Fifth-generation wireless (5G) technology was one of the hottest topics at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona earlier this year, where Indue CEO Manuel Garcia joined the global conversation about the future of mobile technology and payments.
Companies from Huawei, Orange Telecom and Qualcomm used the congress as an opportunity to position themselves as the 5G front-runners. Korea Telecom representatives spruiked 5G t-shirts while Ericsson showed off the first ‘handset’, still in development. Telstra spoke about its plans for the next 5 years to get 5G ready for consumers, including an upgrade to 4G ahead of 5G, similar to the roll-out of Next G as an interim product before 4G.
In reality, 5G technology is still several years away, with no technical standards yet to be decided.
Peter Merz, Head of Radio Systems for Nokia said he expected the Asia Pacific region to be one of the front-runners. Japan wants to see 5G rolled out commercially in time for the 2020 Summer Tokyo Olympic Games, while China and Korea are also eager to be at the fore.
With 5G expected to be available from 2020, and international standardisation development to start in 2016, what does this technology mean for Australia?
5G will be the pathway to wireless Internet speeds of up to 10 gigabits a second, with latency of only 1 millisecond. In comparison with the 4G available in Australia today, an 8 gigabyte, high-definition movie will take 20 minutes to download. With 5G, the same file will take 6 seconds.
It is predicted that 5G will lead to the industrialisation of the Internet. This will connect devices, sensors and buildings, paving the way for smarter, more connected communities. For example, the Internet will be able to provide data about the best time to travel into the CBD. Sensors will be built into devices to measure pressure, temperature and stress. Buildings, bridges and roads will be monitored continuously for structural health. Traffic lights could not only be timed, but connected and controlled to manage congestion.
An ageing population
Australia’s ageing population has a number of broader economic and societal challenges, including rising healthcare costs. 5G will make remote surgery possible and reduce the cost and intrusiveness of medical monitors. Monitors could even be embedded in clothing, hair or furniture. Patient vital sign data could be logged and monitored to better understand the cause and effect of health conditions.
5G will turn driverless cars into a reality. Self-drive cars need connectivity at one billions bits per second. With minimal lag times, and low battery consumption, cars could be driven robotically over the Internet. 5G will reduce latency, the time needed for a packet of data to move across a network or series of networks. This means when applying breaks, a self-drive car will travel only 2.8cm before stopping with 5G, compared to 1.4m with 4G.
Naturally, governments will need to consider security issues associated with self-drive technology and evolve to keep pace.
5G will also improve the experience for users of mobile apps, gaming and payments. Low latency and connection speed will enable phones to respond immediately after a control is pressed. The technology will also support applications for smart homes and augmented reality. There will be nothing in our lifestyle we won’t be able to connect with via an Internet connection. 5G will also provide improvements for energy consumption and the cost associated.
Video will be an important tool for emergency services, especially when streamed from a helmet or helicopter-mounted cameras. With 5G, media will be delivered with ultra-low latency for group call services, or relaxed latency for issuing warning messages. 5G will also improve critical communications over mobile networks, reducing response times for emergency personnel.
For more insights from the Mobile World Congress, click here.