Five ways 5G will improve the consumer experience
The next generation of mobile internet will mean more than just faster video streaming. 5G will connect millions more devices to the Internet of Things, make our cities smarter and payments more seamless.
From voice calls to 4K video
We’ve been working our way towards fast, reliable mobile internet for more than 30 years. The first mobile phones opened the door to making calls on the go, with text messages arriving in 1991. 3G heralded video calls and a true mobile internet. Since 2008, we’ve been able to enjoy the fast speeds of 4G – taking us to a world where we’re more likely to use our phone to shop than to make a call.
The next generation of mobile networking will be 5G. It goes without saying that it will be faster than 4G, but the fifth generation of mobile internet promises a lot more than simply improved streaming speeds.
Faster speeds, lower latency and a lot more connections
5G will be better than 4G in three main ways:
- Speed - theoretically, 5G could be 1,000 times faster, but other estimates say it’s more likely to be dozens of times quicker
- Latency, or how long it takes for devices to communicate with each other, could be as low as 1 millisecond, or 60 to 120 times better than 4G latency speeds
- Capacity - 5G will allow far more devices to be connected to the ultra-fast mobile network in a much smaller area without interference or reduced speeds
It’s not the updated specification we notice when a new generation of tech hits the mainstream, it’s the effect it has on our lives. When combined, the speed, connectivity and latency of 5G could have a transformative effect on how we use devices wherever we are, whether it’s working remotely, commuting, or at massive gatherings such as concerts and sports games. As Keith Little, Head of Change the Bank Technology at Barclays, puts it: “5G is an enabler and allows consumers to continue on the journey of always being connected”.
Five ways 5G will change our daily lives
1. Powering the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is everything that’s connected to the internet, but it stretches far beyond smartphones and laptops. There are 7 billion devices connected to the net including industrial sensors, light bulbs, thermostats, weather monitors, and traffic systems.
The low latency of 5G could benefit a wide variety of connected devices, including self-driving cars. For example, when a human driver travelling at 70 mph spots a hazard and slams on the breaks, the typical stopping distance is 96 metres, 21 of which are spent ‘thinking’ about stopping. An autonomous vehicle equipped with 5G and 1ms latency could be 500 times faster at processing the danger.
It’s going to affect how we make purchases too. The Internet of Things will enable the things we use every day to make payments; you could pay for fuel by pressing a button in your car or order groceries with your fridge.
Beyond autonomous cars and payments, when 5G is applied to the Internet of Things, huge volumes of data will be fed into data centres and processed with artificial intelligence to learn about and improve our traffic systems, energy consumption, delivery networks and more. “There will be better data as a result of 5G, meaning consumer behaviours are better understood, leading to even more tailored products and services for them” says Keith Little.
2. Smarter cities
As more aspects of our environments are connected to the net through 5G, the way we live in cities will evolve. There are already initiatives in cities around the world that use device-to-device connectivity to save money and increase public safety. For example, in Yinchuan, China, smart waste bins let the rubbish company know when they need emptying, while other sensors flag air and water pollution hazards in real time.
Smart payments are already being used in many cities. Contactless is used on public transit networks across the globe, while clever initiatives are simplifying life for people every day. For example, AppyParking in the UK, uses mobile technology to help users find and pay for parking spots – making it easier and fairer for driver.
5G networks will support the roll-out of similar concepts in cities around the world, making cities more efficient and easier to live in
3. Video and virtual reality
By the end of 2019, it’s predicted that Brits will spend an average of 32 minutes per day watching video on mobile, rising to 35 minutes in 2020. When 5G goes mainstream, increased bandwidth will mean even more content is in video format. Baidu COO Qi Lu thinks 5G video will ‘replace a lot of written language communications’. An Intel report predicts that 90% of 5G traffic will be video by the year 2028 and instead of using an average of 11.7GB of bandwidth per month, we’ll each use 84.4GB.
Not only will we be able to stream 4K video easily, but virtual reality and augmented reality video will also be possible thanks to 5G’s speed and low latency. For example, we could hold conference calls with colleagues and play games with friends who are spread across the globe.
At the moment, virtual and augmented reality experiences are restricted to the fixed location of the device that runs them. 5G in combination with the cloud will help us overlay information onto the environment around us using VR headsets. That means experiences like:
- smooth and reliable immersive games (e.g. better versions of Pokémon Go)
- environment exploration (e.g. augmented reality city tours)
- communication (e.g. ‘sitting’ with family members who are miles away)
- smarter working (e.g. architects collaborating on a shared design)
- fitness (e.g. running with a virtual trainer in front of you)
Expanded AR and VR experiences are forecasted to provide £108 billion in global cumulative revenues between 2021 and 2028.
4. Improved security
With so many more devices and services connected to 5G, security will be more important than ever. Cisco’s analysis of 5G threats includes malware, bots that could take down networks, the jamming of devices, and the theft of sensitive data via backdoors. Most of these threats already exist – the difference is in the scale of the risk once millions more devices are connected.
Ensuring strong security across all devices using 5G will be key to the success of the technology. Tech companies are already laying out the security needs to address this issue.
5. Better battery life
Part of being a smartphone user in 2019 inevitably involves planning when and where you’ll charge your phone to avoid the dreaded auto-shutdown at the worst possible moment. The most you can currently hope for is up to 15 hours of use, but you might not get that much if using wireless or apps that demand a lot of processing power. 5G could provide the answer. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam thinks that the speed and low latency of 5G could allow information to be processed in the cloud then streamed to the phone instead of being intensively crunched by the device. McAdam believes the power saving could mean we only have to charge our phones once per month, instead of once or twice per day.
It’s predicted that the global 5G market will reach a value of £200 billion by 2025, but there are some hurdles to tackle before we can all live in smart, augmented cities with full smartphone batteries around the clock. Unlike when we moved from 3G to 4G, 5G requires a whole new specification and infrastructure. This will take time and a large investment from mobile networks. Nevertheless, several countries are currently trialling 5G in big cities, including the US, Germany, China and the UK.
EE has announced it will first roll out its 5G network in the 1,500 busiest areas of the UK. Once 5G is powering our smart cities, UK households could save £450 a year on energy bills and councils could regain £2.8 billion annually thanks to smart lighting, smart refuse collection and improved social care. Payments will be a major source of 5G innovation – Keith Little believes “5G will drive forward new business models that we’re yet to see in the next 5 years. There will be a payments aspect to many of these so we need to be able to work with these future players to address consumer needs.”