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Technology & Infrastructure 5G and the Future of Internet Connectivity

Merge Africa - 5G Technology

Wireless networking has been improving steadily over the past few years as companies expand to accommodate increasing number of connected mobile devices using and accessing their networks.

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The telecommunications industry believe 5G wireless technology will mark a huge leap forward in network performance, new applications and service delivery.

What is 5G?

Improving on 4G wireless Long Term Evolution (LTE) services, 5G wireless is predicted to more data over much faster network speeds with sub millisecond latency. 5G is the next generation of mobile broadband that will eventually replace or at least enhance you 4G LTE connection. With 5G, you’ll see exponentially faster download and upload speeds while latency will also drastically decrease.

With a reduction in network response times 5G is pivotal for new technologies, industries an service delivery. Think, remote online surgery accompanied by machine learning and artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and endless possibilities with the Internet of Things.

The next-generation network explained: Broadband & 5G

4G is quite different from 4G LTE so we’ll just briefly touch on this. Unlike LTE, 5G operates on three different spectrum bands which has a significant effect on everyday use.

Carriers are running out of LTE capacity. In some cities, users are already experiencing slow internet during busy times of the day. 5G adds huge amounts of spectrum in bands that haven’t been used for commercial broadband traffic.

Spectrum is a scarce resource and that means that wireless operators around the world are going to have to use a mix of low-band, mid-band, and high-band spectrum to deliver the 5G experience that customers demand.

Low-band spectrum: Blanket Coverage

Low-band spectrum is any spectrum that is lower than 1 GHz on the spectrum chart. Early wireless networks, often referred to as analog cellular, were deployed in low-band 800 MHz spectrum. 

Mid-band spectrum: Coverage and Capacity

Spectrum in the 1 GHz – 6 GHz range is mid-band spectrum and it is considered ideal for 5G because it can carry plenty of data while also traveling significant distances.

High-band spectrum: Super-fast speeds over short distances

The third spectrum where wireless operators are deploying 5G is in the millimetre wave spectrum. This is very high on the spectrum chart in the 24 GHz band and higher. Millimetre wave spectrum is limited because signals can’t travel very far and they can be easily interfered with by things like trees and buildings. 

However, if the millimetre wave spectrum is unhampered users can get connection speeds between 1 Gbps to 3 Gbps or even higher. 

What can 5G do for us and why do we need it?

Improve broadband

5G and expanding infrastructure is necessary if we want to continue using broadband. 5G will improve the broadband experience by increasing spectrum and ultimately accommodating more users and allow for faster internet speeds.

Autonomous vehicles

5G networks are a necessity for a 5G-enabled autonomous vehicle deployment. Electric automaker Tesla currently offers semi-autonomous driving capabilities, although this only utilizes networks as a secondary means of communication. 

5G opens the door to faster and more effective communication on the roads which would lead to safer commutes and improves logistics.

It improves two types of communication, firstly, Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, which connects cars to each other for sharing data about route and speed.

Secondly, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication, which allows for wider communication possibilities, allowing for automated communication with parking meters, parking garages, street lights and so much more.

Public safety and infrastructure

With improved infrastructure municipalities and cities will be able to deliver better services to their communities. It will make online education more accessible, it will be easier to track usage and enable governments to quickly install surveillance and monitor system efficiencies.

Remote device control

With incredibly low latency remote control of various machines and tools will become a reality. While the focus should be on eliminating risk in dangerous work environments the benefits ripple over from technical support for mining and machinery to entertainment, gaming and virtual reality gaming too.

Health care

Healthcare is an important industry, but due to the complexity and strict regulations, innovation is slower as it takes time for solutions to get fully adopted.

That being said, the ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC) element of 5G will fundamentally change health care. URLLC reduces 5G latency further making way for telemedicine, physical therapy via AR, precision surgery, and even remote surgery in the near future.

IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of physical objects that use sensors and APIs to connect and exchange data over the Internet. Over time we can expect this network to grow as new solutions, services and products connect from your laptop, TV and cellphone to your fridge, security system and pool pump.

Where is 5G now?

So, when can you expect to see 5G in your city? Some cities already have 5G access, so in if that’s case all you need to make use of a super speedy 5G connection is a 5G-enabled smartphone.

China and the US have been fighting for leadership in the sector for a fair amount of time, with Chinese tech giant Huawei at the crux of their power struggle.

China: In 2019 State-owned carriers China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom unveiled their 5g Data plans. While Beijing and Washington have been busy in a power struggle over trade and technology China accelerated the roll-out of it’s 5G projects. The superfast service is now available to consumers in 50 Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai.

United States: Most major U.S. carriers are currently busy building out 5G networks but building infrastructure across entire countries will take some time. There is also word that Trump want

Africa: Huawei has supplied most network equipment for China’s 5G roll-out and has been talking with various other countries to help with their 5G networks, including South Africa.

Since big data has become a more valuable commodity than oil in recent years there is bound to be a lot more talk, politics, regulatory work and debate on the partnerships and infrastructure before the roll-out of the technology is complete and actually benefiting any users.