in a test environment over a distance of 100 meters — so it’s unclear precisely how much of that performance will scale. However, it’s safe to say that it will be much faster than anything we’ve used before.
The next-generation networks will utilize multiple input multiple output (MiMo) technology, which utilizes a set of small antennae to manage each individual data stream. Each user is served by a separate antenna, which alleviates the problem of cluttering the available radio spectrum with many competing devices: each antenna will talk to only one device.
In the past, obstacles and distance have caused problems for wireless connectivity. But the FCC and major industry players have found hope in a high-energy spectrum colloquially known as “millimeter waves,” due to their high frequency. In the 24 gigahertz range, signals could be effectively bounced around obstacles.
The industry has a few hurdles to overcome if it wants to make 5G tech a reality.
One such issue is the availability of spectrum. The amount of spectrum allocated to 5G will determine the speed of future networks based on the technology. For 5G networks to reach the speeds that proponents are promising, operators will need significantly more bandwidth. According to Computerworld, the World Radiocommunication Conference in Geneva this November will be the first step to solving that problem. Operators hope the conference, organized by the International Telecommunications Union, will set aside spectrum for 5G, enabling the next-generation service.
It’s also imperative that 5G networks be developed to be more inclusive than previous protocols. For example, 4G wasn’t developed to handle the types of traffic that it handles today. With the growing popularity of wearable tech, smart home devices, and Internet-connected vehicles, the industry has had to adjust the technology to optimize it for a variety of new applications. With 5G, the goal is to be all-inclusive and ready for everything from day one.
“You don’t want to be too late to understand that some part of the network is breaking down when all the cars in Germany are depending on it,” said Eric Kuisch, technology director at Vodafone Germany. Professor Rahim Tafazolli, director of the 5G Innovation Centre at U of Surrey, concurs:
“An important aspect of 5G is how it will support applications in the future. We don’t know what applications will be in use by 2020, or 2030 or 2040 for that matter, but we know they will be highly sensitive to latency […] We need to bring end-to-end latency down to below one millisecond so that it can enable new technologies and applications that would just not be possible with 4G.”
With everything from gaming to connected cars depending on 5G, near-zero latency will be a must. That kind of performance would even enable wireless virtual reality glasses that stream experiences directly from your PC, without nauseating latency.
Are You Ready?
The applications of 5G technology are endless. It’s going to shake up the telecom industry and enable all sorts of new innovation. Are you excited about 5G networks? What applications do you see for such high-speed and low-latency connections? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!