The Wireless World of 5G

The Wireless World of 5G

The world is undoubtedly becoming wireless with more and more devices connecting to the internet of things (IoT). Everything from your car to your toaster can now be “smart” and have some of its features be controlled through the power of the internet in one way or another. However, as devices become wireless the network that enables them to communicate is still very much fixed with almost all homes still connected via a copper wire. With the dawn of 4K HD streaming, Virtual reality (VR) and Augmented reality (AR) all demanding greater and faster data transfer it is not unimaginable to realise that we are racing towards the capacitive limits of our networks.

Optical fibres have been hailed as the next generation technology that will allow us to continue to indulge in our ever-growing data binge. I agree that the theoretical “unlimited capacity” of optical fibres is extremely appealing, it is just very expensive to install and will require continuous upgrades of the equipment at each end to increase the throughput of the fibres to meet growing demand.

Perhaps there is an alternative option on the horizon. Wireless home broadband. 4G versions of the technology are already available and offer an instantaneous home internet connection without the need for an engineer to install it or even a phone line. With download speeds averaging only around 20Mbps there is little current advantage of switching to wireless broadband from traditional fixed routes. Hence why I refer to the alternative option as “on the horizon” and by horizon, I mean 2020, that is when 5G is expected to be rolled out globally.

In 2014 the GSMA released eight criteria for 5G. The first being speeds of between 1-10Gbps! To put that into perspective, it would mean a full HD movie could be downloaded in around 10 seconds and far surpass the 1Gbps theoretical maximum speed of the current copper cable.

It easy to see the benefits 5G wireless broadband will us. A centralized access infrastructure will be easier for the network providers to maintain, negating the need for expensive and labour-intensive civils work installing and mending cables to each individual premise. It has the potential to provide instantaneous fast broadband to any premises anywhere in the country with just a box that can be bought online or over the counter. We will likely see mobile and broadband contracts combine to become single bills that encompass all of our connectivity needs. Hopefully this will help end the outrageous cancellation fees that currently plague broadband contracts.

2020 is just around the corner and with each year we a step closer to living in a wireless world. The remaining hurdles standing in the way of 5G becoming widely available are “Spectrum availability” and the actual cost of the technology itself. The biggest issue with “spectrum availability” is that it varies from country to country. Generally, governments control the spectrum in their country and dictate how it is used. For 5G to become a worldwide phenomenon it will need international cooperation to identify and agree 5G frequencies. Secondly, the cost is also a problem because no one actually knows yet how much 5G will cost and nobody will, until the technology has been finished. Personally, I think this is a hurdle is unlikely to have much effect. If history has taught us anything it is that a good technology will lead to mass adoption and mass adoption will lead to low prices. If 5G can meet its potential I am sure it will have no problems achieving mass adoption.

In truth, I do not see a maximalist future with everybody’s internet connection being totally wireless. There are too many other factors such as saturation and security that will mean the demand for fixed connections will not diminish into nothing. Instead, I think 5G will provide a complimentary alternative while fixed networks upgrade from copper to optical.

Christopher Braithwaite

Author: Christopher Braithwaite

The founder of TMTalks, Christopher, is based in the United Kingdom and writes for the site in his free time. Particular areas of interest include Space, energy, cyber security and block-chain technology.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *