A common question is “what does the ‘G’ in 5G stand for?”. We’ve all heard of 3G, 4G and even 5G; from third generation to the fourth and then the fifth, but what does a generation really entail? Given 5G technology is now available, what does it all mean?
Well, for starters 5G will offer speeds of up to 1000x faster than 4G and that means better mobile performance, gaming experiences, video capabilities and stronger connectivity which opens up the playing field especially when it comes to apps such as Facetime and Snapchat.
To understand the advancements in mobile technology, let’s take a look at the journey from 1G to 5G or rather from the days of carrying heavy brick-like mobiles to the super light weight smartphones of today.
To answer the question, you need to go back to the basics of the telephone. Analogue cellular, big like a brick and capable of making calls across a very limited space. Revolutionary in every way. Back then, they must’ve thought “We’ve hit the jackpot here”.
This was great, at the time, but the first mobile phones had a very limited range and as increasingly more people demanded quicker and more accessible communication, it needed to be upgraded. The first step to doing this was to standardise the cellular network to make it work across multiple systems. Queue the 3GPP (third generation partnership program); the people who started the standardisation process that eventually lead to 2G.
A shift from analogue systems to digital with the addition of SIM cards that ensured more security, and more importantly allowed other networks to communicate with each other.
It’s not just across the Brisbane or Sydney networks that these cellular devices work, but around the globe. 2G also took a step up in its communication capabilities with the addition of SMS or “texting”; a means of communicating that is far more used than calling in today’s society.
This came about during the era of the Pager. You remember that little box you had holstered to your waist like a gun? The thing that would allow users to receive and respond to messages? Well at the time, the thought was that SMS would be useless in the face of Pagers…boy were they wrong.
2G was essentially the dawn of the communications disruption.
People could even use Blackberrys to receive emails. The world was clearly changing at a rapid pace, and Telco companies needed to keep up or risk falling behind.
Now we can receive files on a mobile phone, and so logically the next step is to provide an internet connection to these devices so that these files can be accessible anywhere and at anytime. In comes 3G.
A lot of people associate 3G cellular with the iPhone 3G…but think before that. We’re talking 2003 with Hutchinson as the sole providers at the time; before smartphones were even released. We had the blueprint, but not the right device to build the project to completion. Essentially, what we needed was a PC. And so the challenge was “How do we get a mobile device to act like one?”
Smartphones is how.
This opened up a new world of communication. It was already impressive that we could receive attachments, but now we wanted to be able to send them, and not just any attachment, but photos and videos.
4G, introduced in 2011, focused on the relationship between the user and the internet. We were now able to send each other photos and videos via SMS, we had data to roam the internet, but we still weren’t really adapted to what we now know as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. With 3G, we reached speeds of 42Mbps which at the time was deemed impressive. But advancements to the next generation allowed for up to 2Gbps, meaning that things like Facebook live, video conferencing and FaceTime were all possible; and in real time.
We were also introduced to the concept of latency. To put it simply, if I were to send you a package, latency is how long it would take for you to receive the package. With 4G, the latency speed was at 30 ms; bringing about the term Instant Messaging.
So what’s 5G?
An important point that needs to be understood is that 5G is not simply about your Google results page loading a few mili-seconds faster; it is instead a gateway to a new dimension of possibilities.
It’s the next step to dealing with a software society full of a multitude of connections.
5G will be crucial for gaming, training and entertainment purposes. Getting 2.3 Gbps at now 20 mili-seconds of latency means that users will be receiving data even faster. For VR, training simulations for firefighting, space travel and airplane piloting can be used even more efficiently; self-driving cars like those form Tesla will respond to its environment at high speeds, gaming will be high-quality and “lag-less” and much more.
When it comes to you and me, we can expect a plethora of new and exciting technologies on apps such as Snapchat, as well as ultra-fast connectivity for FaceTime calls, Facebook lives, Instagram lives and video in general. And, of course, your phone will load pages faster, messages will be sent and received at ping rates, and you will genuinely notice a huge difference in performance. In fact, it is said that 5G will offer speeds of up to 1000x faster than its predecessor.
5G will bring us a new meaning to a connected society. More people will be able to connect to the same network without hindering its performance level; a feature that is especially important in developments to autonomous cars, connected machinery, and general Internet of Things devices.
To sum it up, 5G will bring greater speeds in terms of the moving of data, lower latency (at more responsive rates), and the ability to connect far more devices at once on one network. It will not banish 4G, instead it will continuously work in tandem with, bouncing back and forth to gauge the best connection possible for your device.
What devices will support 5G?
There are currently smartphones that do support 5G. You can check out the list here.
We can expect two Apple products that support 5G in 2020, along with Sony, Nokia and plenty more. Right now, these 5G-supported phones are quite expensive, but when more of them start to roll out, the prices will start to drop.
Will 5G be harmful?
The simple answer is no. There is a common misconception that 5G’s higher frequency will be harmful to humans. The truth is that 5G, although higher than 4G, remains in the safe zone of 30GHz and 300GHz known as the Millimetre wave; in the same zone as microwaves. Things only start getting dangerous at the range of 790THz to 30PHz (1 PHz = 1,000,000 GHz). So in conclusion, no, 5G is not harmful.