By now, just about everyone knows that 5G is much faster than previous generations of wireless technology.
But it’s not just about speed. 5G also offers greater capacity, allowing thousands of devices in a small area to be connected at the same time (as well as perhaps a billion globally).
Additionally, 5G is also about the reduction in latency — the time between instructing a wireless device to perform an action and that action being completed. What this means is that 5G is more responsive. For example, gamers will see an end to the slight delays that can occur when games can take time to reflect what they’re doing on their controller.
But the biggest differences go far beyond improving the way we use existing technology like smartphones or games consoles. The connectivity and capacity offered by 5G is opening up the potential for new, innovative services. For example, 5G nodes on lamp posts can create a network aimed at helping social care patients as well as enabling bio monitors to detect whether patients are dehydrated.
It is also being used to connect video systems that allow pharmacists to remotely check whether patients are taking their medication.
5G is also being used in farming – with one example being autonomous farming machinery. Machines scour the field using a video sensor, and apply fertilizers and pesticides where they’re needed. This helps to save resources and boost efficiency.
5G can also enable manufacturers to use smart machinery, providing and reacting to real-time data to improve efficiency.
In Smart Cities, transport networks, local authorities and other public bodies could use it to improve public services like parking, traffic management and street lighting.
It is also expected to bring major changes to healthcare. For example, by enabling technology that allows medical students to practice surgery in a connected, virtual reality environment that reflects a real-life experience – even enabling them to “feel” the surgery they are training to deliver.
So where is 5G now? Since May 2019, service providers in the U.S. have been rolling out a version of 5G that still relies on 4G architecture. This was necessary for the 5G infrastructure to be built out. Essentially, consumers have been receiving a hybrid 5G – a taste of this new architecture, but only a taste.
This will soon change as service providers flip the switch on a completely independent 5G system known as standalone (SA). This change over was expected in 2020, but COVID-19 has pushed it back to sometime in 2021.
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