The last several decades have seen major advances in mobile technology infrastructure: Moments that have transformed how we connect and communicate with one another. 2G, 3G, and 4G have all been part of this. By 2020, the GSMA, a governing body that represents the world’s mobile operators, hopes to enjoy another advancement: the 5G era. And that’s very good news for businesses and consumers alike.
Former director general of GSMA, Anne Bouverot can see into the future and suggests that it’s going to be even more connected than we could ever have imagined. “We’re already starting to talk about the transition to 5G and it doesn’t even exist yet,” explains Bouverot.
“The real challenge with current infrastructures (4G) is that they limit how much data we can transmit. These limitations are something we want to try to eradicate through 5G.”
And eradicate them they shall. 5G is expected to deliver 1Gbps speeds with <10ms latency ushering in an era of unprecedented connectivity.
For this to become a reality, infrastructure will have to keep up too. By 2020, we could have as many as 100 billion devices connected to the internet. That’s a lot of traffic so connections will have to run on different frequency bands. Raising the capacity of a network is a lot like extending a highway. If you add more lanes, more cars can go through. Ordering the lanes will make it more efficient: some lanes will be used exclusively for local traffic, others for long-distance.
We’ll also see advances in antenna technology. This seemingly trivial development is actually crucial for 5G to be as revolutionary as everyone expects. Think about an autonomous car that’s using the 5G network to take you where you want to go. What happens if the connection suddenly drops? Disaster. And new technology will rely on the lower latency. Think about the surgeon, operating on someone using a robot from thousands of miles away. It’ll be critical that the latency is negligible so that the procedure can be performed unabated. And this, of course, is all we can foresee today – like many tech innovations, they end up being used for far more than what they were originally intended.
Accurate device positioning will also be possible with 5G. And location-based services are becoming increasingly important, particularly from a marketing perspective.
The 5G network is also set to be supremely reliable, giving users unrestricted connectivity. This is great for consumers but even better for marketers. People will be able to make online purchases from anywhere. But the reliability will also help other industries and many predict the rise in popularity for machine-to-machine communications.
Essentially, systems beyond 2020 will need to be flexible enough to accommodate all of the diverse use cases without increasing the complexity of management – the highway from earlier will have to be adaptable to allow for vehicles from every industry to use it.
While self-driving cars and sports watches that monitor our fitness are already a reality, these are just the first infant steps on the road towards 5G and its ramifications for the IoT. To make the network a reality, the GSMA is pushing research around the world. Operators, vendors and research institutes are collaborating to define what 5G will look like. And of course, a standardization of technology will need to happen so that every device can access the network.
While the potential of 5G is enormous, the network will likely take several years to be implemented globally. Different generations exist in parallel to each other for long periods of time, as 2G, 3G, and 4G have shown us. If you’re interested in other trends that are disrupting the mobile market, then read our latest article on the subject.