Downloading a complete movie in less than three seconds, playing a video game on the street, using a virtual reality application connected directly to a mobile phone or downloading an extremely complex 3D model without delay…
For a society that is just getting used to working via video calls and has become tolerant of frozen images or audios that disappear without warning, these promises seem utopian. However, this is only a small portion of the potential that exists around the telecommunications technology known as 5G.
From a technical point of view, this innovation ensures the exponential decrease of latency (time that takes for a data packet to be transmitted over the network). The 100 millisecond delays of a 4G connection could become less than a millisecond, and speeds could approach 10Gbps maximums.
These are not futuristic estimates: the technology has already been commercially deployed in some countries since December 2018 and initial results are living up to expectations.
Business use cases
5G technology represents a significant breakthrough for enterprises, which will no longer present barriers of any kind to plan data-intensive applications without restrictions: from complex reporting to advanced artificial intelligence algorithms, everything can run on any device, anywhere, with a great user experience.
Among other things, it is expected to drive the exponential adoption of IoT (internet of things), especially since one of the technology’s features is that it enables the networking of a million devices per square kilometer.
The preventive maintenance of machinery in a factory can be controlled in real time from a tablet; while from a cab, an executive can prevent theft in his store thanks to a camera system combined with a machine learning and video analytics engine that detects suspicious movements.
In addition, natural resource companies, such as mining, oil or energy producers, can digitize their end-to-end processes without friction. Healthcare on the other hand, has the potential to leverage telemedicine to the extreme.
In everyday life, this will also mean more devices and appliances connected to the network: from a refrigerator capable of ordering from the supermarket as the levels of its products inside drop, to an oven that can be controlled remotely.
Many of the innovations that could emerge from 5G are still in the development stage or have not even been thought of, including autonomous vehicles, the detection of suspicious people in crowded public places (such as an airport), speakers who give lectures from home in the form of a hologram, or surgeons who operate thousands of kilometers away with great accuracy.
Smart cities, with optimized transportation, waste and resource management (such as water or energy use) and the control of public elements (such as lighting) are closer to becoming a reality.
An expanding network
The other impact expected from the deployment of 5G is a greater extension of the network to places that have always been difficult to reach.
On the one hand, this technology is enhanced by edge computing, which proposes to process data where it is produced, avoiding the transfer between the device that generates it and the data center within the organization. Both edge and 5G pursue similar goals: greater speed and better experience. The combination of both results in higher performance.
The other key concept is peer-to-peer, whereby network operators will be able to use users’ devices and use them as if they were servers, of course protecting people’s privacy and ensuring that their own performance is not affected. Therefore, the more users, the higher the network performance and the higher the level of coverage, especially if the devices are distributed.
A time of great news is coming with 5G. And like any disruptive technology, it will bring with it many challenges but also countless opportunities.