Have you started hearing about 5G but aren’t quite sure what it is or why we need it? Technology changes very rapidly. If you’re a non-digital native, perhaps a Xennial or a younger Gen Xer, you probably started using mobile phones in your teens, long before the smartphone came along. Since then, chances are you’ve owned your fair share of devices, and with each new mobile phone upgrade, you have experienced a new iteration of technology. These days, we practically consider a stable internet connection a basic necessity (How did we even survive without 24/7 access to the internet?), and it’s not just our mobile phone and computer that require a mobile internet connection. We don’t need to tell you that technology makes life easier, but perhaps you’re wondering how 5G will make your life better.
Before we get into it, there’s one thing that needs to be said: there is no official definition of 5G yet. The 5G standard won’t be set until 2018. However, there are many points on which all the main players agree.
4G vs 5G
In case you’re wondering, the ‘G’ refers to generations of wireless technology. Technically speaking, wireless technology started with 1G. 2G technology began when companies enabled users to text from one device to another, while 3G allowed people to make phone calls, send text messages and browse the internet. 4G not only gave 3G a boost, but it also allowed for greater downloading and uploading capabilities. Next came LTE (long term evolution), which made 4G technology even faster.
Basically, generations have been defined by their data transmission speeds. They have also been marked by a break in encoding methods, making them incompatible with their preceding generation.
5G has much higher speeds and capacity than existing cellular systems, as well as much lower latency (giving people faster load times). It will build on existing 4G LTE at a dramatically quicker speed and will have the ability to support the increasing number of devices that require an internet connection—from home appliances to wearable tech.
Whereas 4G LTE transfer speeds can reach one gigabit per second, 5G will increase download speeds up to 10 gigabits per second. What does that mean in terms we can understand? Instead of taking roughly an hour to download a short HD movie (assuming conditions are ideal and the signal isn’t disrupted), 5G will allow you to download a full HD movie in a matter of seconds.
4G has not been implemented everywhere yet, so 5G could substitute it before 4G is rolled out worldwide.
It’s worth noting that 4G requires fiber connection, while 5G doesn’t. This means that 5G home internet is much easier for carriers to roll out than house-by-house fiber optic lines. Carriers just have to install fiber optics to a cell tower every few blocks, instead of digging up every street. Once this is done, they can just give customers wireless modems.
What is 5G going to do to the current equipment?
Wireless carriers will have to upgrade their infrastructure to accommodate 5G technology, including cell towers and rooftop antennas. Even if 5G technology is still a few years away from being rolled out, it is clear that cell sites can be replaced by new technology, making existing sites obsolete.
5G will operate on very high frequencies, requiring cell towers or rooftop antennas that are relatively close together (higher frequency signals don’t travel as far as lower frequencies).
So, what’s the main reason why we need 5G?
We need 5G mainly to keep up with the massive increase in devices that need a mobile internet connection. With an estimated 6.4 billion devices currently connected worldwide, a faster connection with greater downloading and uploading capacity is the way forward. Can you picture yourself downloading six movies in minutes and livestreaming a different movie – all at the same time? It’ll happen soon enough.