High speed and faster data are the watchwords for 5G applications coming to an IoT (Internet of Things) device near you in the very near future. But apart from downloading an HD movie in a heartbeat or powering very chatty IoT interactions, what will the future look like once 4G is replaced? What exactly is fixed wireless, and how will it fit into our lives?
Faster Data, Faster Communications
5G promises speed. It also promises capacity; CNET forecasts communications 100 times faster than current cellular connections and more bandwidth for a greater number of users. It will be more responsive, with less lag time or latency to stall operations. Many cell carriers, including Verizon and AT&T, are working on rolling out 5G applications to customers this year to avoid overloads in the LTE network, says PC Magazine.
5G will run on three different spectrum bands rather than just one. Digital Trends lists these as low (<1GHz), mid (<6GHz) and high-band (>6GHz), and each brings a different benefit. For example, the mid-band brings greater speeds, at an estimated 1Gb per second at peak, with lower latency. High-band 5G, also referred to as mmWave or millimeter wave technology, will bring speeds up to around 10Gb per second.
Faster speed means faster data transfer, and more capacity increases the number of users or services that a network supports. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) forecasts that 5G will enable “high data-rate instantaneous communications, low latency, and massive connectivity.”
Unifying Connectivity for IoT, Sensors and Sharing Data
SDX Central describes the new 5G wireless applications as a “unifying connectivity fabric” that brings together a whole population of IoT devices, mobile networks and services. With improvements in speed and reduction in latency, the potential for real-time communication between devices could finally be realized. For example, fast data uploads from sensors will boost health tracking via wearable medical devices to allow seniors to remain in their homes. CNET notes lag-less 5G could also be good for operations from afar, bringing medical care to remote areas via robotic surgery.
The new technology will connect massive machine-type communications between mobile-enabled, remote sensors from a variety of devices such as buildings security systems and on-board instruments in unmanned vehicles.
5G applications could drive improvements in autonomous vehicle control. One result of this is “platooning.” The Washington Post describes how the city of Columbus is using a U.S. Department of Transportation grant to investigate connectivity for road users. By enabling sensor-to-sensor communication, your car might know before you do when the vehicle ahead slams on its brakes.
With reduced latency, it should also be possible to remotely operate heavy equipment. Digital Trends suggests that remotely controlling machinery in hazardous conditions keeps an operator out of harms way. Scenarios could include operating during disaster relief and keeping an eye on wildfires.
Cut the Cable With 5G FWA
Another key feature of 5G could help bring the internet to a wider population; fixed wireless access (FWA) could replace landlines, replacing cable with wireless broadband access especially in remote or rural areas. Instead of laying expensive cable, users will be able to connect wirelessly, thus reducing last mile costs and tackling broadband disparity.
Digital Trends describes how a fixed antenna, like a satellite dish, on each house will connect up to internet access from nearby wireless towers. FWA will use mmWave tech and also beamforming, where tightly focused beams improve performance for users according to an article on 5g.co.uk. The article also proposes that with improvements in speed, FWA will also compete with existing cable broadband.
With competition in mind, existing mobile providers are already heavily invested in 5G. Telecoms.com notes that Verizon has launched in four cities; residents in Houston, Indianapolis, Sacramento and Los Angeles should have faster bragging rights as the first in the U.S. to get 5G wireless broadband in their homes.