When it comes to 5G networks, there’s something beyond pure speed to get excited about.
Next-generation mobile networks will be able to accommodate a lot more people and a lot more data as carriers like Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T and manufacturers like Nokia and Ericsson improve the total capacity of the network. That means your phone won’t be fighting against all the others trying to send and receive data.
“Once 5G arrives on a nationwide basis, there is so much bandwidth available that we will have pretty much unlimited access to data,” predicted Forrester analyst Dan Bieler.
5G will indeed be able to send data faster than 4G, probably something like 10 times faster than the new advanced versions of 4G. But those peak speeds often exist only in ideal conditions. By contrast, 5G should be more reliably fast. In other words, you’ll still be able to update Facebook, send that email attachment and stream your favorite TV show, even in crowded areas like city centers and stadiums where today’s 4G networks often struggle.
5G stands for fifth-generation network technology, and it should transform our digital lives as profoundly as previous generational shifts. Back in the 1990s, 2G was mostly good enough for text only, but 3G opened up the world of photo sharing and 4G made streaming video practical. 5G won’t just boost reliability, though. It could also accelerate new technologies like augmented reality, help self-driving cars send time-critical messages to one another, and link to the network everything from pollution sensors to health monitors.
Coming sooner than you thought
5G networks are expected to arrive in 2019. The conventional wisdom is that the early examples will be for what’s called “fixed wireless” connections, bringing fast broadband to your house without having to dig a pesky trench for a fiber-optic cable. However, Qualcomm, a top maker of mobile chips and radio technology, insists 5G will come to your phone that year, too.
“What drove industry support is that global demand for mobile broadband continues to rise,” said Matt Branda, Qualcomm’s director of 5G technical marketing. “Things are lining up to make this a reality in 2019 in your smartphones.”
Qualcomm announced further progress Tuesday in Asia. Its Snapdragon X50 5G NR Modem, a chip for 5G phones, has made its first 5G connection. It was in carefully controlled lab conditions, but it was able to receive data at a gigabit per second, said Sherif Hanna, manager of 4G and 5G product marketing.
“Our intention is to put this into mobile devices and start testing them in the real world,” Hanna said, and Qualcomm expects the chip will reach 5Gbps data-transfer speeds.
If you’ve followed 5G networking, you may remember a promised delivery date of 2020. But the network industry have managed to speed up some parts of the standardization work. There are plenty of pilot projects, too. The highest profile likely will be the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, a country obsessed with super-fast networks.
5G network equipment will be expensive to install. Network operators will need upgrade all of their base stations, the central radio towers our phones talk to. They’ll also have to install more base stations for closer spacing and upgrade stations’ connections back to the main network. It’s worth it to the network operators, though, because 5G will let them satisfy our data demands.
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