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Understanding 5G and the Future of Living and Working

Thu Apr 27 00:00:00 EDT 2017

As networks and companies race toward being the first to establish themselves as leaders in the 5G playground, there is still significant work to be done. The widespread adoption of 5G technologies are not expected until 2020, which means a vast level of preparation is needed, both in terms of infrastructure and technology. Here's what you can expect: 

Connectivity Will Become Ubiquitous  

Connectivity has become critical for navigating daily life, told by our addiction to our smartphones. In fact, mobile subscriptions are predicted to reach 9 billion by 2021, outnumbering the population of the world by nearly 2 billion in the same year.  

Those numbers actually seem trivial in comparison to the estimated 28 billion connected devices by 2021,16 of which will be related to the Internet of Things (IoT). According to research by the Mobile Ecosystem Forum, there will be more of these devices than phones by 2018. Whether it’s a connected device or a cell phone, the point is that the 5G network will need a lot of horsepower to connect everything with speed and efficiency. 

5G vs 4G: A Major Improvement 

So, how will 5G compare to its predecessor, 4G? The new network will have a much higher bandwidth than 4G, capable of processing 1000x the mobile data volume. It will have a lower latency, (lower latency = higher speed) dropping from 50 milliseconds to 1 millisecond. And it will be capable of supporting many more IoT devices, 100x the amount with 4G. 

What 5G Technology Offers 

So, what does that mean? With higher bandwidth and lower latency, people will become more productive than ever. Imagine being able to download a file, run an app, stream video or browse the web at lightning speeds. No longer are the days of watching a progress bar while a web page loads. 

And businesses will benefit from this increased capacity and speed as well, according to By 2020, the average human will generate 1.7 megabytes of new data every second. With quick access to this information, companies will be able to react to changing circumstances and influence decisions in real-time.     

Starting from Square One 

But before all of these great improvements can come to fruition, unique challenges will need to be addressed. A new standard with technical specifications must be finalized to ensure consistency across the network, especially in rural areas with limited coverage. 

Several major tech companies are currently collaborating on developing a prototype 5G standard including Ericsson, Intel, Nokia, Samsung and Verizon. However, 3GPP, the global body overseeing wireless standards, may or may not endorse the prototype in the final specification, says Engineering & Technology

And developing the standard is only half the battle. The 5G network will require a completely new infrastructure to be built, which won't be cheap. The cost of equipment upgrades around the world are predicted to be $1.7 trillion between 2017 and 2020

Security in a World of Threats 

The launch of 5G will bring about a host of new devices and applications across many industries. Today, the security measures for 4G include a network-based "hop-by-hop" approach which secures the path for communicating parties. However, it may not be efficient enough to build differentiated end-to-end (E2E) security for various services, according to the EU Observer.   

What are some of the potential examples of security threats in the 5G Network? As more autonomous vehicles hit the market, thieves may be able to launch an automotive cyberattack to steal your car by taking over control of the engine. And as cars start collecting more financial information about owners, that data will be vulnerable as well, according to the Wall Street Journal.     

Healthcare is another sector that could be at risk, says SDX central. Medical identity theft, invasion of health privacy and medical data management are some of the potential threats. In addition, the smart home will be at risk for unauthorized access given all of the IoT-connected devices that control it. To prevent hacking in the IoT, companies will need to develop more rigorous authentication methods. 

The Race to Rollout 5G 

Which country will launch 5G first? It's a toss-up, but what we know for sure is that 10 countries are expected to launch 5G by 2020, according to research by Tech Flier and Investopedia. Those countries include South Korea, China, Japan, the United States, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Sweden, Estonia, and Turkey.  

Why are these countries in such a rush to rollout 5G? Competition is fierce in today's global economy and these countries don't want to be left in the dust. Also, staying current with the latest technology helps improve the lives of their citizens, who will need 5G in the near future. 

New Opportunities on the Horizon 

5G is predicted to change the world, and with that change will come new opportunities for businesses and products alike. A survey report by Qualcomm found that 80 percent of respondents expect small business growth and more global competition – which makes sense, considering 22 million jobs are expected to be created as a result of the 5G mobile value chain.  

And those new jobs are set to have a transformational impact on the economy. A multitude of industries ranging from retail to entertainment will produce up to $12.3 trillion worth of goods and services – all enabled by 5G.  

5G Use Cases – Living in a 5G World 

The next wireless network will enable new ways of living and conducting your day to day business. One of the most impactful ways will be the shift to autonomous vehicles, according to CNN. Although we won't see mass adoption until 2025 or 2030, 5G promises to improve vehicle safety and reduce congestion. Imagine an obstacle appears in the road – with a 5G connection, your vehicle would identify it and swerve to avoid collision. How is that possible? The car would communicate the information to a data center in the cloud and receive instructions to navigate the situation, almost instantaneously. 

Another part of your life that will be impacted is your health. For example, if you need a complex surgery done – 5G could help with that. In the future, robotic surgeries will be greatly improved, according to IT Pro Portal. Surgeons will be able to perform operations by translating their movements into commands for a surgical instrument to follow. The instrument will mimic these precise movements almost immediately – all thanks to the low-latency of the new wireless network. 

When 5G becomes commercially available, it will power a truly connected lifestyle. The vision we've built around the IoT will be amplified – and new opportunities will be born. As we march closer to the 2020 milestone, a more connected world is almost within grasp, but it's up to the world's technology leaders to make it happen.