In our latest edition of ‘Claritas on’, we look at the fifth generation of wireless communications technologies supporting cellular data networks, also known as 5G.
5G is a hot topic at the moment and is being rolled out and implemented across the UK. We spoke to Dwayne Barker, Service Delivery Manager at Claritas about his take on 5G, what it is and what it means for future technologies.
Tell us in your own words what 5G is?
If the vision of a wire free world (as much as possible) is to be realised, then the evolution and transformation of current wireless technologies and infrastructure needs to continue also. So if 5G is fully adopted, and the potential realised, it will be a giant leap forward that will enable evolving technologies to mature and become integral to peoples’ everyday lives and interactions with the world.
The theoretical potential of 5G is huge. If we recall our first steps into the mobile online world using WAP, around the turn of the century, to access websites that took minutes to render a very simple web page, and that was only if the content was actually compatible with your device. This moved onto 2G and then EDGE (2.5G) but the real turning point was 3G. This is when major investment into handset design and capabilities really took off as technology was at a point where it would be attractive to the mass consumer market.
4G was a major step forward and made streaming services possible and enabled a mobile workforce to continue day to day operations as if they were sat in their office. 5G is the next step and it’s a big one with x100 the capacity of 4G. To put it into simple terms, a 1-hour video would take typically take 13 hours to download on 3G, 3 minutes on 4G but under 2 seconds on 5G.
Bandwidth is not the only major benefit that 5G promises. Latency, which is the delay between when data is sent to when it is received, is another huge incentive. Latency is not so much of an issue for none real-time applications, for example when downloading a movie or streaming a podcast, current caching (advanced buffering) techniques are now good enough to cover minor glitches in some lesser bandwidth real time applications such as voice and video conferencing. However, it is still not quick or reliable enough to support real time online gaming where “lag” really matters, or some of the more innovative ventures such as members of a band playing remotely but in perfect time with each other. We all know driverless vehicles are a vision of the future and if this is to be realised we will need a robust, secure, high bandwidth, low latency network infrastructure. This also applies to remote medical and military operations where precision and timing is critical.
5G may not be the last word in wireless technology but it is certainly a major advance that will offer new opportunities to existing and evolving technologies, but a word of caution, as the world continues its drive to an ever more virtual and online world, uninterrupted availability and security will be the biggest challenge.
How does 5G work?
5G has three operating bands that affect the speed and range a connecting device can operate. Each band will have its own frequency ranges allocated depending on global region and service provider but broadly speaking:
- Low Band offers the largest geographical coverage and is considered the “base” or “coverage” standard for 5G, but has the lowest bandwidth meaning that you could get data rates lower than you would on a good 4G connection, but may allow some providers to jump on the 5G train sooner as existing infrastructure can be utilised
- Medium Band is referred to as the capacity layer. It is the most commonly available 5G offering and runs between 1Ghz and 6Ghz, though European regulators are standardising somewhere in the middle. This has a much higher practical bandwidth than low band. Between 100-400Mpbs can be achieved in real world application
- High Band is where things get much more interesting with the Super Data Layer operated at a much higher frequency of above 6Ghz and operating in the millimetre Wave spectrum. Europe is standardising frequencies between 24.25 and 27.5Ghz. The throughput potential in this range is between 1-2Gpbs, though the range is significantly lower than the other bands and less able to penetrate indoor locations. High Band will also require a much denser rollout of transmitters for coverage in large population centres and is much more expensive to implement.
How do you think 5G will be rolled out/implemented?
The rollout of 5G is already available in larger cities and population centres but will be progressive, starting at the low and middle bands. The roll out will be in phases based on geographical location and type of infrastructure allowing the reuse of existing 4G infrastructure where possible or to get a foot on the 5G ladder.
Completion of the phased rollout will potentially offer mobile providers the ability to sell different tiers of 5G services depending on bandwidth requirement and application. As high band will require significant investment in additional infrastructure, it is unlikely that 5G will be available to everybody in the near term and pricing could put this out of reach of the general consumer, but this is highly speculative.
What impact do you think 5G will have on consumers and big tech companies?
The “Internet of Things” is a real possibility, more internet connected small devices, smart homes, new services and emerging technologies will mature and become commonplace. As with every enhancement, it will soon become the norm and it will be interesting to see how far it will take us. Could this be the end for many fixed line circuits? As a consumer I often ask the question, can I live without my fixed telephone line and save the cost of line rental etc? The answer for the most part is yes, but for the current latency and bandwidth/quota limitations of my mobile service provider, that could soon be re-evaluated.
Will it have an impact on cybersecurity?
This will be one of the biggest challenges of a highly connected, wireless world, where interoperability and standardisation between big tech is essential to make it happen. Who would want to be in a driverless car made by manufacturer A, who refuses to work with manufacturer B, or traffic lights made by manufacturer C? And cyber criminals are always exploring new ways to exploit a new technology; imagine a cyber hijack-style attack on the roads or access to your cars controls… it’s going to be a brave new era and cybersecurity is going to have to be ahead of the curve in this high stake, high tech interconnected online world.
What does the future hold for 5G – what’s next?
It’s too early to tell but it is globally accepted, and we have taken our first steps. As for the future, it’s tempting to say 6G!
Claritas’ verdict on 5G...
Positive, but tread with caution!
5G is certainly an exciting prospect, one that we can’t wait to see where it takes I.T. and technology for companies and individuals, as long as robust security is in place.
What are your thoughts on 5G? We’d love to hear them! Tweet us @ClaritasSol.