5G is coming, and it may very well be here a lot sooner than we think. The first phase of 5G integration will begin later this year, with full commercial deployment coming some time in 2020. Read on to learn about what 5G is, and how it relates to connecting up our future and the impact it may have on our technological habits.
The evolution of mobile phones has come a long way from their birth in 1973 when Motorola's senior engineer Martin Cooper brought the first mobile phone to public light. Since then, there has been many iterations of mobile phones, from toning down the blocky design to Nokia's "unbreakable" devices.
Then in the new millennium we saw some unique phone designs, such as Nokia's vertical-sliding phones, Motorola's and Samsung's flip-phones to LG's outward-sliding phone with the hidden keyboard. Nokia even attempted their own version of a handheld gaming console and mobile phone hybrid called the 'N-Gage', though it was unsuccessful, as well as the smaller Palm Pilot and Blackberry attempting to revolutionise the mobile phone with the stylus-touch-display.
While mobile phone manufacturers were playing around with styluses and trying to find ways to hide or limit the physical keyboard to make phones less bulky, there was one company who was diligently working to rewrite the script.
In 2007, Apple revealed and released their secret project that took two and a half years: the iPhone.
The iPhone paved the way for the modern phones we have now: multi-touch display phone, a slimmer build by digitising the keyboard and integrating various other services for both online and offline usage.
Upon multiple phone iterations from Apple and other mobile phone manufacturers, with added software and hardware components, these multi-purpose devices have become known today as the smartphone.
These smartphones are designed as an all-purpose pocket device that is at its best when it is integrated with the internet. Unlike home broadband connections, mobiles can use the internet by ‘connecting’ to the nearby mobile phone towers or mobile base stations. This basically will allow you to then use your ‘data allowance’ to access internet pages or play your phone games online with other players, among other things.
Currently, the name of the network that allows the mobile phones to connect to the internet is the 4G network, while the former 3G network is also still switched on to allow for more people to be connected, as well as act as a backup in case you lose your 4G service on your mobile phone.
2G internet is practically ‘dead’ at this stage. Since 2017, most if not all, mobile service providers have shut down their 2G networks due to its outdated and archaic system. Now we cast our eyes forward, at the next generational leap of mobile phone internet technology and see what our future holds.
So what is 5G? 5G is the name given to the fifth generation of the mobile phone communication technology, and it will replace the current 4G networks by mid-2020.
Like the previous generations, 5G is slated to bring with it a host of major improvements over the 4G network, to further improve the quality of life on the internet for mobile phone and home internet users.
5G is aimed at drastically increasing download and upload speeds on mobile data, lowering latency so that it is almost as real-time as possible while increasing device connectivity and system capacity.
As we are heading closer to the larger technologically-connected ecosystem called the ‘Internet of Things’, 5G will be a critical component of realising that device-driven future.
Probably the most noticeable change that users will experience when the 5G network is up and running will be the much faster speeds when using the internet. At its peak, 5G is expected to support speeds up to 20Gbps. However, it is more likely that many users won’t be reaching those sorts of speeds on a regular basis; but at a minimum, 5G speeds will be at least 1Gbps.
To put this into perspective, let’s compare this to the current home broadband technology: The National Broadband Network (NBN).
At the present, the fastest NBN plan you can sign up to is currently 100Mbps. At a bare minimum, 5G will allows users to hit the speeds of 1000Mbps, or 1Gbps. Simple maths suggests that 5G will at least be 10 times faster than the fastest NBN plan to date. These faster speeds will make streaming Netflix or watching YouTube even better, with videos and clips loading much quicker than it does now.
Upload speeds are a bit harder to measure at this stage, but if that sees a jump similar to the download speeds, then we would be capable of streaming higher-quality video content from your mobile phones or other network-connected devices. Businesses will especially find the upload boost handy as they would be able to transfer larger-sized files due to the higher capacity coupled with the quicker speed.
In simple terms, latency is the delay between causing an action and getting the response. Or for those who are well-adjusted to playing video games, latency is the delay between pressing a button on the controller and getting an on-screen reaction.
In technical terms however, latency is the time between the data being requested and the data being delivered. Latency is also commonly referred to as lag in video game circles, and it is quite prominent in online-multiplayer games.
In the current 4G network, in the 'State of Mobile Networks' report, from November of 2018, OpenSignal had measured the latency performance of the three big mobile providers: Telstra had a 38.38ms delay, Optus measured in at 30.99ms and Vodafone won with the shortest delay at 30.02ms.
But 5G is promising to cut down the latency to 1ms; bringing cloud-based and file-sharing projects as close to real-time as possible.
While reducing the latency may not be easily as noticeable to most consumers; consider technology such as the autonomous or self-driving cars. When the self-driving cars senses a person, it will have roughly a 30ms delay when triggering a stop command. Because obstacles on the road require split-second decision-making, it is not feasible to launch autonomous cars on the 4G network, as the latency is too high.
Thus, with 5G bringing that down to 1ms, autonomous cars will have a quicker reaction time to split-second decisions, and 1ms or 30ms could be the difference between a catastrophic accident or avoiding it.
Other key features and benefits of 5G are:
Larger Bandwidth: increased bandwidth means you will be able to download much quicker. Not to be confused with faster speeds however. Think of bandwidth like a straw: as ‘information’ passes through the straw, increasing bandwidth merely increases the width of the straw, meaning more information can pass through it at once.
