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The power of 5G

3 min read Networks & Network Services
Alex Williamson head of business development at Nextgenaccess, explains why 5G is much more than faster mobile.

NGA has developed a fibre connectivity service for public and private 5G operators, it will shortly underpin a number of DCMS funded 5G testbeds, but what’s there to test, isn’t 5G just faster 4G? Well yes and no, it’s certainly much faster, but there are other important characteristics that if exploited, could revolutionise the way we work and play.

In the next article, we will look at the various use cases that the 5G testbeds have been set up to validate, but before we do let’s start by looking at these characteristics that are unique to 5G, put them in context, and consider how they could be exploited.

Speed

Whilst 4G theoretically capable of 300Mbs, 5G is theoretically capable of 10-50Gbs. On a public mobile network average speeds for each are closer to 40Mbps and 150Mbs respectively. But on private 5G networks 1Gbps connections are achievable.

Distributed architecture

A 5G network has so much processing power built in, that it becomes more than a network. It can act as a distributed data centre that performs processing tasks, either using the full power of centralised resources or the responsiveness of edge computing.

Processing intense tasks, could be handled by the network instead of your device, improving both performance and battery life. This makes connecting many new types of battery powered devices like drones and sensors possible

The right type of connection for each device type

5G is designed to connect many more types of devices than just smartphones. While 4G provided a one-size-fits-all kind of connectivity, where every device got the same service, 5G is different.

For a smart watch that runs on a small battery, 5G can provide a connection that consumes very little energy. For an industrial robot, 5G can provide an extremely stable and fast connection . So 5G can  connected many device types, each requiring connections with different levels of performance and characteristics.

Device volume

4G supports around 4,000 devices per square kilometre. It is often the case that when tens of thousands of people go to a concert or sporting event, the mobile network goes down or becomes incredibly slow. This is because the network cannot support the volume of devices trying to access the internet.

By comparison, 5G supports as many as 1,000,000 devices per square kilometre. This makes it possible to not just connect phones to the network but also hundreds of thousands of sensors. 5G networks will act as a gateway for the Internet of Things. Smart cities, autonomous cars, smart homes, industries, connected factories, and even wearables (like your fitness tracker) will only be possible with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of devices connected together working securely, reliably, and uninterrupted.

Ultra-low latency

5G networks have an average latency of around 10ms. From a data transmission point of view, that puts it roughly on par with the speed of the human eye. The autonomous and remote operation of machines like trucks, cranes and straddle carriers is limited by the latency of available networks. 5G removes those limits and makes it possible for signals to transfer as quickly as if there was a human operating the equipment.

Network slicing – secure private networks

Currently every connected device has similar access to a network connection, which is a finite resource, so when the number of connected devices increases, individual data rates decrease along with user experience.

With 5G it will be possible to ‘slice’ the network on demand so that vital amenities such as the emergency services, local authorities as well as individual businesses will be able to operate on their own dedicated virtual networks.

On a busy festival site, network connection can be limited because of the number of devices connected in one area. This can be problematic for emergency response teams if an incident occurs. With 5G, response teams can demand their own network slice to protect their connection so they can reliably communicate as the incident unfolds. Once the need for the slice is over, the ring fenced resources return to the pool.

Coming up

Hopefully you now see that we are at the vanguard of a technology that has significant potential to impact our daily lives for the better, and it’s not just about “less buffering”.

In the next article we will look in more detail at 5G testbeds, who the stakeholders are, what verticals they focus on, and the use cases they have been set up to verify.

Nextgenaccess

Nextgenaccess offers a range of fibre infrastructure services suitable for all verticals, to find out we might help you, visit our website https://www.nextgenaccess.com/ or e-mail us at hello@nextgenaccess.com.