As a technology veteran who’s had his fair share of frustrations with browser request timeouts, buffering video content and jitter prone video conversations, this writer wouldn’t dream of scoffing at the conveniences afforded by 4G connectivity.
Yet, the mighty lure of + 500 mbps speeds that come with wireless 5G internet is simply too salivatingly attractive to ignore. For someone who too vividly recalls the 3-minute wait for the dial-up modem to warm up before letting you rip through the internet at a blazing 56 kbps, the idea of 5G is the stuff of dreams.
By the looks of things, 5 might just be the lucky number that raises the roof on digital transformation. Time flies and so does the internet today; it’s hard to believe that in just 10 years, speeds have increased by more than 100 fold — such evolutionary leaps are rare. So in a time where the cable has taken us as far as it can and “wireless everything” is fast becoming the new black, what are the possibilities with an internet that’s finally free of the limitations that’s been holding it back?
Fast mobile internet has been a miracle-cure of sorts for nearly half of the world’s disconnected populations. With cable network penetration retarded by long-standing infrastructural obstacles, mobile has presented in-roads to addressing worldwide connectivity disparity.
As 4G nears its 10th year, which is a ripe old age in the world of technology, more than half of the planet has ditched RJ-45 cables for wireless mobile connectivity. Millions of people in rural areas are now using mobile banking, business, governmental, social and instant communications technologies from their smart devices and getting in on the larger digital conversation.
Farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, now enjoy direct access to overseas markets, are able to track and monitor weather patterns in this high-scarcity region and negotiate better terms for their produce. Fast mobile connectivity is also allowing farmers to create online communities that act as information-sharing hubs for collaborations and learning amongst each other.
What made 4G such a revolutionary step is that it gave us the ability to communicate in real-time from virtually anywhere in the world. The network stability inherent in 4G allowed for much more reliable communications via instant messaging or pull data from a server in the cloud somewhere. However, 5G is set to take it a few leaps further by allowing us to immerse those on the other end of the call into our world by means of new and emerging technologies that until now, wasn’t feasible given the bandwidth limitations inherent in 5G’s predecessors.
5G’s incredible speed and throughput will blow the lid of hitherto, restrained, highly network-dependent technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), next-generation wearables, sensors and more. Bandwidth dependent technologies at the speed of now will all come online faster than a solid state disk boot sequence and lay the groundwork for more advanced and unrestricted spin-off innovations.
On the back of 5G connectivity, VR and AR is touted to realise the vision of the fully autonomous vehicles in less than a decade from now. Education across the globe is set to experience a massive transformation thanks to these technologies as artificial reality allows students to travel back — or forward — in time, bring textbooks to vivid life and make education available to millions who previously had no access to basic schooling.
As a foundation technology, 5G won’t be “noticeable” in the same way a new app or smart device release might be. Yet, the way it allows us to use other, user-facing technologies is what makes its possibilities far-reaching. It’s already predicted that entire industries like travel and accommodation will be completely mobile/digital in less than a decade. (A recent article discussed the fast-moving trend towards digital-only banking models that are taking commercial finance by storm.)
5G will allow for entire populations to receive ample warnings of potential natural disasters, disease or famine outbreaks. Businesses will abandon brick and mortar models and start building more digital store fronts and the phrase, “Beam me up, Scotty!” will get new meaning as murmurs of a possible holographic socialverse stir. This immediacy and processing power that comes with the power of 5G will revolutionise the way we think about communications, and with that uncover new solutions to old problems plaguing the human race.
5G Adoption: How Countries Stack Up
With the world’s users poised for 5G, countries that are gearing for the next wave in connectivity will reap the benefits of a head start. And it seems that contention for top spot is already heating up. South Korea has been at the forefront of 5G experimentation for some time now with pilot launches across the country.
Hot on its heels are the Chinese. With a current mobile population of over 1 billion, the Chinese are already experiencing the ripple effects of a hyper-connected society. Surprisingly, Europe appears to be behind regions like Asia and is feeling the heat from as far away as the African continent with mobile adoption taking off at break neck speeds in the absence of hard-wired connectivity in the latter.
The USA appears to be pulling all the stops to prepare for the age of 5G, with various trials running across the country at present. It is projected that by 2020, nearly one-third of mobile US subscribers will be running on 5G connectivity. The Russians also aren’t waiting to get in on the possibilities of 5G speeds with various pilots in place and negotiations with networking giant, Huawei, to become one of the first recipients of its planned global 5G roll out.
A World of Possibilities Awaits
Few technologies have the potential to completely revolutionise the way the world functions. 5G undoubtedly takes its place amongst the ranks of the transformative technologies that, if leveraged smartly, can upset the status quo across societal, financial and hierachical norms.
While its immediate applications will be unique to the demands of the socio-economic pressures of the world’s different geographies, 5G will go a long way in levelling the playing field and allow former laggards to get a leg up in the race towards the digital future. As an agent for transformation, the technology is by far one of the most exciting developments of our time.
From server rooms housing Windows NT4 systems of yesteryear, to hybrid cloud environments we find today, Yaseen has worked with leading technology brands for over a decade, which gives him an acute understanding of where technology has come from and the new and interesting places it is taking the business world. As a Digital Copywriter, he uses this unique vantage point to share his insights on the evolving digital realm.