5G promise blazing fast speeds with low latency. We’re talking multiple times faster than what our phones get right now. Everyone is excited about the possibilities, and phone makers are ramping up their PR about the newest top-of-the-line phones that are ready for it.
Despite that, it looks like we’re a long way off from really getting a 5G network that works well and has plenty of coverage. Manufacturers are struggling with the technical side of a 5G phone, especially size and power usage, and carriers need to build the physical infrastructure to make it work.
5G Is More Than Phones
But 5G technology isn’t just about how we use our smartphones (though that’ll be super cool). 5G networks have a lot more potential than our current system to go beyond simply phones into more aspects of our lives.
What makes the new 5G network so big a deal? Three things: Latency, speed, and connections. Latency is the time it takes the network to react to a signal from your mobile device. 4G networks took as long as 9 milliseconds, but 5G will go as fast as 1.
The speed boost is also huge. 4G has a theoretical maximum of 100 Mbps while 5G could go as fast as 10Gps. That’s a hundred times faster than 4G. While we won’t see actual performance that meets those theoretical maximums, 5G’s speed boost is going to be huge.
5G also has more capacity for simultaneous connections. Current mobile networks broadcast 4G in a crowded band. 5G has been given a relatively unused signal band, which means that there’s a lot more potential for growth. Also, 5G towers cover less space, so there will be more of them. More towers means more possible connections.
5G Home Internet
5G home internet is really exciting, especially because it may be the closest to arriving in a city near you. Verizon has already begun testing it in various cities with other networks not far behind. Verizon offers:
- Low Cost: $50/month for people with a Verizon phone plan and $70/month for everyone else.
- Fast Speeds: They estimate speeds between 300Mbps and 940Mbps.
- No Data Caps: Truly unlimited data for your home
If you’re like most people, you hate having to deal with the cable company. 5G home internet will challenge the cable/DSL marketplace with a new competitor who is willing to push down price and upgrade service. Even if you don’t switch, cable companies will have to respond in kind.
The Internet of Things
You’ve probably heard about the internet of things, or IoT. You may have seen refrigerators that will send you a photo of its contents while you’re grocery shopping. Maybe you’ve heard of the smart home security cameras or motions sensors. 5G will expand those kinds of consumer goods.
5G is going to go way beyond those next, best gadget. Low latency, more connections, and fast speeds may make data connections ubiquitous. You may see them in manufacturing for more flexibility. Farmers will be able to monitor their tractors in real time, and the tractor may be able to do the work by itself.
We’ll see 5G in self-driving cars. Because 5G has only a 1ms lag, self-driving cars will be able to quickly sense other 5G enabled cars through their data connection and make corrections quickly.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Virtual reality and augmented reality devices are currently interesting, but they don’t have broad appeal. We’ve seen some AR applications, like Pokemon Go, but it’s far from it’s potential.
Part of the reason mobile connectivity, especially for AR. When an application has to interact with the world at real time, it takes a ton of connection speed and processing power. Not only does the device have to download data, it will also have to detect and interact with the world as you pass it.
This is where 5G can fix that. Low latency will mean that AR device connections won’t lag like they would with 4G, and the speed will make cloud processing possible. Imagine a smart car with a heads-up display that gives you turn-by-turn directions with arrows hovering over the streets.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of new 5G networks is what we don’t know and can’t predict. Who would have thought that a 4G network would let us call a ride in just a few minutes? It totally disrupted the taxi industry and made everyone’s experience better.
Everything mentioned above is just an incremental improvement over things we already do. Faster download speeds. More IoT. Safer self-driving cars. It’s just a boost to existing tech.
We can’t know what the innovators of the future will create, what 5G’s possibilities will allow. But we can get excited while we wait to see what happens. 5G is such a drastic performance improvement that we won’t know how great it will be until we get there.