The vision of 5G is becoming more clear, but it will be some time yet before it becomes a full reality. 5G is expected to bring incredible speeds and a latency (responsiveness) of just milliseconds. Leaders in 4G LTE are following the standards, and in some cases helping craft them, to stay at the forefront as the 5G world develops.
Defining the Current State of 5G
5G is the next generation of mobile networks. The standards are not expected to be set until around 2019, so the definition is still somewhat fluid. We do know that end users can expect ultra-low latency and ultra-high speeds. Currently, the marketing hype is off the charts. Wireless network operators are conducting various trials this year, but it’s limited to a few cities and only offering fixed wireless, i.e. no mobility, since that functionality will only come once the standards are complete.
Applications Reaching New Levels with 5G
Once 5G reaches its full potential, it could deliver possibly life-saving applications, where in the past those capabilities just didn’t exist. Think of remotely controlled robotics or remote surgery. Applications will vary depending on how the network will most widely be used in the coming years, but categories like autonomous driving, virtual reality, and augmented reality are a few that are expected to grow.
Applications like these that are highly sensitive to latency are limited today to what is accessible in a wired environment, but with 5G you can extend that. Think of 5G as wireless fiber — but 5G is about more than just higher speeds and lower latency. The 5G standards also take into account much higher connection density, so as the immense number of devices for Internet of Things (IoT) applications get deployed, networks will be able to handle them.
Effects of 5G with Mobile Edge Computing and the IoT
In addition, the amount of data being generated at the edge by IoT devices is growing significantly faster than the ability of the network to process it — and with the extra bandwidth of 5G, that problem can become exponentially worse. Edge processing (also called fog computing) means pushing compute resources out to the edge. This means, as all the IoT data comes in, it can be pre-processed to send only the desired results rather than all of the data. For example, sending an alert when the temperature of a restaurant’s refrigerator is too high or too low, rather than sending every reading.
The 5G Router
A good way to think about following network trends is to shoot to where the puck is going. Devices need to be engineered for end-to-end throughput that can handle 5G speeds. Consideration needs to go into the processor, memory, and the ability to move bits through, even when doing high-compute capabilities, like deep packet inspection. You also need the ability on the device to do pre-processing before it gets to the network. Consideration should go into how much edge computing goes into a device. Multi-core processors even allow for onboard Universal Threat Management (UTM), that previously required a separate security appliance.
When will 5G be Available?
5G won’t just roll out all at once. 5G will start in densely populated areas, handing off to 4G to ensure continuous coverage when moving outside that area. Moreover, 5G won’t replace 4G, whereas 4G has replaced 2G and will ultimately replace 3G. The two will work in a complementary fashion to handle different types of traffic most efficiently.
Today, we are still in the technical trial stage while the standards for mobility and network interoperability are in development. It’s likely we will see commercial launches next year, and once the standards are set, there’s no turning back. 5G will provide catalysts for new applications and new opportunities that are just waiting to be imagined.
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