Article

Rick Barron
Rick Barron 16 September 2019

Its Not Just About Faster Phones

The countdown to the 5G revolution has begun, and the explosion of connected devices, such as mobile phones, televisions, security systems, and speakers, among others, is only going to intensify.

The countdown to the 5G revolution has begun, and the explosion of connected devices, such as mobile phones, televisions, security systems, and speakers, among others, is only going to intensify.

5G is in its infancy, with pricey 5G smartphones on just launched next-gen wireless networks leading the initial push. Right now, those networks are only live in a handful of cities, and while the 5G speeds we've seen so far are promising, it will take a while for the coverage to be widespread. Once 5G blankets the U.S., smartphones that can instantly download lengthy movies will be ubiquitous.

As the next big thing in the journey of digital transformation, 5G will have an enormous impact on the world. It will undoubtedly disrupt the way we live and work. It will go beyond mobile broadband and impact self-sustaining modern human establishments like smart cities, robotics and self-driving cars, and foster innovation in critical sectors such as health care, agriculture, and education.

Wearable devices and connected health care, for instance, will help people monitor and manage their illnesses and allow medical professionals to efficiently screen and diagnose patients remotely. In fact, the 5G network has the potential to enable surgeons to robotically operate on patients from thousands of miles away.

This is possible because of the low-latency capabilities of 5G. With current networks, it takes approximately 100 milliseconds for information to travel across a network. This is incredibly fast, but there is still a lag that makes it impossible to communicate in real-time.

With 5G, that latency is expected to be reduced to 1 millisecond. Once you have the ability to communicate over a network in near real-time, proximity will no longer matter.

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A long road ahead

Obstacles such as cost and regulatory oversight will need to be resolved before the low-latency capabilities of 5G can open up a new world of possibilities.

Communication service providers are going to need to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure to enable 5G. This includes investing in more antennas, base stations and fiber-optic cables, all of which must be in place before 5G can be widely adopted.

It is safe to assume that, with all the hype around 5G, these providers will find a way to ultimately build the infrastructure needed, but it will take a significant amount of time and money before we will be able to rely on the 5G network completely.

5G isn't just going to make your phone faster. Theoretically, your home internet will also be faster if 5G fixed wireless replaces broadband. Instead of paying a cable company to wire your place and hook you up to the internet, you could install an antenna that beams 5G into your home from a cell tower. For rural areas in which laying cable is super-expensive, grabbing a 5G signal from an existing tower would be much cheaper.

Carriers like Verizon and AT&T are already getting into the 5G fixed wireless business, and though it's the early days still, increased competition for cable providers could mean lower home internet bills for consumers, who still don't have many options when it comes to broadband. 

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5G on your body: Augmented-reality glasses get real

Experts predict that 5G will usher in the era of augmented reality. People have been hyping AR for years, but 5G will make the devices we'll still need to wear to overlay information on top of our vision much lighter and thinner, like Google Glass.

Currently, augmented-reality glasses require a connection to a computer, either over a Wi-Fi connection or physically tethered to a wall-mounted computer or a wearable computer attached to, for instance, a belt. Headsets with fully integrated computers, like Microsoft's HoloLens 2, are massive. 5G AR glasses would eliminate connectivity issues and would be comfortable enough to wear for lengthy periods of time. That would unlock a whole new way of interacting with the world.

5G in the hospital: Holographic surgeries and beyond

Medical startup Medivis received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for an augmented-reality platform called Surgical AR that will guide surgeons through procedures via a holographic overlay on the patient. Medivis CEO Christopher Morley said 5G will reduce latency so much that surgeons will be able to use AR to perform surgeries in real-time. Morley expects 5G and AR will reduce the possibility of error and improve post-surgical outcomes.

5G could take surgeons out of the operating room entirely. Steve Koenig of the Consumer Technology Association said 5G could allow doctors to perform operations remotely using 5G-connected robots. 

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5G in self-driving cars: Safer rides

Self-driving cars are already being tested on the roads, but experts predict that 5G will make them safer and alleviate concerns that most of us have about letting a computer drive for us. It's also one of the most exciting use cases for 5G.

Connecting cars, giving them the ability to connect to the internet, streaming movies to passengers but also advanced safety, and giving the cars ability to communicate with other cars, passengers, infrastructure, this will only be the beginning.

The future of 5G

2020 has been declared the year in which 5G will become commercially viable. Global carriers have started 5G speed trials, and there are promises of 5G-ready devices. As the world gears up for 5G implementation, translating the 5G promise into real impactful human experiences remains the challenge.

Developed cities will be the first to experience 5G, as rural areas currently lack the infrastructure to support the network, and it will take years before the whole world is connected. But even though we are just in the beginning stages of 5G, it is clearly not just a buzzword anymore. Companies are already having intense discussions around the massive implications of 5G on various industries and it will undoubtedly disrupt the way we live, work and play.

About the author

Hi, my name is Rick and I thank you for reading this article!

I explore to learn new stuff every day and here I will share all my experiences and thoughts with you.

You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram. :)

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