Low Battery Consumption: 5G data-roaming on mobile devices will use considerably less battery than what 4G consumes at the present. This means that your future 5G mobile phones will be able to last longer in theory.
Coverage: 5G will be able to operate at higher frequencies with the previously mentioned bandwidth size increases. But they will not be able to transmit a signal as far as 4G can, so this could result in providers building more mobile base stations, which would cost them more money.
If you are looking for a simpler answer as to what the new 5G network will mean for our technological ecosystem, then here it is.
The 5G network will improve our technological quality-of-life in ways which 4G could not. With the advent of 5G, we will be able to download, upload and file-share much larger files than we could before; businesses can transmit more data across various offices; workers can work together on online cloud-based projects with real-time edits; autonomous cars will be less dangerous on the roads due to the lower delay times; more devices can be connected to the internet at any one time allowing for a more connected experience; video gamers will be able to immerse themselves in a better online-multiplayer experience; physical video game libraries may shrink in favour of an all-digital gaming future; and streamers can produce higher-quality streams.
Plus, the 5G network opens up the door to many more technological advancements that we cannot predict at this time. By allowing businesses to transmit more information quicker and contain real-time integration, businesses will be able to complete their projects more efficiently.
This future will be decided by the users of the 5G network, which will basically be everyone within range of a mobile phone tower with a compatible device, which leads us to the ‘Wireless Edge’.
The ‘Wireless Edge’ is a term used to explain the moment when we as a collective realise the full potential of what the 5G network can make possible.
Whatever was thought to have been impossible to do on the 4G network may very well become possible with the 5G network. Of course, when the 5G network launches in mid-2020, then we will progress towards the ‘Wireless Edge’ of sorts – and it may be something that we never truly reach.
We are still far away from the flying-car dystopian future dreamt of in various Hollywood movies, and there is still a chance that autonomous cars won’t be able to run on 5G alone and may possibly require the sixth generation to come along with even more improved latency and network advancements.
But it does make the technological future a lot more exciting in terms of what businesses can make possible.
At this stage, your mobile phone will not be able to connect to the 5G network. The reason for this is that in order to enable 5G network support, mobile phones will need to be manufactured with an internal chip that is capable of supporting the 5G.
Qualcomm is one such company who is bringing 5G support with their Snapdragon 855 chip, so any mobile device that is released with that chip will be future-proofed for when the 5G network is commercially released.
As mobile phones get released with 5G capabilities, we will list them on our website. That way, when you are at that stage of looking for a new mobile phone to upgrade to, you can check back with us to ensure that you are getting a phone that can on the 5G network.
As 5G becomes the new standard for mobile phone networks, then more mobile phones will have the capabilities.
With the huge upgrades that the 5G network is promising to deliver on, it is an exciting time for the future of the internet moving forward. However, that is not to say that the 5G network will only bring advancements to mobile phone technology.
While many homes are or will be connected to the NBN, that does not mean that the NBN is the only option for being connected to the internet at home.
Though it is still early days, internet providers have been offering data-based internet for your home instead of the standard cable-connected broadband. Telstra for instance, have the NETGEAR Nighthawk device which just needs to be plugged in with a data-only SIM card.
The biggest drawback with mobile-SIM cards being used for your home internet is that data is more expensive than cable, ADSL or NBN broadband prices. But the speeds that 5G is promising could be too strong in determining the future of your home internet.
5G broadband will also open the doors for even more competitive wireless broadband plans due to the flexibility of providing internet from sim-only routers and such. Mobile broadband is more suitable for those who predominantly use their internet on their laptop outside of their home when not connected to Wi-Fi, but the 5G advancements will provide plenty of benefits to this sector as well.
Even still, we are still unclear on how the providers will approach the 5G network integration on a broadband front; and whether the competitive pricing and data allowance works out to be a great benefit to you.
The main technological advancement that could be gained from 5G network integration that may impact you directly is the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) ecosystem. The IoT is the term given to describe a world where all or most of your home devices are connected to an internet source and are all functioning together on a joint network.
Internet integration is beginning to embed itself into other things beyond just laptops, computers and smartphones, with fridges, doorbells and even light switches and door locks. Having all of these things connected to the internet, and possibly allowing you to control them all just from your mobile device adds to the ‘Smart Home’, a conceptualised future where everyone’s home and nearly everything in it will be connected to the internet.
Home pods such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home are also in the early stages of ‘smart home’ technology – soon, you could probably tell Alexa to lock your doors when you leave the house in the morning, or to turn off the lights once you are in bed.
IoT will even reach out to cars, especially the self-driving kind that will basically ‘live’ on the internet, and it won’t be able to function as a car without it.
Other industries beyond home-living, such as the medical field with hospitals or the industrial sector with factories will see huge benefits as well from 5G integration and beyond. Especially as these smart technologies will work together to also be more efficient on using energy as well, while also providing a better quality-of-life.
In the meantime, while you are waiting for 5G, consider comparing your current home broadband plan to see if you can save yourself some money or get yourself on a faster speed internet plan or with more data.
We also compare mobile phone plans, so that you can ensure you are on the best mobile phone plan for you.