Due to launch in 2020, the fifth generation mobile network, or 5G, promises much faster connectivity than current 4G technology.
Whereas 4G networks, also known as LTE, deliver peak download speeds of up to 300Mbit/s, 5G promises speeds in excess of 1Gb/s (1000Mbit/s), with many estimates placing it closer to 10Gb/s (10000Mbit/s).
However, it’s not just about increased speed. The latest fifth generation mobile technology also promises reduced latency, or lag, when connecting a phone or another type of internet-connected device such as a drone or autonomous vehicle.
This will allow telecoms companies such as Nokia to offer new types of services to operators, particularly in the enterprise space.
“There is a big opportunity tied to the industrial automation and digitisation of businesses,” explained Azfar Aslam, Director of Bell Labs Advisory Services, EMEA, speaking at a Nokia-sponsored roundtable held at the recent Telegraph Leaders of Transformation conference.
According to research from the McKinsey Global Institute, digitisation of factories (also known as Industry 4.0) could lead to increased growth of between $1210 Billion and $3700 Billion over the next ten years.
“We strongly believe that we will see major disruption from 2020 where industrial automation will occur,” Bell Labs’ Aslam told delegates. He predicted over the next decade we will see more 5G technology used in automated trucks as well as the widespread use of drones for factory maintenance and parcel delivery.
During this time, warehouses will become more hi-tech too with the increased use of robots on the factory floor. “The number of robots worldwide has already overtaken the population of Switzerland,” noted Aslam.
5 things you need to know about 5G
Ofcom’s first 5G spectrum auction was completed in April 2018, with EE, O2, Vodafone and Three all winning some spectrum.
Some countries such as South Korea, China, Japan and the US are claiming they will launch 5G networks later this year (2018) or early 2019. However, UK rollout is set to begin in 2020.
Top-end 4G networks, known variously as 4G+, LTE-A or 4.5G, can deliver peak download speeds of 300Mbit/s. 5G promises to offer speeds in excess of 1Gb/s (1000Mbit/s), with many estimates placing it closer to 10Gb/s (10000Mbit/s).
Vodafone UK has unveiled seven cities that will become 5G test areas, with roll-outs starting between October and December this year. This includes customers in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester.
The new technology will enable you to download a full HD movie in less than 10 seconds. The same task would take closer to 10 minutes on 4G.
Bell Labs, which is part of Nokia, is targeting several industries where it believes that this fifth generation mobile technology can make a big difference. These include mining, healthcare and global transportation such as shipping. TfL (Transport for London) is also looking at how it can best use technologies including 5G to ‘create a connected customer experience.’
However, one of the main challenges of 5G is about recouping costs. “It’s very expensive to build the network infrastructure needed to provide 5G on the underground,” said Mike Hewitt, CTO, Head of NextGeneration Networks at telecoms specialist ADComms.
Indeed, the total cost of deploying the necessary 5G infrastructure across the UK is estimated at £46 billion, making it the second biggest infrastructure project after the HS2 rail project.
For industries looking to drive growth with increased automation 5G will undoubtedly provide opportunities. However, it may be a few years before consumer applications for the technology are fully realised.