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Friday 20 Oct 2017 | 4 min read

Here’s what to expect from the 5G mobile network

Photo of a hand holding a smartphone outdoors

Remember when 4G first came along? Early adopters were clamouring for the super fast speeds it offered. We went from Facebook on our phones to, well… watching videos through Facebook on our phones. We’re now only three years from the next generation in cellular technology, so here’s what to expect from the telecommunications of the near future.

5G and the GSMA explained

The GSM Association is a trade body that represents over 800 mobile providers worldwide. The GSMA’s job is to ensure that there are common standards for how phones talk to providers, and how providers talk to each other. Working backwards, the standards we have seen for mobile communication are:

  • 4G / LTE (Long Term Evolution)

  • 3G

  • 2G / GPRS (General Packet Radio System)

  • 1G / GSM

As one of fastest adopters of mobile technology, Australia will be among the first countries to start deploying 5G networks around the country. As a massive continent with concentrated population zones spread around the coasts, we’ll likely see 5G technology adopted first in major cities. While the rollout of availability won’t begin until 2020 in Oz, we’ll likely see the standards ratified by mid 2018, giving you ample time to get excited about more data, and faster download speeds on your phone.

What does 5G mean for you?

When 5G hits our shores, it’s going to revolutionise our mobile data experience. That’s not because 5G radically changes how mobile data works, but rather the leap in sheer data speeds alone is potentially out of this world. Let’s look at some of the concrete benefits of 5G:

  • Massive bandwidth; over 50 times what you currently get on 4G. To put that in perspective, a high def episode of Game of Thrones could be downloaded in a matter of seconds!

  • And all this with lower power usage, so your phone will last longer.

That’s a quick overview of how 5G changes our everyday smartphone experience, but 5G will also impact future technologies in new and innovative ways.

Driverless cars

While the technology for driverless cars has been on the razor’s edge of mass deployment for a while now, there remains a barrier for entry in the mass market: reliable data transfer.

Without high speed data access, driverless car networks might not be safe enough to navigate the busy urban environments that much of the world’s population lives in. With higher data transfer rates, 5G could power cloud-assisted processing, so driverless cars could ‘learn’ faster from each other, and give providers access to unprecedented levels of data.

Internet of Things

Billions of connected devices need a lot of bandwidth. While wireless access points through the internet can potentially provide a solution, they all ultimately require cabling back to the switch. 5G cellular frequency, with its power sipping low energy consumption, could become a valuable technology for connecting up the sensor devices that with help automate our homes, utilities and workplaces over the coming decade.

A richer experience

Mobile is a big driver of our internet experience. Over the past few years websites have become either ‘mobile friendly’ or ‘mobile first’, and apps represent a multibillion dollar market. Google, the world’s largest search engine, has also started including ‘mobile friendliness’ as one of the criteria for what makes a website rank in its search pages.

With the deployment of 5G, mobile will continue to drive richer experiences through the web. Pages themselves will become more intuitive, faster and easier to use. Apps will drive functionality beyond the digital world, becoming hubs for smart devices and connected technologies around the home and office, while augmented realities will springboard off the faster data rates.

Soft, green and fast

5G is betting on more than just being a quantum shift in data transfer rates. The new telecommunications standards are also targeting lower power consumption. With battery technology seemingly stalled, less power to download more is something that consumers and the environment will love.

5G also aims to be more friendly to low powered devices, like the simple computer chips in sensors and other IoT devices that will make up our personal ‘smart networks’. Many of these devices will need to function on small batteries, solar power, or low amperage power sources. Low overheads for data transmission will be almost a necessity if we hope to take full advantage of the technology.

Personalisation through the cloud

With faster, greener data comes the option for unprecedented personalisation through cloud-assisted data analytics. Our connected devices will learn more about us, faster, and be more tailored to delivering exactly what we want in better, smarter ways.

Will 4G be phased out?

In Australia, 3G ‘replaced’ 2G in 2003, but it’s only been through 2016 and 2017 that telcos have started to phase out 2G properly. If past performance is anything to go by, you won’t have to worry about 4G going anywhere for at least a decade. In other words, your current 4G phone will reach the end of its life well before the 4G network does.

The path to upgrade

When 5G rolls out, you will need a handset that specifically takes advantage of the technology. Any handset manufactured right now is unlikely to have the technology to connect to the 5G network. So if you do have a planned upgrade path and are keen to be among the first to get on the 5G bandwagon, you might want to aim for a late 2019 or early 2020 purchase.

Tags:Mobile5GInternet Speed

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