5G - A New Generation, A New Direction
In October, the Singapore government announced its goal of 5G network coverage across at least half the country by end-2022. It’s cause for excitement, because unlike the comparatively gradual progressions from 2G to 3G to 4G, the switch to 5G is monumental. It is going to change everything.
Where previous generations presented evolutionary improvements, 5G revolutionises the way information is transmitted wirelessly. This drastic transformation necessitates the installation of entirely new infrastructure, calling for a significant investment of time and resources.
Operating on super-high frequencies, 5G requires the replacement (or intially, augmentation) of old 4G masts that broadcast in all directions and were placed far apart, with numerous smaller, more energy efficient 5G antennae that beam directly to your device. As the waves sent by these new 5G antennae are more easily interrupted by physical objects, a larger number of them are required to ensure proper coverage, but the antennae need only be small and thus, can be easily concealed within the environment.
When this infrastructure is in place, users will enjoy data transfer speeds eclipsing those we presently experience with 4G — from 10 to 100 times faster! For example, a movie that took five minutes to download on 4G will take just a few seconds on 5G, and crisp high-definition television will be viewable on the go. A believable mobile virtual reality experience, requiring five gigabits per second of bandwidth, will be achievable. For gamers, 5G will empower cloud gaming, facilitating the lag-free enjoyment of computing-intensive games on even the most rudimentary of devices, as the heavy processing will be handled in the cloud.
Once 5G infrastructure is properly deployed and fully functioning, the technology promises to free users from the need to use any wire or cable to deliver content to not only mobile devices, but also, all fixed home television and sound systems or desktop computers. Consumers may initially find these ‘fun’ aspects of 5G the most attention worthy, however entertainment is just one area where 5G will be a literal game-changer.
Whereas today, every so-called ‘smart device’ needs to be equipped with computing power on a par with a smart phone, with 5G, the various elements of a smart home, office or factory need only be relatively simple devices, their higher functions controlled remotely by a more sophisticated ‘master’ controller. 5G will power the effective functioning of the internet of things (IoT), where interconnected machines ‘talk’ with one another to better function in unison, which is simply not possible with 4G’s limited bandwidth.
The same principles will be applied on a larger scale to transform our metropolitan centres into smart cities, where interconnected controls and sensors in urban areas analyse conditions to more efficiently provide services, utilise resources and respond to or anticipate crises.
The lightning-fast speeds at which 5G operates will allow not only the instantaneous transfer of information across vast distances, but the transmission of skills, delivering both know-how and the practical performance of tasks where and when they’re needed. For instance, using 5G networks, a brain surgeon in New York could operate remotely on a patient in New Delhi, controlling a robot that responds immediately to their commands, without risk of potentially life-threatening delays in reaction time.
A drastic reduction in what is called ‘latency’ — the delay before a transfer of data begins, following a command for its transfer — is the key to 5G’s empowerment of autonomous automobiles. To operate safely, these require an uninterrupted stream of data, which cannot be guaranteed using 4G.
With 5G, however, instant vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication — effected in a millisecond, even when out of line-of-sight — will allow autonomous cars to smoothly and safely navigate around one another. Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication will integrate cars into the smart city IoT network, ‘talking’ with public infrastructure such as toll roads, pedestrian crossings, parking garages and meters, reacting to real-time weather and traffic updates.
Even before the advent of autonomous motoring, commuters will benefit from the increased precision and capabilities 5G brings in terms of navigation. A larger, more powerful network of antennae and faster response times will bring greater accuracy in location awareness. Literally and figuratively, 5G is helping map out an exciting new journey forward.