As with any new, highly-touted technology, 5G is getting tons of media coverage across the spectrum. And rightly so — when it’s rolled out, it will be a truly transformational technology that ushers in the next era of connectivity. But why is 5G special? And what does its possibilities mean for you, your business and the future of work?
To begin with, let’s do a quick digression into what exactly 5G is, so we can understand why it offers such promise to companies of tomorrow.
5G, at its core, is the next generation of wireless connectivity. Much as 3G ushered in the smartphone era, and 4G LTE brought us streaming music and movies into the palms of our hands, 5G is just as huge an upgrade over what we currently use as those leaps were in the past.
5G is much like current cellular networks in that base stations (aka antennas) will be situated throughout dense, urban areas to service devices within range of each antenna. Unlike 4G LTE, though, these base stations will operate at much higher frequencies, and much lower power, meaning it will require a lot more antennas in any given area to provide full coverage.
The reason for this is that to get the vastly higher throughput and lower latency 5G promises means the 5G spectrum will rely on much higher frequencies for transmission (because that part of the spectrum is far more uncluttered presently than the lower bands [i.e. below 7ghz])
To get super-high, multi-gigabit speeds, carriers are first turning to newer, much higher frequencies, known as millimeter wave. Down in the existing cellular bands, only relatively narrow channels are available because that spectrum is so busy and heavily used. But up at 28GHz and 39GHz, there are big, broad swathes of spectrum available to create big channels for very high speeds.PC Mag
The physics of waves also mean that the smaller the actual waves are physically, the shorter the distance before the signal begins to drop off. So, millimeter wave signals — carrying the massive amount of data they will soon transfer — will require more connections to landline, backbone internet. That’s where the many, smaller, lower-power base stations come in (generally outputting 2-10 watts) rather than fewer, more powerful macrocells (which output 20-40 watts as seen with 4G LTE) to offer the multi-gigabit speeds that millimeter wave networks promise.
All this means a lot of infrastructure investment on the part of mobile carriers; but for consumers and companies, when it does become operational, it just means dramatically higher throughput (data speed) and nearly non-existent latency (lag time).
(On the bright side for the carriers, though, “5G home internet is also much easier … to roll out than house-by-house fiber optic lines. Rather than digging up every street, carriers just have to install fiber optics to a cell site every few blocks, and then give customers wireless modems”)
The possible enterprise use cases are nearly endless. If you’re able to reliably achieve 10 GB per second of throughput, which is 1,000 times more than we have today, a 90-minute movie that takes three or four minutes to download on a 4G network would now take 10 seconds to download.
Now, downloading movies isn’t exactly a business use case, but it nicely illustrates the speed increase we’re talking about here. You also can network (or enable consumer devices to network) far more pervasively than before.
The new technology and uncluttered spectrum will help unleash IoT and inter-device connections because far more devices per square kilometer can connect than was possible on 4G.
100,00 devices can be connected per square kilometer with 4G; with 5G, 1 million devices can be connected in the same space.
The way you utilize this atomic jump in throughput and low latency is really up to you and what you’re trying to do, but those abilities can be real game-changers for the future of work.
Robotic surgery has been a part of surgeons’ arsenals for while now. The primary advantage to these machines is that they can get into smaller spaces than surgeons can because human hands aren’t exactly small. But, by and large, surgeries involving robots still require the surgeon and said robot to be in the room together so that the surgeon can see the operation with their own eyes. If latency moves into the 10 millisecond range, which is where 5G is predicted to go, that’s only 3 milliseconds slower than your brain can compute reality — we’re talking real-time that’s so close to actual reality, your brain won’t be able to distinguish the difference. That means doctors could perform robotic surgery remotely, allowing access to better surgeons across the country and the world without you having to leave your town or city.
For companies not in the medical field, this might mean your remote workers can really and truly telecommute in a seamless way. Video conferencing would be high res and instantaneous, enabling workers to work from anywhere and not have to worry about missing meetings because in-person attendants don’t want to fuss with video conferencing that’s too slow, low res or finicky.
For the future of transportation, automated cars will require the speeds and low latency promised by 5G:
The first generation of driverless cars will be self-contained, but future generations will interact with other cars and smart roads to improve safety and manage traffic. Basically, everything on the road will be talking to everything else. To do this, you need extremely low latencies. While the cars are all exchanging very small packets of information, they need to do so almost instantly. That’s where 5G’s sub-one-millisecond latency comes into play, when a packet of data shoots directly between two cars, or bounces from a car to a small cell on a lamppost to another car.PC Mag
Realtime translation apps present another consumer use case. Currently, translation apps have to use natural language processing and artificial intelligence in the cloud to transmit the recordings, wait for the processing, and then transmit it back. With 5G, the near-instantaneous latency means translation could occur in near enough to real time that you could navigate a foreign county with naught but your phone.
Beyond these use cases, the future of business and work are wrapped up in the promise of 5G. The companies who can rethink their business processes as well as envision what’s remotely possible in this brave new world will gain a steep competitive advantage over their rivals and market segments. But only if you understand how to actually harness these promised gains for your benefit.
That’s where we come in. ENO8 specializes in bringing next generation technologies to bear on the industries and companies of today. We are experts in digital transformation — the kind technologies that 5G offer (but will eventually demand as the world catches up). We help companies be first movers on new, innovative technologies so they’re the ones leading the pack, not the ones eternally playing catch up.
If you want to know how 5G can help your business take the next step, give us a shout — we’d be happy to talk with you about what we could build together.