What Is 5G and How Will It Better Our Life

What Is 5G and How Will It Better Our Life

In a few years, you may be able to download a full-length HD movie to your phone in a matter of seconds rather than minutes. And video chats will be so immersive that it will feel like you can reach out and touch the other person right through the screen.

 

What Is 5G and How Will It Better Our Life

At least, that’s what the wireless companies envision for the future of mobile. While many parts of the world are still awaiting the rollout of 4G networks, the telecom industry is already looking ahead to the next generation of cellular technology, called 5G.

 

What is 5G

What Is 5G and How Will It Better Our Life: what is 5G

The “G” in 3G, 4G and 5G stands for “generation.” So 5G will be the fifth generation of wireless network technology.

The standards for 5G have not yet been set. According to Bill Smith, president of AT&T’s (T, Tech30)network operations, 5G will likely be defined in 2018, and the standards for 5G will codified sometime in 2019 by the standards-setting International Telecommunication Union, a branch of the United Nations. The standards will determine which wireless technologies can be called “5G,” as well as what its characteristics must include, such as how fast it will be.

Still, it’s possible to make a very educated guess about what 5G will look like based on the emerging 5G technologies that the wireless industry is experimenting with.

Here’s the elevator pitch: 5G will be faster, smarter and less power-hungry than 4G, enabling a slew of new wireless gadgets. 5G will let us have faster smartphones, more smart-home devices and longer-lasting wearable gizmos.

 

How fast will 5G be?

What Is 5G and How Will It Better Our Life: how fast will 5G be

5G has the potential to offer speeds up to 40 times faster than 4G — fast enough to stream “8K” video in 3-D or download a 3-D movie in about 6 seconds (on 4G, it would take 6 minutes).

Unfortunately for consumers, there’s a difference between lab experiments and reality. Peak speeds are fun to dream about, but in the real world, actual speeds are much slower than promised.

Nokia (NOK), one of the biggest 5G players, believes that its 5G technology will allow for real-world speeds of about 100 Megabits per second when the network is most congested — that’s about four times faster than 4G’s top speed.

Another characteristic of 5G is that it will have ultra-low latency, meaning that it could drastically reduce the amount of time it takes for the network to respond to your commands. That could give the appearance of much faster loading websites, apps, videos and messages.

 

How does it work?

What Is 5G and How Will It Better Our Life: how does it work

There are already huge consortiums of major global telecoms working to create worldwide standards around 5G. Although most of those standards haven’t been solidified, experts expect it to be backwards compatible (with 4G and 3G) in addition to having some interoperability across the world.

In their most basic form, cell phones are basically two-way radios. When you call someone, your phone converts your voice into an electrical signal. It transmits that electrical signal to the nearest cell tower using radio wave. The cell tower bounces the radio wave through a network of cell towers and eventually to your friend’s phone. The same thing is happening when you send other forms of data (like photos and video) across the network.

Typically when a new mobile wireless technology comes along (like 5G), it’s assigned a higher radio frequency. For instance, 4G occupied the frequency bands up to 20 MHz. In the case of 5G, it will likely sit on the frequency band up to 6GHz. The reason new wireless technologies occupy higher frequencies is because they typically aren’t in use and move information at a much faster speed. The problem is that higher frequency signals don’t travel as far as lower frequencies, so multiple input and output antennas (MIMOs) will probably be used to boost signals anywhere 5G is offered.

 

How much is 5G going to cost me?

Both Huawei and Nokia agreed that 5G can’t cost too much more than what consumers are paying now for 4G; otherwise, no one’s going to adopt the technology. But it’s really too early to say how much 5G devices and services will cost.

 

When will we get 5G?

What Is 5G and How Will It Better Our Life: when is 5G coming

None of these questions are going to be answered any time soon. The industry’s consensus is that it will run 5G experiments in South Korea during the 2018 Winter Olympics, with mass deployments beginning sometime in 2020.

Yet Verizon (VZ, Tech30) has said that it is working on 5G technology with the aim of bringing it to market much sooner — as early as 2017.

With all the questions surrounding 5G and all the wrinkles that need to be ironed out, it’s exceedingly unlikely that anything Verizon does will be widely deployed. For example, the smartphone makers will need to develop chips that are capable of sending and receiving 5G signal without driving costs significantly higher.

 

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