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5G is coming… 5G is coming… by 2020?

The smartphone and 4G networks changed the world. People accessed the internet in droves, new apps sprouted along with social media sites. Such ease of internet access revolutionized communication and commerce.

Will 5G be the next disruptive technology to come down the line? And, what is 5G exactly?

5G stands for fifth generation and is the latest advancement in cellular technology. 5G is expected to be a lot faster, handle more capacity and have lower latency than prior technologies like 3G and 4G.

5G ‘s capabilities are created by using higher frequency radio waves along with advanced antenna equipment. Higher frequencies work well over short distances to move massive amounts of data quickly, but don’t perform well over wider areas and through objects such as walls. As a result, we will see many smaller cell antennas that work together to send and receive data. The connected home will be among the first locations to see 5G in action.

What makes 5G so great and why do we need it?

The push for this next generation of connectivity is being driven from the desire to connect any device with an on/off button to the internet, termed Internet of Things (IoT).  The research firm Gartner predicts the number of networked devices to skyrocket from about 5 billion today to 25 billion by 2020, and that number could be even higher. This includes dishwashers, hair dryers, pet collars and cameras, etc. A whole new realm for manufacturers to produce and sell goods.

Device manufacturers will be a driving force behind the need for 5G along with our desire to distribute and consume large amounts of higher resolution video. 5G will enable the following technologies:

  • Projection of augmented and virtual reality into the real world via the windshield of our car, glasses or watches. As we walk, directions appear and competitor product pricing is overlaid on items we ponder buying.
  • Self-driving cars or other products that need low latency. Live video streams not just from content providers but from people sharing everyday activities. Grandparents will be able to watch the big soccer game without leaving their house.
  • Non-existent buffering and increased ability to download videos. 5G technology is aiming at 10Gbps speeds . To put this into perspective, downloading an hour long video at the average bitrate of 5 to 6 Mbps over 4G takes about 6 mins and with 5G will take less than 5 seconds! Even 4K that uses about 25 Mbps will be downloaded under 20 seconds!

Why would the carriers move?

Carriers like Verizon and AT&T will need to enhance existing infrastructure to support 5G, costing them billions of dollars during the process. These improvements would not be done if there wasn’t a mechanism to gain back the investment and turn a profit. 10 gig data plans will quickly turn into 100+ gig plans as 10 gig of data will be easily consumed within an hour watching a 4k movie. The carriers are also betting on an increase in their subscribers as the IoT takes hold and people and pets are constantly accessing the internet as they are on the go.

2020 is the magic year that is being estimated for early use of the technology but we could see it used even sooner as KT in South Korea is gearing up to offer 5G during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Will this technology truly change the world? Will 4k finally become the de facto video standard? It will be interesting to see the disruptive technologies previously unimagined 2020 brings. One thing we can be certain of: It won’t be too long before consumers and industry clamor for solutions that require 6G.

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