Never before in the history of mobile phones has there been so much hype surrounding new technology as with 5G.
It seems that mobile operators, handset manufacturers and equipment manufacturers are involved in a huge global top-class game, claiming to be the first to make a breakthrough with the technology. But there is a lot at stake – the mobile industry needs urgently 5G, whether for new sources of revenue, for market share or for growth.
Since the introduction of mobile phones in the mid-1980s, the industry has launched several new generations of networks and technologies. These early 1980's analogue 'brick' phones were replaced by the GSM, digital and international roaming service 2G (1990s). 3G (2000s) offered improved Internet connectivity before 4G (2010s) put a true broadband experience in our hands.
5G is now the fifth generation, but despite considerable media attention and massive improvements in data capability (downloading an HD movie in less than a minute), speed alone can not be ignored.
The next generation
After all, it's simply not sustainable to launch a new technology every ten years or so. New frequency bands require license fees, new network infrastructure needs to be built, and administrative costs increase as new technologies are integrated into existing infrastructure. At the same time, all other generations of the network remain in operation. For example, British operators continue to support 2G, 3G and 4G as they prepare to launch 5G.
What's so special about 5G? Capacity and coverage will not be immediately available at take-off, but in due course more is expected from both. For the user, 5G speeds are a big win. The specified values range from 100 Mbps to 20 Gbps (which is up to a thousand times faster than 4G).
Of course, this is delivered in direct response to our seemingly insatiable appetite for more and more online content and, above all, video. But 5G is not just revolutionizing mobile devices. It could also be an alternative way to provide broadband Internet access to households via Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) (using wireless cellular technology instead of fixed line).
Then there is the delay or latency that defines the responsiveness of the network. For 4G, these are currently about 40 milliseconds. However, 5G could reduce latency for advanced mobile broadband (eMBB) applications to 10 milliseconds.
For most people that does not mean much, but it could be crucial for the useful development of specialized applications such as virtual reality and connected and self-driving vehicles, where even small delays can make a big difference.
What about the operators?
For the operators, the benefits are numerous. Higher frequencies and the new MIMO antenna technology allow better coverage and more capacity. This ensures a consistent user experience, even as demand increases in densely populated areas.
Improved coverage is also critical to the functioning of the Internet of Things, with a huge number of sensors, embedded systems, and data interchange equipment being connected wirelessly.
& # 39; Hello! I want an upgrade … "ShutterstockTechnology, which is supported by 5G, allows operators to offer different types of services to different groups across the same network, but in a better and more managed way.
This future-proofs the infrastructure by creating a service-oriented network that can evolve rather than constantly being replaced by a new one. This eliminates the need for a 6G network and the retirement of previous generations of networks.
The progress towards 5G was fast. Originally scheduled for commercial launch in 2020, 5G is already a year ahead of schedule. The first formal standards were adopted in December 2017, mobile phones are expected to hit the market in the first quarter of 2019 (with a suggested retail price of £ 600) and UK operators have announced commercial market launches beginning in mid-2019.
However, the rollout is determined primarily by demand. Given the huge investment in 4G networks and networks of earlier generations, 5G has to be paid for real revenue.
Let it pay
That's a big challenge. The advantages of 5G are associated with a high price for the industry. In April 2018, UK mobile operators spent 1.1 billion pounds sterling on licensing fees for access to the newly released 3.4-GHz radio frequencies, and both pledged billions of euros to build the new 5G service. And all this before the sales flow back into the industry.
How can the service be effectively monetized? Ultimately, the problem is that 4G is good enough for most mobile subscribers. And given that most benefits of 5G are either hidden to operators or are of little direct benefit to the everyday user, what value can it have simply to have faster download speeds?
The success of 5G will therefore depend on operators and their wholesale partners entering new markets beyond traditional mobile customers. It could start with a higher capacity for today's services such as video or enhanced custom campus network functionality for campus or business locations.
Ultimately, however, investors need to think big – and look to the industry behind connected vehicles, the Internet of Things and other important technologies of the future.
This article was re-published by The Conversation by Nigel Linge, Professor of Computer Networks and Telecommunications, University of Salford under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.