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5G - Lots Lower Latency

Realizing the Next Generation’s Definition of Real Time

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Cradlepoint

In the movie “Top Gun,” Maverick and Goose once said, “I feel the need, the need for speed!” Last year marked the movie’s 30-year anniversary, and one thing we know about the past three decades is that the way people live their day-to-day lives has gradually sped up to a faster and faster pace. We know what we want, and we want it now. 

In many instances, customer satisfaction hinges on how long the customer must wait for something. This fast-paced way of life has increased the amount of traffic on the Internet, and lower latency is becoming a bigger deal as people rely more and more on an always-on, responsive network connection.

Latency can be defined in networking terms as how fast the network responds in the round-trip journey from the request to the response, typically measured in milliseconds. When 4G LTE networks were introduced, one of the key deliverables was a latency of less than 100 milliseconds. At the time, this threshold was generally considered “real time,” the performance of which, along with throughput speeds that were faster than a T-1 circuit, enabled businesses to seriously consider 4G LTE as a legitimate enterprise-grade WAN source. Accordingly, millions of 4G LTE connections have been put into service in wide-ranging applications from business continuity to primary connections in kiosks, branch offices, vehicles, IoT, and even in disaster relief situations like Hurricane Harvey.

On the other hand, the law of diminishing returns would cause some to argue that 100 milliseconds may no longer be considered real time. Just think about the last time you had “laggy” video conferencing—certainly there must be room for improvement.

Benefits of 5G Beyond Speed

5G is the next-generation cellular WAN, with ultra-low latency, massive connection density, and high reliability being instrumental in enabling the Internet of Things and innovative applications such as mission-critical control. When 5G does arrive, it will decrease latency to sub-10 milliseconds and the network will be 10 times, and possibly up to 100 times, faster. Lower latency will be required for many next-generation applications and will, of course, benefit the vast majority of current ones.

The ultra-low latency scenario could be a game-changer, enabling mission-critical applications such as:

  • Industrial automation
  • Drone control
  • Virtual reality
  • Sensors
  • Remote surgery and medical intervention
  • Military applications

And let’s not forget the law of diminishing returns; how about flawless videoconferencing in HD or 3D? If you think “wireless fiber,” you’ll start to get a sense for the immensity of impact that 5G will bring.

When to Expect 5G

Until the arrival of 5G, LTE will continue to develop and get better and faster. As I mentioned in a prior post (5G Is Nearer Than You Think: The 5 Things You Need to Know), 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. That said, we’ll likely see initial 5G fixed access (non-mobile) launches in 2018.

In 2019, the 3GPP standards organization expects to have the specification completed for mobility and interoperability; however, actual commercial launches could take an additional year. As carriers, enterprises, and the public wait for the final standards to be set, it’s safe to assume the enthusiasm for a speedier, faster connection will only get stronger.

Next time, we’ll discuss “5G and A Few Frequency Facts."

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