How 5G will change the face of communication

Smart Technologies August 14 Resolve Tech Solutions

Recent years have seen a plethora of Internet-based communication and entertainment choices emerge: streaming video has superseded television for many families, gaming consoles offer real-time multi-player gaming, and devices such as HoloLens[i] are offering immersive AR/VR experiences. However, this demand for interactive and immersive experiences tells just one part of the story. The other part is that Internet-based communication is no longer limited to people but now also encompasses machine-to-machine communication. Emerging use cases of machine-to-machine communication include self-driving cars, drones, and industrial robots.

However, these technologies have not become as popular as their inventors would like them to be. A key hindrance is Internet connectivity: high-speed Internet is generally available only through fixed-line broadband, limiting the ability for these applications to work for consumers on-the-go. 4G LTE, the incumbent standard for mobile data connectivity, has throughput limitations and can support only a few thousand devices per square kilometer[ii]. 

Enter 5G. Although 5G sounds like a mere step up from the current 4G LTE technology, it is, in reality, more transformational. The technology uses millimeter-wave frequencies, which relies on more distributed and smaller antennas for propagation. With smaller cells and larger throughput, 5G can support a greater device density while consuming only a fraction of the power when compared to 4G LTE.

Peak data rates in 5G

Device density supported in 5G

The benefits of 5G are naturally far-reaching. For the consumer, the boost to network speeds itself fulfills the promise of futuristic communication. Ultra-high definition video too would be more easily accessible, especially for the mobile consumer. The true benefits, however, are in more advanced use cases. 5G would enable Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), or communication with equipment that needs to be controlled in real-time – opening the roads for self-driving cars and other mission-critical equipment such as drones[iv]. Another use case that 5G would be well suited for is Massive Machine Type Communication (MMTC), which allows communication with low-power IoT devices & sensors that are densely packed in an industrial environment[v]. It is indeed URLLC and MMTC that can fulfill the promise of Industry 4.0 – the ability to control and manage numerous devices in a low-power distributed environment without the need to draw out bulky ethernet cables. 

Of data transmitted over 5G

Maximum end-to-end latency of data in 5G

5G technology has already arrived with some telecom operators experimenting with limited consumer-internet rollouts. However, the true success of 5G will be evident not with the consumer flashing the next VR gadget, but with the future digital factory that can manage thousands of machines wirelessly in real-time.