Do you ever find yourself stuck trying to load a page on your cell phone's 3G connection? As the "Loading" wheel spins away, it doesn't take long to remember just how lucky you are to have that 4G LTE connection. With details already circulating about the 5G networks of the future, many people are looking forward to receiving yet another speed boost for their smartphones, especially as they stream more music and videos via their mobile devices. While most consumers would probably be content with similar improvements as those they got between the last two generations of cellular data, 5G promises to revolutionize the way people connect wirelessly, leaving the worlds of 3G and 4G far behind.
There is no set standard outlining what strictly qualifies as "5G technology," but the term is rather used to describe anything contributing to the next generation in mobile communication technology. And, although wireless carriers are already testing their innovative networks, the 5G era is not set to begin for another four to five years. In the meantime, however, there is plenty we can glean about how the 5G technology will change the way we think about communication.
Yes, it will be fast...
First and foremost, the next-gen network will be significantly faster than its 4G predecessor. That, itself, is rather unremarkable, however, as every previous jump in wireless data technology has also ushered in an uptick of the mobile speed limit. What deserves note this time around is the sheer magnitude with which 5G could boost speeds. AT&T says the 5G networks it will test later this year could yield speeds as much as 10-100 times faster than 4G LTE, while Verizon expects its next-gen networks to run about 30-50 times quicker than existing mobile networks.
"5G networks could yield speeds as much as 100 times faster than 4G LTE."
This massive of an increase in speed would be unprecedented, says market researcher and business journalist Gary Kim, and would place wireless networks on par with wired connection for the first time.
"4G technology operated at 12-20 mbps," Kim explained. "5G standards will jump that up to 1000 mbps. That's faster than a cable modem, which can only get you 500 mbps. What that means is that the range of applications you can use a mobile network for will be radically different than anything we have done in the past."
...but that's not all
While the qualitative nature of this shift is undeniably impressive, Kim says, the resulting qualitative shift is what will truly define 5G. With wireless networks able to send and receive so much information so rapidly, businesses will be able to tap into an ever-growing stream of data from connected devices with increasing precision and efficiency.
The so-called Internet of Things is already made up of some 15 billion devices sending and receiving data across the world, but that number is expected to skyrocket to about 50 billion by 2020, according to a report by Cisco and DHL. The load these devices would place on an existing 4G network would be unimaginable, but 5G technology would allow them to communicate with us and with one another with extremely low latency. This responsiveness is critical as we begin to use IoT devices and sensors for controlling applications like self-driving cars and remotely-controlled robotics, but even more so as devices begin to communicate increasingly with one another.
After all, 5G is the first system designed not with consumer communication in mind, but for machine-to-machine communication, according to Kim. In the 5G world, tiny sensors on our cars, clothes, streets and sheets could feed real-time information to our phones or personal assistants, reports TechRadar, allowing us to extending our connected consciousness beyond just our brains and smartphones into everything we interact with.
"No longer reliant on modems, companies will become more agile, responsive and resilient."
Moving beyond the wire
As exciting as this future would be for consumer-oriented products and applications, it would be equally transformative for the way enterprises operate internally. "With suddenly blinding wireless speed," says Kim, "business' most important question will become: 'Do I need a wire for any of my applications?'" With companies no longer reliant on modems for their Internet connections, they will become more agile, responsive and resilient. Plus, by connecting devices to one another on the 5G network, businesses will be able to build even more responsive and robust internal applications, improving dramatically upon the ERP and CRM systems they already use.
No matter where the technology is put to use, there remains little doubt that a mobile network 100 times faster than we have ever seen will have a profound effect on the way we think about connectivity forever after.
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