5G networks road map: When will we get in the fast lane?

3G and 4G networks have laid the foundation for good connectivity. And it is now time to build on it with the next generation of cellular network, namely, the 5G networks of the future. Though the current 4G networks give us good connectivity, they don’t scale well enough to meet the growing demands on network bandwidth. This explains why you see slower connections or even dropped calls in some areas. Since connectivity has become an essential part of life, these slower speeds are frustrating and can even impact productivity in a big way.

The good news, though, is we don’t have to worry anymore as the world is on the threshold of embracing 5G — the next big leap in telecommunications. When these services roll out soon, you’ll have top-notch connectivity and will be able to do a ton of things, regardless whether you’re camping in a remote mountain region or partying in the canyons of New York City.

Before moving on to the current status of 5G, let’s take a brief look at 5G and why it’s so important for us.

What is 5G?

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By now you must have heard zillions of definitions and explanations about what 5G is. To briefly reiterate, 5G stands for fifth-generation cellular technology that can offer lower latency and higher bandwidth when compared to 4G. This means you can send and receive more data at faster speeds than what you can do now.

Needless to say, it opens up a world of opportunities, considering that more bandwidth-intensive applications and entertainment options are on the way. Some of the possible areas and applications that will benefit from 5G are:

Education

Use of augmented reality, video streaming, and virtual reality will greatly improve the quality of education and its understanding by students. Education will also transcend physical boundaries and will reach people in every part of the world.

Manufacturing

There is a lot of talk going on about smart factories and Industry 4.0. Essentially, in this setup, machines will do much of the work including communicating with each other and providing the necessary insights about performance to the end-user. Human interference and the possibility of errors also go down and productivity is expected to jump higher as well. 5G networks will give the necessary impetus to increase this speed of communication.

Health care

Telemedicine is catching on in a big way and 5G will make it easy to provide health care to even the remotest parts of the world, thereby taking the power of research and technology to everyone.

Smart grids

These grids use IoT and M2M to streamline the generation and distribution of power and to improve the overall efficiency of the same. 5G will greatly enhance the flow of information through this grid.

Entertainment

Video games, movies, and streaming content will require more bandwidth and faster speed to help users make the most of what’s being offered. The entry of virtual reality and augmented reality, both of which will need 5G speeds, is likely to take entertainment to new levels.

Autonomous cars

The emergence of autonomous cars will need massive amounts of continuous information to avoid collisions and to navigate across all terrain. And 5G is the infrastructure that can make this a reality.

The above are just a handful of sectors where 5G can make a big impact and there is no doubt that it will touch our lives in every way.

Where are we?

Now that we know what 5G is and how it can transform our society for good, the big question is when will this become a reality?

Going by the excitement and announcements by different service providers, 5G will be around fairly soon. Let’s look at some developments across different markets to get an idea of when you can get in the fast lane.

United States

The United States is trying to lead the way when it comes to 5G — although it’s getting enormous competition from China. All the major U.S. cellular service providers have already started rolling out 5G or they are in the process of doing it within the next few months.

  • Verizon has already launched its 5G mobile network and it is available in parts of Chicago and Minneapolis. Moto Z3 is the first compatible phone, though it has to be retrofitted with 5G connectivity. Samsung’s S10 5G also works on Verizon’s 5G network.
  • LG has just released the LG V50 ThinQ 5G that will run on Sprint’s 5G network. Sprint is also selling HTC’s 5G hub.
  • Apple is expected to release a 5G smartphone in 2020.
  • By December 2019, AT&T is likely to switch on its 5G network in about 15 major cities across the United States.
  • T-Mobile may also be releasing its 5G network sometime in 2019, though no specific dates have been announced in this regard.
  • 5G routers are available too with AT&T’s Nighthawk 5G mobile hotspot, Huawei 5G CPE pro router, and HTC 5G hub.

United Kingdom

In the UK, 5G has largely been around London and a few other major cities such as Birmingham and Manchester. Here are the developments in this part of the world.

  • EE, UK’s leading cellphone provider, switched on its 5G network last month.
  • Three, another UK provider, is running trials in London for its 5G network.
  • Vodafone UK will go live on July 3 while O2 might be ready by 2020 to roll out its 5G services.

South Korea

South Korea is an ambitious and technologically advanced country that also aims to make the most of this 5G boom.

The official launch of 5G was on Dec. 1, 2018, but it was available to only a few customers. On April 3 of this year, 5G services went live for the general public with the launch of the country’s first 5G phone — Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.

SK Telecom (SKT), KT, and LG Uplus are the three cellular providers here. Out of these, SKT has been at the forefront of 5G technology as it started its first trial in Seoul way back in 2017. In 2018, its 5G technology made it possible for two autonomous cars to communicate with each other in their autonomous driving city called K-City. In the early part of 2019, it also launched the first live 5G TV broadcast. The other two companies are not far behind either.

Canada

Currently, there are no 5G networks in Canada, but this can change by 2020 as Telus Mobility plans to start its service next year. It has established a center called 5G living lab in associated with Huawei to make Vancouver a smart and the greenest city by 2020 through technology initiatives. Keeping in tune with this goal, it will first offer 5G in Vancouver and will move on to other cities after that.

Rogers Communication will also start providing 5G services by 2020.

Japan

NTT DOCOMO is the largest cellular service provider in Japan and it plans to officially launch 5G in September. Along with Toyota, it has already tested 5G to control a humanoid and the outcome has been largely successful. Also, in September 2018, NTT DOCOMO did a trial run and was able to successfully offer download speeds of 25Gbps to 27Gbps.

From the above developments, it is clear that many countries will have 5G services by 2020, though we could expect some minor delays here and there.

What’s the future like for 5G networks?

The future is 5G — that’s how much it is expected to change the way we live and communicate. By 2020, most providers around the world are likely to offer 5G services for their customers and this coverage will grow from then on. In fact, a report by Ericsson shows that there will be 1.5 million subscribers for 5G services by 2024, covering about 40 percent of the world’s population.

In all, these developments put us on a threshold of yet another technological leap that will propel us to faster speeds and new heights.

Featured image: Shutterstock

Lavanya Rathnam

Lavanya Rathnam is a professional writer of tech and financial blogs. Creative thinker, out of the boxer, content builder and tenacious researcher who specializes in explaining complex ideas to different audiences.

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