Short for “fifth generation,” 5G is the latest version of mobile internet connection and an upgrade from the 4G network. Compared to earlier generations, it’s designed to be better at handling large amounts of data consumption and deployment when people are trying to access the same mobile service at the same time. New 5G also provides faster browsing and download speeds—up to 20 times faster than the 4G or LTE mobile networks, according to 5G research.
5G also promises lower latency than LTE and other mobile networks for connected devices, which can boost the performance of digital experiences such as video streaming, automated cars, virtual reality, smart factories, online gaming, and more.
Given these improvements it’s no wonder that, since hitting the market in 2019, 5G is already making a major impact around the globe. In fact, the number of 5G users is expected to hit 3 billion by 2025, according to reports by Statista.
5G has the potential to create a smarter and more connected world, but it’s still a relatively new technology and much research is being done to understand it. This article explores the emerging research in 5G technology and its potential impact on today’s organizations.
While the future for this emerging technology seems promising, realizing its potential has come with its own set of challenges. Here are some of the obstacles facing 5G research:
5G research and development is expensive to coordinate and administer, and the potential benefits aren’t certain. On top of that, 5G wireless networks and improved tech cost billions to build. Global spending on 5G network infrastructure will total 19.1 billion in 2021—up 39% from 2020 according to 5G research. In countries like China, governments are taking some of the strain off operators to fund the upfront costs. But in the United States, mobile operators like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have greater pressure to sign on customers to cover the cost of a 5G buildout.
It’s difficult to study 5G capabilities when the technology needed to do so isn’t fully developed. Two technologies in particular—high-band technology and end-to-end network slicing—are important for network performance but aren’t yet fully developed. It's also difficult to know how the tech will work in real time, what bandwidth is truly needed to make the technology worthwhile, and more.
5G means more data—which introduces new modes of cyberattacks and expands the potential of security breaches. This presents an additional challenge for researchers to come up with solutions that will be to safely move forward with 5G technology.
Since the emergence of 5G, there has been misinformation regarding its safety—namely, the possible health effects of radio-frequency (RF) energy transmitted by 5G base stations. However, a 2019 review of environmental levels of RF signals in the environment did not find an increase in overall levels since 2012 despite the rapid increase of wireless communications. Currently, there is no solid evidence that 5G causes negative health effects in humans or animals, especially compared to LTE and other existing technologies.
5G research and technology has paved the way for a powerful new communication standard that can connect billions of devices and sensors to the internet. This is referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT allows devices to communicate and share data faster than ever before, empowering industries such as healthcare, education, automotive, and more.
5G’s faster network speeds and higher bandwidth not only save organization’s time and money, but in the case of the healthcare industry, this improved technology has the power to save lives. For example, 5G allows doctors to treat patients remotely and provide care—and even robotic surgery—to remote areas.
Another industry that’s benefitting from 5G technology and research is automotive.
According to a recent article by Forbes, “Vehicle automation is expected to be a top use case for the adoption of 5G in IoT applications. This includes the capability to deliver autonomous vehicles that can guide themselves, as well as new services based on the collection of more real-time and granular data about the health and performance of a vehicle.“
5G research has also helped develop safer and more efficient cars. In fact, many of 5G’s applications relate to safety, such as automatic notifications that alert drivers to cars traveling in the wrong direction on one-way roads.
When most of us think of 5G we think of its obvious uses—smartphones and mobile devices. However, there are other important areas and industries that 5G research is currently exploring.
Healthcare organizations use telehealth more than ever before, and 5G research and technology has played a large role in empowering that growth.
According to a study by Market Research Future, telemedicine is expected to grow by 16.5% by 2023. The research determined this growth is due in large part to the increased demand for healthcare in rural areas. With more telehealth systems in place that are powered by 5G technology, healthcare systems can reach more patients and help them get them treated sooner.
Researchers are currently focusing on small cells to meet the higher data capacity demands of 5G networks. Small cells are low-powered portable base stations that can be placed throughout small geographical areas to improve mobile communication. Because they’re capable of handling high data rates, as well as IoT devices, small cells are well equipped to handle more 5G rollouts.
Research suggests that the speed and reliability of 5G network connectivity will enable more cost-effective and reliable energy transmission. With smart power grids, the energy industry can more effectively manage power consumption and distribution based on need. This will allow them to tap into more off-grid energy sources such as windmills and solar panels.
Research into 5G and IoT is looking at the potential to create smart city networks that can benefit the lives of citizens. An article by Forbes describes an IoT-equipped smart city powered by 5G where “sports fans driving to a sold-out game could receive real-time notifications of available parking locations while they’re en route.” The article goes on to add, “Integrating video analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) could result in adjustments to traffic signals and traffic flows, reducing congestion and travel times. Minimizing the time cars idle at red lights could save time and frustration while increasing safety and lowering pollution by reducing peak traffic on roadways.”
Cybersecurity is becoming a major area of focus for 5G research. Because this new technology makes everything more software based, the rollout of 5G opens more opportunities for organizations and IT teams to enhance security measures and combat cybercriminals. Additionally, the use of 5G-enabled technologies such as AI, IoT, and cloud computing will help IT pros prevent new cybersecurity threats and operate entire business networks more securely.
5G research is also exploring ways to improve farm efficiency. By using artificial intelligence (AI) combined with 5G technology, farmers get faster, more accurate information from their fields. For example, farm equipment coupled with ground sensors, will be able to give farmers instant updates on the health and performance of their crops. Researchers are also looking into self-driving tractors paired with drones that could guide their work.
Keep in mind these are just the latest areas that researchers and IT experts are exploring. But just like any new technology, the future of 5G is changing every day. With the right training, current and prospective IT experts may easily discover even more ways to use 5G.