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Exciting new opportunities with the 5th generation of wireless networks on the horizon

Impressive efforts invested by resourceful companies may soon be ushering in the new age of 5g wireless networks. The massive technical improvements over the previous generation, 4g, attract many innovative companies looking for new sources of revenue and business applications. With the myriad of opinions and predictions about what 5g will really do for us, it’s time to take a look at some of the most promising and anticipated applications 5g networks enable.

First let’s look at the main improvements 5G has over the previous generation and how they’re achieved, so as to better grasp how new business opportunities become viable.

5G Improvements

Latency or ping:
In layman’s terms, it’s the time it takes for your packet to reach its destination. In the networking world it’s usually measured in terms of milliseconds. Since there are switches, satellites and intercontinental cables that signals have to travel to get to many parts of the internet, what’s called a “ping” is used to define absolute latency.

4G(LTE) specifications state a latency of 50ms as opposed to 5g’s proposition of <1ms latency. Keep in mind this is not end-to-end latency (ping) but the latency defined in specifications for the radio-to-radio air interface. This means that although 5g moves to all but eliminate latency for radio waves, there will still be other inefficiency’s in the network – be it the underlying service provider’s infrastructure or extra hops between the source and destination. This all translates to real world end-to-end latency’s of around 300ms (average) for service providers utilizing LTE in the United States. Given that humans cannot perceive changes <10ms, outside of machine-to-machine anything <50ms should be good enough, even in the most demanding current user applications like gaming.

When it comes to speed, the more the merrier- but here’s the thing, there’s only so much usable spectrum and this severely limits possible advances in this area. It’s now become a crucial balance between speed and distance, since the higher frequencies (smaller waves=more bit density) are more susceptible to obstacles like trees and walls. This decimates –  and I’m using the very literal definition of the word here (to cut by 1/10) - the reach of high-speed 5g wireless signals in comparison to LTE. This has led to the advent of small cell technologies to accommodate these limitation. At the same time small cells introduce new cost, logistic and legal issues, so many predict LTE to remain as the standard long-distance wireless technology for decades to come, with high-speed 5g technologies taking on a more localized approach.

While incredibly high speeds do open the door to some new exciting applications, we’ve honestly reached a point of increasingly diminished returns. Much like paper-thin phones; instead of shaving of a few mm, many would rather have larger batteries that get them through the day. It’s the same with speed. Currently the fastest 4g mobile connections available offer speeds around 300mbps, which is more than enough for even 4k videos. But just go ahead and watch one, I’m sure those lovely data caps won’t be an issue….

And finally last but not least the issue of how many users the service can support. After all, what good is having 10Gbps/10ms latency if all it takes is a few neighboring users to hog all the available bandwidth? This is the main reason why 4g wireless service providers have such small data caps, they couldn’t handle the sudden volume of traffic that would come in if even half of their users constantly maxed-out their connections.

5g is set to provide exponential advances in this regard, with promises of simultaneous 1Gbps connections to dozens people on the same office floor for example. Of course this involves overhauls to not only cellular infrastructure, nut underlying network infrastructure that can support the massive throughput.

Benefitted use cases and applications

The obvious
Smartphones are quite possibly the most lucrative source of revenue for emerging IoT applications available, and often times the bottleneck for new applications is the network. With 4k videos/movies, increasingly bandwidth-hungry users and already over-capacity mobile operator networks, 5g is poised to swoop in and solve the growing demands of highly connected societies.

The not-so-obvious
Mobile Augmented Reality: Imagine having an overlay HUD on your glasses or in a contact lens constantly feeding you useful information on everyday objects.  Currently this is not possible on 4g networks due to speed and latency issue. Because of the large amount of HD video feeds and sensor data that needs to be sent out, processed, and sent back 4g networks are inadequate to handle the real-time networking needs of augmented reality.

Industry 4.0: Machine to machine communications are set to benefit most from 5g wireless technologies. Pretty much non-existent latency between radio interfaces and the high bandwidth makes wireless communications far more viable opposed to expensive high-speed cabling between the machines.

Driverless Vehicles: Stable, lag-free connections are what driverless vehicle fleets need in order to make quick, remotely-orchestrated decisions.

Exciting new opportunities with the 5th generation of wireless networks on the horizon Reviewed by James Piedra on 12:04 PM Rating: 5

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