If you keep up with technology news, you’ve probably heard a lot about 5G by now. A lot of people are making some remarkable claims about the next generation of mobile internet. These range from the reasonable to the outlandish, so it can be challenging to know what exactly what 5G networks will look like.
Cellular networks have upgraded before, but the world relies on the internet a lot more now. Look around your work and home life, and you’ll notice that a lot of your devices use the internet. The fifth generation of mobile networks will change nearly everything.
Those are some substantial claims. Here’s a more in-depth explanation about how and why that could happen.
What Makes 5G Networks Different?
Current 4G LTE networks can deliver speeds of up to 300 megabits per second but average out around 15 Mbps. 5G networks, on the other hand, offer 50 Mbps on average, and can go up to 10 Gbps. Keep in mind that these are gigabits, not gigabytes, but those are still some impressive numbers.
The leap from 4G to 5G isn’t just a change in speed, though. It’ll also improve latency, which is how long it takes for data to move from one point to another. While current networks have an average latency of 50 milliseconds, these new ones could drop that to a single millisecond.
Coverage will also look different than previous generations. Many of these new networks use a shorter wavelength, which gives a stronger signal but over shorter distances. Once new infrastructure is in place, that won’t be an issue, but it could mean spottier coverage at first.
This next generation of networks also uses different hardware, both in transmitting and receiving signals. So to enjoy these high speeds and low latencies, you’ll need a new phone.
Changes for Consumers
What will all of these differences look like in your day-to-day life? In the early stages of implementation, you probably won’t notice anything. However, once new towers are more widespread, and you have a new phone, your service will be a lot more reliable.
The most noticeable change will be the speeds you experience. If you have a strong signal, you could download a full-length, full HD movie in two minutes. You could download files over cellular data just as fast or faster than you could over Wi-Fi.
The low latency offered by these networks means streaming and gaming will improve too. You’ll be able to play video games online with virtually no lag or frame rate issues. This advancement could also mean a trend toward game streaming services, where instead of owning a game, you could stream it from a subscription-based library.
These new networks could also influence further smart home adoption. More bandwidth means you can support more devices, so people will likely buy more. As a result, 5G networks could be what brings households into the Internet of Things (IoT) age.
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Changes for Businesses
The next generation in wireless technology could affect the business world even more than consumers. These increased speeds and lower latencies mean more than just opportunities to sell online products or services. They enable companies to revolutionize entire industries.
When these networks are all in place, smart cities could finally become a reality. IoT sensors enable edge computing, which is a necessary step for concepts like self-driving cars. Driverless cars may generate as much as four terabytes of data an hour, so faster, more reliable networks are essential.
If these connections could power driverless vehicles, they’d do wonders for remote-controlled ones. Construction or utility companies could use drones and other remote devices to monitor risky situations from a distance. While these options are available now, 5G networks would make them more reliable.
Businesses can save money with these new connections too. These technologies could reduce energy consumption by 90% within the 5G network. By conserving that much power, companies would make a lot more profit.
How Does It Work?
All of these changes require more than just a software upgrade or two. 5G networks operate differently than the generations before them. Most notably, they need new hardware, like cell towers capable of handling smaller wavelengths.
These networks don’t just use traditional cell towers, either. They involve a system of both central hubs and smaller infrastructure that boosts the signal. Think of it like how you can create a stronger home Wi-Fi signal by using additional routers or range extenders.
5G also comes in three different spectrums: low-, mid- and high-band. Each one offers different levels of coverage and speed. These options will make these networks more versatile and customizable for providers.
The Next Step in Wireless Technology
Companies are already starting to implement these networks, but it’ll be a few years before they’re widespread. When they finally do reach that level, you’ll begin noticing some substantial changes. Since so much of modern life revolves around the internet, changes in connectivity have a ripple effect.
Researchers have likely only scratched the surface of what these networks can do. You may not know what they enable until companies test them and figure it out. Until then, you’ll just have to wait and see what comes next.