5G will connect the world of the future
5G isn’t just the latest mobile phone standard, it represents an entire technology stack that will enable wireless networks to connect on a scale never seen before. It is time to recognize the full potential of 5G, insists Dr. Christoph Dietzel, Global Head of Product and Research at DE-CIX, the world’s leading Internet exchange operator.
Beyond smartphones – unleashing the power of 5G
5G will bring high-speed internet to our smartphones. this is how new technology is not only perceived by most people, but also promoted. Almost everyone knows the term, but few can imagine the huge transmission potential 5G is about to unleash. Cases used for wireless data transfer will spread far beyond mobile internet for smartphones. 5G is not a new generation of mobile communication, but a whole technological package. So far, only a fraction of the package is effectively used, and a number of interesting use cases will emerge in the future.
A step above previous standards, What makes 5G so special?
Unlike earlier generations of cellular networks, 5G combines different standards at multiple layers with different features. So far, 4G has failed to connect multiple devices simultaneously, at least not with great efficiency, thus limiting potential applications in the machine-to-machine space. On this front, the advent of 5G is nothing short of revolutionary. Even in terms of basic mobile communications, while 4G struggles to reach a peak speed of 100 Mbps, 5G has already promised to surpass it many times over. In fact, mid-range 5G clocks in at 100 to 900 Mbps, promising better results than 4G, which was already a giant leap from its predecessors.
Scenarios where 5G will do well include improving mobile broadband, optimizing machine-to-machine communications for massive arrays (Massive MIMO), and providing ultra-reliable low-latency communications (uRLLC) in time-critical situations. The result is on a scale never seen before. 5G infrastructure will allow up to one million devices to be connected per square kilometer with data transfer speeds of up to 20 Gbps. Latency times of only about one millisecond will enable even critical use cases, such as delivering state-of-the-art healthcare services in a connected ambulance on the way to the hospital, a previously unheard of feat. By comparison, 4G offers 30 to 50 milliseconds of latency at best. With 5G firmly established, use cases where every millisecond counts will be possible.
When we think about devices, we don’t have to limit ourselves to the mobile phones, tablets, laptops and wearables that we all know as connected devices in our personal and professional lives. 5G will show its strengths especially in industry, urban infrastructure and transportation. Thanks to its wireless technology, so many more connected sensors can be included in a limited space than would be possible with cable alternatives or conventional Wi-Fi. This will especially benefit Industry 4.0 and smart factories, where machines, robots and autonomous vehicles can finally make the most of ultra-scalable high-performance wireless connectivity. For this purpose, plant operators can create their own networks, separated from public mobile networks, which will guarantee data sovereignty and security; Also, cutting the grid at super speed will boost the production capabilities of smart factories, in turn fast-tracking the supply chain.
5G for the future
In the future, 5G will be on every highway. this type of wireless data transmission provides the basis for safe navigation and communication between autonomous vehicles. Given the need for passenger safety, autonomous mobility has the highest demands, especially in terms of latency. 5G is coming like a hint. Data cannot be transferred faster than the speed of light, even in these infrastructures, and data processing and data sharing must be brought much closer to the end user. Therefore, a vast number of 5G antennas and a significantly denser set of interconnected data centers will be essential for powering the future highway.
Aside from improving road safety, 5G has the potential to impact the standard of living in future cities, where smart cars are likely to be the main traffic. As a result, with each passing day, as self-driving vehicles gain traction, the need for massive information sharing between vehicles, servers, control systems, and connected physical infrastructure will dramatically increase. For such a smart city to function, a number of infrastructures must be interconnected: traffic management systems, lighting, electrical networks, water pipes, etc. The potential from this extends to individual smart homes, where connectivity will offer residents a higher level of comfort and convenience.
Other applications go further. a 3D model of real construction progress on a connected construction site, continuously updated to reflect the status quo, can provide greater insight for planning and control purposes. A large number of cameras and sensors will be required to regularly transmit data to headquarters, making the operation an ideal use case for 5G. Similarly, in agriculture, soil sensors can provide real-time data to farmers who can better plan when to fertilize and water their crops. Smart, autonomous farm machines connected via 5G could take over tillage.
5G has tremendous potential for secure and efficient digital use cases in various industries as well as in our personal lives. It’s important to understand that 5G is about more than just streaming high-definition video. Realizing these benefits will depend on infrastructure being built over the next few years to allow this type of data transfer. These range from antennas, fiber optic links, and new decentralized data centers to interconnecting disparate networks through local Internet exchanges. It should also be noted that the 5G technology package is not static and will continue to evolve in the future. In previous generations of cellular standards, we have seen this continuous development with each generation. After the 5G revolution permeates society as a whole, there will be many phases in which individual parts of the complex technology stack will continue to evolve, expanding the scope of the technology and its potential.
(The author is Dr. Christoph Dietzel, Global Head of Product and Research at DE-CIX, and the views expressed in this article are his own)