By Richard Arneson
Like the G’s that have preceded it, 5G has gotten a lot of press and pub for seemingly years. In the IT industry, however, months can feel like years. Eager technophiles are anticipating the day when they can use―then proudly broadcast that to the world―whatever technology we’ve been hearing about for months and months. Welcome to the current hottest of topics―5G.
But first, a quick walk down the memory lane of mobile phones
1G was the first generation of wireless communications. Actually, using the word communications is a little misleading. It suggests that there was more than one (1) type of communication; 1G delivered only voice. Think back to the 1980’s when cells phones first became available. It felt like only the top 1% of wage earners had one. The cell phones were heavy and comparable in size to a World War II field phone. They couldn’t fit in your pocket and could only be stuffed into a briefcase with expanding sides. These phones weren’t even digital, but analog, and the battery seemed to always last less time than the call you were on.
Introduced in the early 1990’s by the Finnish, 2G provided something so cutting edge at the time that people used its key feature to transmit things like “Hi”, “Hello”, “Are you getting this?” and “Do you believe this actually works?” Yes, it marked the advent of text messaging. Also known as SMS (short message service), its next evolution, MMS (multimedia messaging service), allowed pictures, audio and video to be attached to text messages and transmitted. The max speed went from 1G’s 2.4 Kbps to 50 Kbps. Incomprehensible…at the time.
Not to give short shrift to 1- and 2G, but 3G, which was introduced to the marketplace in the late 1900’s, was arguably the first “next generation” in which the general public really began to take notice. And why not when speeds shot up to 2Mbps and it marked the first time the words mobile and broadband were linked together. Users began to use their phones to access the Internet and stream content. It also accompanied what some at the time (OK, I was one of them) considered a little crazy, something that would rarely be used, if ever, on a cell phone―the camera.
In 2008, 4G, our current standard, perfectly helped usher in the smart phone. It delivered speeds up to 100 Mbps, which was required considering consumers began using smart phones for gaming, HDTV and videoconferencing…all those applications that demand crazy high-speed data transmission. Remember Apple’s 2007 introduction of the iPhone with its “Hello” advertising campaign that first aired during the Academy Awards broadcast?
While not quite here, 5G is just around the corner. Here’s what it will mean to consumers:
5G touts the delivery and downloading of data much, much faster, which is a feature that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. A new generation of wireless without faster speeds would be like a new music technology that doesn’t profess clearer and more dynamic sound. Speeds for 5G are supposed to be over ten times (10x) that of 4G, or around 1 Gbps.
Latency, or the time it takes to move data from device to device, will be greatly reduced with the introduction of 5G. While 4G might be fitting the bill for your current needs, lower latency will prove critically beneficial, even lifesaving, for certain applications, such as surgery or the need for real-time data delivery to and from connected cars.
Faster speeds, lower latency…both can be chalked up to the need for each in the IoT world. In the next four (4) years, the number of IoT devices in use today (17 billion) will double, and with that precipitous growth comes the need for more cells to pick up and transmit the data. With 5G, smaller amounts of data will be transmitted by lower frequencies, while larger, bandwidth-hogging amounts will occur at higher ones. These multiple frequencies will require service providers to deploy smaller, but densely packed, cells on existing towers. These cells will determine the type of data, and its resultant frequency, that needs to be transmitted.
But before you get your credit card out…
It’s estimated that 5G won’t be fully deployed until 2022. Remember, the service providers don’t, and can’t, roll out a next generation wireless technology at once. They have a lot of cell towers to upgrade, so it’s implemented in stages. But all of the major carriers will begin 5G implementation in selected markets by the end of 2018―yes, that’s this year and only three (3) short months away.
Mobility and IoT Experts
If you’d like more information or have questions about what 5G can and will mean to your organization, contact the talented, tenured solutions architects and engineers from the IoT and Mobility Solutions practices at GDT. They can be reached at Mobility_Team@gdt.com. They’d love to hear from you.