How Close Are We To 5G?
It’s worth clearing up that no standards have been agreed upon yet for what 5G means exactly. Professor Rahim Tafazolli, Director of the 5G Innovation Centre and Institute of Communication Systems at Surrey University says that “5G will intelligently understand the demands of users in real time, dynamically allocating network resources depending on whether the connected device needs voice or data connectivity.”
But one thing is for sure, we can safely assume that 5G simply means “an improvement on 4G”.
It was a similar story during the transition from 3G to 4G. The International Telecommunication Union realised that genuine 4G, as a telecommunications expert may define it, was difficult for a large number of companies to produce on a national scale. So whilst there was mention of target speeds of 100Mbps initially to qualify for the 4G label, the organisation changed their definition and said a company could claim it was providing 4G if their service offered a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities over 3G.
How will 5G work?
It will use MiMo technology (multiple input multiple output). MiMo uses several small antennae for each data stream. It seems oddly retro whilst at the same time offering people massive amounts of data in a short space of time. What is more impressive is that the technology appears to be scalable. There are several antennae now, but it will not be long before there are thousands. It will be like watching the evolution of the transistor all over again (God bless Moore’s law).
Will 5G be expensive?
Yes. The cost per megabyte has been falling from the year 2008, but companies are estimating that they’ll have to spend in excess of $300bn on the 5G infrastructure and technology (and that cost is eventually going to roll down onto the consumer). Many companies are going to jump on the bandwagon, but without government help and initiatives there’s a chance it won’t become nationally available.
How will 5G be provided?
With difficulty, potentially, if 3G and 4G rollouts were any indication. The difference with the launch of 5G however is that it is likely to involve the use of a large number of base stations, macro sites and smaller stations in order to provide better coverage for all users, wherever they are.
Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian minister for communications, said that one day soon we might see a 5G base station in every home or on every lamppost. The Australians are seemingly trialling a system with numerous base stations in a variety of locations. If it works for them, then you may soon have a base station in your own home or business.
Some of the benefits of 5G
Online media that is out of sync would be a thing of the past, and video calls will finally be seamless. It will also put an end to laggy apps and impatient waits. However perhaps the most interesting benefit would be the boost it would give to the ‘internet of things’. Defined as ‘the network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data.’ (Wikipedia) it’s something to get excited about, especially since Gartner have estimated that 25 billion things will be connected in 2020. Proudly, Glasgow is also at the forefront with the launch of the recent street lights initiative.
Companies may have a tough time convincing people that 5G is worth paying for if they already enjoy 3G and 4G, but that’s not all. There are currently no commercially available mobile devices on the market that could accept and correctly use 5G. Users would have to buy brand new mobile devices in order to use the 5G connection, and for the next while, it’s looking like there will be limited coverage.
Maybe 5G is not something to get too excited about just yet.
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