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5G Wireless: What’s In It For You?

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5G Wireless: What’s In It For You?

If you’ve been active on social media lately, you’ve probably read or heard buzz about 5G wireless. Most internet service providers (ISP) predict 5G will be launched in 2020. South Korea, though, says it will have a 5G system in operation in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics, which it is hosting. Verizon Wireless says it has already tested a 5G system, will conduct field tests in 2016 to see how it works under real market conditions, and expects to offer it to consumers nationwide by 2017.

Why would we want it? There are several reasons. The most obvious is higher data speed. Experts say 5G will be thirty to fifty times the speed of current 4G LTE WiFi. Wireless internet service, then, would be far faster than most current cable or fiber internet services. 5G WiFi would even compete with Google Fiber or AT&T GigaPower, with blistering download speeds of up to one gigabit per second (1 GB/S).

Of course, actual speeds for 4G LTE service  usually fall short of advertised speeds. It would be foolish to assume that 5G will not be similarly overhyped. If actual speeds even approach predicted performance, though, 5G WiFi will be much faster even than most current wired internet services. Current 4G LTE WiFi service would not compare with it at all.

Most IT experts, though, believe that the biggest advantages of 5G technology lie not in raw speed, but in latency, energy consumption, prioritization, mobility, and capacity. Let’s examine them in turn:

LOW LATENCY:    In a recent study of the top four wireless carriers, Open Signal and Fierce Wireless found that their average signal latency- the interval between the sending of a request and the response to it- was 75 to 100 milliseconds. This may not seem like much to you. It’s the biggest reason your phone seems sluggish, though. At nearly a tenth of a second, it produces noticeable lag in voice communications. This much latency also limits what the internet can be used for.

Researchers in 5G wireless data want to reduce WiFi latency to a single millisecond. If they can, we’ll see the internet used for many functions that are impractical now. One is remote surgery. A surgeon needs nearly instantaneous feedback when cutting, a half-second delay being enough to cause fatal errors. Lower latency will also enable extremely precise robotic manufacturing, more ‘natural’ and accurate electronic drawing and painting, and remote operation of aircraft, naval vessels. and land vehicles.

LOW ENERGY CONSUMPTION:    The radio in your wireless phone is an energy hog. Battery technology is advancing very slowly, so increasing the efficiency of your devices is paramount. Partly because of its dramatically lower latency, 5G WiFi is expected to consume several times less energy for a given amount of data than 4G LTE.

TRAFFIC PRIORITIZATION:    Suppose you’re driving on the freeway, with your ten-year-old daughter watching a video in the back seat. Your wireless service will need to know that signals from nearby cars to your collision avoidance system take priority over your daughter’s video service. 5G WiFi is expected to be smart enough for this.

MOBILITY AND CORD-CUTTING:    Even if you have a wireless data service now, you probably have a cable, fiber, or satellite connection in your house to support it. If 5G WiFi is all it’s predicted to be, then you may not need these connections anymore. You’ll have much more flexibility in where you install your internet service, and in where you use it.

CAPACITY:    If you’re seeing higher data speed and lower latency, you’re probably going to use more data, and your current data cap will probably be much too low.  Some experts believe, though, that 5G WiFi will have a thousand times the capacity of 4G LTE, so there should be plenty of room for everyone.


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