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The promise of 5G mobile networks
It is estimated that by the year 2020, some 50 to 100 billion different devices will be connected to the Internet as society becomes more connected. The massive amounts of data that will be flowing between individuals and devices will have to be accommodated. For this to become a reality, 5G or fifth generation networks are being designed. With this new technology, it would be possible to run wireless data connections at rates of up to 800 Gbps (gigabytes per second).
In 2013, Samsung reported that it was testing a 5G network running at one Gbps. It caused significant excitement. At that speed, it would be possible to download an HD movie in less than half a minute. With a network running at 800 Gbps, 33 HD films could be downloaded in a single second!
The entertainment and social network sectors would certainly be impacted as the present trend in smart television and streaming videos will no doubt see vast improvements in speed and quality. 5G networks will allow for driverless cars to be implemented. These autonomous cars, for safe and effective operation, will be required to be in continuous communication with each other and the infrastructure. House automation and security will also be further enabled as individuals can monitor and control their intelligent appliances and alarm systems from afar.
The practice of remote medicine will also get a big technological boost. One of the limitations that presently exist is the issue of latency; which is the time lag between and action and response. This is typified by the familiar time delay/lag that is experienced in skype and some long distance calls. In remote robotic surgery, it is critical that the latency be similar to that which exists as when the surgeon is operating the robotic device on site.
Ericson predicts that 5G latency will be in the region of one millisecond. This would be 50 times faster than that which is possible with 4G networks and would be unperceivable to the human. In other words, even if the surgeon is not at the location of the operation, he could still operate the robotic surgical device with the same effect as if he was on site.
Though it is projected that full 5G will be established around 2020, several trial networks are envisaged in the interim. Samsung hopes to launch a temporary one for the 2018 Winter Olympic to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Huwei also hopes to implement a version for the FIFA 2018 Soccer World Cup in Moscow. These are giant South Korean and Chinese electronics companies respectively. One positive sign for the development of the 5G network is the co-operation between the large global companies.
The success of this new technology requires not only harmonisation of radio frequencies but a fundamental re-look at the structure of the spectrum. The radio spectrum is split into frequency ranges or bands and these are allocated and reserved for specific communications activities. Thus there are bands for television broadcasts, mobile data and navigation signals etc. This process is overseen by the International Telecommunications Union.
The need for comprehensive restructuring arose from the problems encountered when new technologies were squeezed into the various gaps that exists between frequency bands. The intent is to allow parts of the spectrum facilitate the 5G network data whilst allowing 4G and 3G networks to continue to function. This is necessary as in many countries, including T&T, full 4G capabilities are yet to be fully realised and thus it is realistic to anticipate that we would also lag in the implementation of the proposed 5G technology.
The introduction of this new technology will open up tremendous opportunities for innovation, entrepreneurship and the creation of new businesses. All attempts should be made to enable the country to leverage it for economic growth.
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