5G: Just Another Buzzword?
The chatter around 5G has been slowly picking up since 4G became commonplace, but today we’re finally seeing real-world implementations. At Mobile World Congress (MWC) this year, Nokia, Qualcomm, Intel, Huawei, Ericsson, and others announced their plans for 5G (learn more here). I believe it’s only a matter of time before we see widespread adoption of the technology. The next-gen evolution of LTE, 5G is seen as the answer to everyone’s demand for faster, more efficient, and more reliable communication.
5G gives us the promise of not being hindered to hotspots anymore. 5G also promises the possibility of not just point-to-point connections, but peer-to-peer and (much more holistically) device-to-device connectivity at scale. In addition, this service can be offered in a very reliable and cost-effective way.
These advances aren’t just for different lines of industries. All of us can relate to wanting the accessibility and much-needed mobility that 5G brings. Of course, most carriers now offer unlimited data on many mobile plans, but it’s still not affordable for everyone. Worse, with 4G LTE, we’re literally constrained by the location. My family and I actually plan our vacations based on how reliable the Wi-Fi/cell phone reception is, and I’m sure we’re not alone.
This widespread demand is one of the primary reasons why the entire tech industry is paying attention to 5G, in addition to its tech possibilities and the opportunities that they can tap into.
Impact of 5G beyond the Telcos
To understand the far-reaching impact that 5G will have beyond the telecommunication industries, it helps to review the basics. 5G works on lower frequencies, on a spectrum that is much closer to the Earth than the higher frequencies/spectrum that the 4G networks currently run on. A good analogy would be the different layers of the atmosphere. If 4G waves were transmitted through the stratosphere, 5G waves will be transmitted via the troposphere. It will be faster — much faster opening endless possibilities.
We’re not just talking about the “rise of big data” anymore — we’re talking about the sheer volume of information that’s transmitted from every little connected “thing” that communicates with people and each other over the Internet. 5G will increase the demand for faster access to data — we’ll expect to get answers in seconds or real-time instead of minutes.
Benefits of 5G for Tech Vendors
One of the biggest challenges the tech industry faces today is collecting the data from the field and running it through data processing engines to gain valuable insights. We’re unable to do it efficiently because we’re always constrained by location, we’re throttled by the network connectivity, and we’re hobbled by the occasional lack of compatibility between systems. Even if everything else works correctly and users can get all their data, companies are still forced to design software to get around these constraints.
“5G is poised to solve this problem in a big way. Distributed processing can truly become a reality. The promise for vendors is tremendous — we can re-think just about every layer of software architecture again.”
Just like cloud transformed the way that our software is being designed and architected today, 5G will give us another opportunity to change how we think about our traditional architecture supporting an application, communication, and data processing.
How Should Technology Vendors Respond to this paradigm shift of 5G?
For vendors like SAP, there are two questions to answer,
- How do we architect our solutions at scale to better address the disparate data we’ll receive in order to analyze them for insights (both cheap and fast)?
- What applications can we develop to capitalize on the launch of 5G?
• Applications could be based on the cloud. Or they could even be a peer-to-peer based type of application where you can deliver much faster results, without the middlemen, so to speak.
• Moreover, automation could become more simplified and clutter-free with fewer cogs in the wheel to perform a function.The opportunities for vendors are innumerable — we’ll just have to wait and see how fast companies come up with solutions to meet the consumers’ modern demands in the age of 5G.
The Greater Impact of 5G
A lot of telecom companies are driving the movement of 5G technology, and rightfully so.
Essentially, telecom providers are:
- Laying down the infrastructure so that, ultimately, 5G can reduce the fundamental network latency rates that we currently see.
- Forming an ecosystem of technology partners around 5G accessibility that includes not only mobile devices, but IoT sensors and even data processing.
- Creating different use case scenarios, like autonomous driving, smart cities of the future, connected manufacturing, or next generation AR-VR work environments. All these applications will benefit from having a robust network architecture with low latency.
Consider, for example, a manufacturing environment, where people work with heavy machinery. With 5G and the help of AI, people can communication directly with the machines, instead of through a third-party intermediary.
I personally look forward to applications around autonomous communication between vehicles when an emergency vehicle is coming closer. Drivers will no longer be dependent upon hearing the traditional sirens to know when an emergency vehicle is coming closer. In addition, such autonomous communications apps could guide drivers to a safer route to their destination.
5G in an Area near You
So what’s happening now for consumers? Sprint and T-Mobile are laying out their infrastructure investments here in the United States and have announced they’ll be deploying a 5G network in multiple cities across the US post their merger. This announcement proves how bullish the Telco and Tech industry is on 5G.
Of course, for the first few months at least, the true 5G connection will only be between the cell towers and the mobile devices, while the back-end will run on existing 4G LTE infrastructure.
I would love to see my city nominated for the 5G roll-out (unfortunately, I’m not in that lucky group). I think all of us would admit to being frustrated with our specific top-end providers when they continue to raise the price of our broadband access and then throttle the speed at their whims and fancies.
5G’s completely destroyed that old model and way of thinking — it will set us geographically free, and will give us a complete communication. I personally look forward to the day when I can be on a 5G-based with voice-over IP system that doesn’t drop, because I can just drive to a different corner and not worry about switching from one hotspot to the other. I’m also eagerly waiting for the day when I can completely drop Xfinity (and those humongous bills!), and go with 5G because it’s faster, cheaper, and more flexible.