Unsure if the battle for 5G supremacy is just a load of old hype? FinanceAsia gives you three good reasons why it will revolutionise the world.
5G technology will fundamentally transform the way digital data is stored. The near-infinite capacity of cloud storage can be fully utilised in the 5G era with the increased speed of internet connection, while the need for storage on local devices will be greatly reduced.
Data owners will no longer risk any loss from hardware failures because online storage systems are designed to fragment and duplicate information across multiple locations, implying that there will always be a backup of any backup.
On the flip side, 5G will give rise to a series of cybersecurity problems since data will be easily accessible by anyone on the internet. Naturally, there will be immense demand for tools and solutions to ensure servers are protected from hackers.
In the 5G era, technology companies will need to solve the dilemma between data sharing and data privacy, said Wenchi Chan, chief executive officer of Taiwanese chipmaker VIA Technologies.
“People need to realise the importance of public data sharing and the benefits it will bring to the world. But on the other hand they will need to respect data privacy for individuals and private companies,” Chan told FinanceAsia. “We will need to come up with a universal standard to ensure data is shared, and at the same time, protected in the right way.”
Many industry experts believe the most significant change brought about by 5G is the massive reduction in network latency, the lead time between a signal is sent and received.
“The ultra-low latency of 5G will apply to virtual reality and augmented reality systems, and enable intelligent robots to work on tasks that they can never do under the current network,” said Leif Johansson, chairman of Ericsson, one of the world’s largest telecommunications equipment suppliers.
5G is designed to support data transmission with latency below one millisecond (ms), which is significantly lower than 45ms under 4G LTE and 120ms under 3G. Ericsson believes with an appropriate configuration 5G can achieve a round-trip latency of below 1ms – equivalent to 0.5ms for one-way communication.
Low latency is critical to future applications that require near-instant responsiveness and absolute reliability.
For instance, driverless cars will have to constantly communicate with other cars and traffic signals and react in a split second. In the case of remote surgery, doctors need to receive real-time feedbacks to what the surgical robot is experiencing on the other side of the globe. There is almost zero margin for error for these applications.
Ultra-low latency is also crucial in providing seamless entertainment experience. In particular, VR gaming requires instant data transmission and has little tolerance for delays.
Low latency also applies to conducting seamless multi-person video conference calls, or remote controlling of certain manufacturing devices in smart factories.
Achieving low latency is perhaps the biggest challenge for 5G developers as it requires major technical changes, including signals to be sent using high radio frequencies and smart antenna arrays to reduce interference between many devices communicating at the same time. All these need to be supported by a new generation of communication chips.
The 5G network also requires more base stations to achieve low latency. These physical stations will have to be placed every 250 metres, while under 4G LTE base stations can be placed as far as five kilometres.
INTERNET OF THINGS
5G is also a prerequisite for applications around the Internet of Things (IoT), the next-generation computing technology that allows objects, animals or people to automatically transfer data without human interaction.
“With the sharp increase in IoT-supported devices, there will be a substantial increase in data generated from these devices and at the same time, the need for a reliable broadband network to transfer and store the data,” Ku Wei, general manager of Alibaba's IoT business, said. “Communication efficiency will be the key to IoT applications.”
IoT is poised to bring disruptive changes to the way we live and work. Futuristic smart homes will feature applications like energy and water monitoring systems, remote control appliances and intrusion-detection devices.
Children, the elderly and disabled people will be assisted by smart devices that monitor their health conditions and prevent accidents. Electrical applications will switch on and off automatically based on usage. Internet-connected freezers will control food conditions and offer advice on consumption patterns.
In a smart city scenario, intelligent traffic monitoring systems will minimise traffic congestions by advising on the optimal route based on communication with cars and roadways, as well as monitoring the parking spaces available across the city.
Smart waste management systems can detect rubbish levels in containers to optimise trash collection routes. IoT devices can monitor carbon emissions from factories, cars and farms to manage air and water pollution levels.
Supported by 5G, next-generation detection systems can minimise the threat from natural disasters like typhoons, earthquakes and forest fires by monitoring weather and land conditions, define alert zones and organise real-time emergency services to reduce damage and casualties.