The world is becoming increasingly connected, mobile, and technologically literate with every passing week. There are billions of smartphones and other IoT devices in use worldwide, and internet connectivity is a top priority for users. That connectivity has evolved steadily over time. From EDGE to EVDO, 2G to 3G, and 3G to 4G, networking performance has increased significantly. As one might expect, 5G technology is the next stage in this evolution. How do we prepare, and what will change with 5G’s global launch?
Assessing the Mobile Landscape
Consumer demands have shifted precipitously over time, and desired use cases for mobile devices have expanded. Accordingly, we’ve come to expect rapid loading times on our connected devices as broadband technology has advanced. Unique usage and browsing habits have driven this. The content users are consuming is increasingly sophisticated — images and videos are much higher resolution than they once were, and file sizes are larger. The advent of streaming services has promised an on-demand viewing experience from almost any location.
What about general internet browsing? The average size of today’s mobile web page has increased sharply over the last decade. Additionally, mobile websites take 87% longer to load than their desktop counterparts. It’s clear that connection speeds must overcome deficiencies in optimization to keep users happy while boosting engagement with online content.
Speed vs. Traffic
Most mobile users from densely-populated areas will share that speed is only half the battle. Cramming millions of wireless network users into a single area triggers issues with congestion, where numerous users are fighting one another for performance and reliability. While today’s 4G bands can support speeds in excess of 200Mbps, carriers in populous areas like Manhattan are struggling to provide high download speeds.
Signals can be finicky entities — they’re obstructed by tall buildings, inclement weather, and changing elevation. A user’s location indoors or underground determines a connection’s dependability. These problems and those aforementioned are what wireless carriers like Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are trying to solve with 5G’s ubiquitous rollout.
What Does 5G Aim to Deliver?
5G has some lofty goals for many different people and applications — especially in urban settings. A complete 5G rollout would have the following benefits for businesses and consumers who rely on high-speed mobile networks:
The time it takes for a signal (or request) to make a roundtrip between origin and destination has huge implications for sensitive applications. Response times matter for consumers and commercial players, including those operating sprawling smart networks.
Lower latency (or ping) boosts perceived performance for graphically-rich mobile gaming. Problems arise in the form of ‘lag’ when latency is high. Delays hamper user experiences and are frustrating when time is of the essence. On the smart networking end, maintaining quick communication between complex device meshes is essential because these ecosystems handle massive quantities of real-time data. Ensuring that all endpoints are enjoying peak performance is key. Luckily, this shouldn’t be too difficult given 5G’s speed — it boasts an impressive five-millisecond latency.
Enhanced Network Capacity
5G is estimated to bring 1,000 times more capacity to the table when compared to 4G networks. This is huge, considering that networks will be able to support many more concurrent connections, effectively combatting congestion. It’s easy to be attracted to speed alone. However, a sprinter’s pace matters little while fighting through a rush-hour crowd at New York’s Grand Central Station. The same principle applies to users. Say goodbye to dropped connections, timeouts, and eternal loading bars.
Users also need every bit of that capacity if cities are to become smarter. Even modern traffic systems are managed by human operators. Some intersections host tens of thousands of cars at given times, while others see little traffic. Citywide smart, connected traffic lights can automatically adjust their patterns based on real-time traffic flow. That effort requires response time and flawless coordination. If urban 5G networks cannot accommodate these devices in all areas, feasibility could take a hit.
Experts predict that connection speeds will exceed those of 4G by 100 times. Users could likely enjoy speeds approaching 10Gbps, which even exceeds leading home Wi-Fi speeds by a wide margin. This means faster downloads, faster uploads, and uncompromising performance in well-equipped areas. Network users handling large amounts of mobile phone data will enjoy near-instant load times while on 5G networks.
We know that we can load content at breakneck speeds over 5G, but we’ll also be able to transfer large quantities of data without a second thought. Like a highway with more lanes can accommodate more traffic, 5G bands will transport much more data than their predecessors.
5G’s architects are promising improved load balancing, traffic optimization, and responsiveness to usage events across the board. Venues or locations hosting many connections will have fewer (if any) dead spots.
Businesses dabbling in big data should also sing 5G’s prospective praises. These networks produce massive amounts of information as devices access the internet. Companies now have complex data pipelines from customers and suppliers. Individual teams may also leverage 5G network technology to improve their operational efficiency. This flow of insights, especially on a metrics-driven infrastructure, simplifies both marketing AND DevOps.
Future Challenges and Forecasting
Every technical revolution has its drawbacks and detractors. Releasing 5G devices will require the deployment of a whole new infrastructure in urban areas — an endeavor both expensive and time-consuming, which is likely why rollout has progressed slowly. 5G phone launches are technically demanding and met with public concerns. 5G also suffers from poor range, requiring the installation of numerous antennas in small areas.
Availability is a work in progress, but the globe’s prominent urban centers are leading the charge. 5G services aim to address the biggest gripes concerning 4G and related wireless technologies. It’s only a matter of time before residents worldwide are reaping 5G’s rewards.
In addition to 5G, the cloud is another technology that aims to make the way we work and interact more seamless than ever. Cloud platforms like Fusion 360 allow you to immediately access files shared with you and easily provide feedback, no matter where you are.