Now that 5G networks are here and more advanced, we enjoy higher quality video, lag-free gaming and even wireless home internet. But it’s the wilder ideas of 5G that really got everyone excited about the technology. Things like connected cars that can talk to each other and avoid bending fenders, or sleek augmented reality glasses that can virtually guide you through a fully connected smart city.
Unfortunately, most of those so-called killer apps are still being worked on. These advances will only be possible when 5G networks are sufficiently built to provide reliable and fast connections. We’re not quite there yet.
“It’s just a whole different ball game in terms of reliable higher speeds and more capacity to serve multiple users at once,” said Phil Solis, research director of smartphone connectivity and semiconductors at analyst firm IDC.
Therein lies the dilemma with 5G and what we’ll eventually be able to do with these high-performance networks: Companies can continue to promise revolutionary leaps in various aspects of the technology and use better wireless networks as a basic foundation. But until these networks really improve on a large scale, much of this will remain talk or small-scale experimentation.
The good news is that carriers are getting busy. Although millimeter wave, or mmWave, provides the absolute highest 5G speeds, it covers a smaller area than other types of 5G, so it’s only used in parts of some cities and event spaces. Low-bandwidth 5G is barely faster than current 4G LTE networks in the US, although its greater reach may reach suburban and rural users. Mid-band 5G is the sweet spot, not only providing faster speeds, but also allowing many more people to access the network simultaneously over long distances.
Most global networks are built mostly on mid-band 5G, but US carriers have a mix of all three. Midband 5G makes up the bulk of T-Mobile’s 5G network, which operates on 2.5GHz frequencies, while Verizon and AT&T will activate their 5G services in C-band and other midband frequencies later this year.
With these network improvements, coupled with other improvements from internet providers and cloud computing to bring servers closer to people, 5G could change the way we entertain, connect with others and navigate our world – at least as far as we can imagine . The best use of 5G is unlikely to be discovered until high-speed networks provide fast and reliable services in cities, suburbs and rural areas.
5G at home and on bikes
Smartphones have been connected to 5G since 2019, and as networks improve, video streaming and gaming have improved with faster connections. In addition to devices, 5G will expand connectivity in the home and on the road.
Home internet via 5G achieves speeds that can be compared to cable broadband, and once 5G networks are built – again operators are waiting for mid-band 5G to expand coverage to more areas – it could be used in buildings that don’t have fast cable internet and rural areas still dealing with dial-up or DSL.
Every US carrier has its own 5G home internet service, although AT&T only offers it in a few select areas. Verizon and T-Mobile are expanding to offer their respective services, but they still don’t offer them everywhere their faster 5G connections are available. Compared to their mobile subscriber base, not many customers have signed up for wireless — Verizon reportedly had about 433,000 fixed wireless subscribers in March and hopes to grow to 4 million or 5 million by 2025, while T-Mobile announced that it reached 1 million subscribers in April and aims to reach 7 million by 2025.
Operators still face an uphill battle to make customers aware that home 5G internet even exists, so they offer the service at discounted rates. For example, T-Mobile charges $50 per month for 5G home internet, which is discounted to $30 for eligible customers who have already signed up for Magenta Max mobile plans. Verizon’s offer starts at $50 a month, though customers with qualifying Verizon unlimited cell plans can potentially save 50% on their monthly internet bills.
5G is also coming to the roads. Automotive 5G allows your car to connect to nearby 5G networks, essentially upgrading the 4G LTE car-to-network capabilities that enabled things like automatic accident detection and cloud-based services like maps, route guidance and traffic information.
5G networks could form the backbone of driverless travel. In Las Vegas duringstartup Halo has launched its car service that picks up passengers in electric cars controlled by drivers remotely using T-Mobile’s 5G network.
But it also means that regular cars will use the 5G spectrum to communicate with each other from hundreds of feet away using a technology called Sidelink, which will warn other cars of vehicles and pedestrians ahead.
“Maybe I hit the brakes and the other cars realize that and maybe react faster,” says IDC’s Solis. Sidelink is starting to be incorporated into automotive chipsets, so he expects the technology to approach mainstream adoption in 2024 or 2025.
The dream is for cars to talk to the streets around them in the same way, perhaps to warn of traffic or emergency vehicles around the corner and recommend turning onto the next street instead. It’s not hard to imagine the benefits of cars receiving real-time updates on street and city conditions. But to do that, they need the neighborhoods and cities around them to be connected to 5G.
5G through your eyes
5G will offer something more interesting on the go: augmented reality. To get information about whatever you’re looking at through the AR glasses, you’ll need higher data speeds and a reliable 5G connection. With such a connection, you can get an instant language translation of anything in your sight as seen onrevealed at Google I/O 2022. Or they could give you AR elements on your route to your destination. Google revealed this week that it does .
The complexities of connecting personal devices like AR glasses to large networks have largely been solved, Durga Malladi, Qualcomm’s general manager of cellular modems and infrastructure, told CNET. The big hurdle is battery life: While the phones pack large 4,000 mAh and 5,000 mAh batteries in their big rectangular shapes, there’s much less room on the glasses’ frames for the big batteries, which could limit how long they can stay connected to networks 5G.
“It’s really more about being smart about the way you’re connected,” Malladi said. “If you’re only interested in sending short notifications from your glasses back and forth, you don’t need gigabit speeds for that.”
We’ll almost certainly find out before one of the tech world’s wilder predictions comes true — well-known analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple is working on a full iPhone AR replacement in a decade, according to a memo seen by MacRumors. .
5G powers healthcare and smart cities
While faster 5G download speeds are important to customers, it isthis will enable high-end applications. Some of these, such as remote surgery, have grabbed the headlines for years, but minimizing the delay between surgeon and patient will improve responsiveness and, ideally, outcomes. Add AR/VR and surgeons can feel closer to actually being in the room where the procedure is being performed.
“This kind of application is only going to be possible because of this lower latency of 5G,” said Parv Sharma, principal device and ecosystem analyst at Counterpoint Research.
Remote surgery is just one aspect of telehealth that has become more popular during the COVID pandemic as doctors have found more ways to treat patients remotely. Devices like the Butterfly IQ ultrasound monitor send data via smartphones over cellular networks to healthcare providers and are so portable that one was recently carried to the International Space Station.
5G can make things easier elsewhere in traditional healthcare. In March 2021, AT&T turned on a local 5G network at the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine in Los Angeles to monitor patients and accelerate the secure transfer of data for cancer research. British operator Virgin Media O2 has just switched on a private 5G network at Bethlem Royal Hospital in London, allowing staff to monitor patients and update records faster and more securely than over Wi-Fi, TechRadar reported. Sensors and Internet of Things, or IoT, technology will monitor medication temperatures, air quality and room occupancy.
But 5G holds even greater promise for where we live. Lining the streets with sensors, these 5G-connected cars will warn of traffic while monitoring environmental conditions to alert citizens to dangers.
These sensors will be cheaper with new devices with reduced capacity. RedCap devices have intentionally reduced connection speeds to reduce power consumption, opening the door to longer-life sensors and wearables that act as nodes in a connected ecosystem.
“5G will be a game changer as it is already being built at a breakneck pace and with the network capabilities to create a segment for these kinds of services,” said Peter Linder, head of 5G marketing at Ericsson in North America.
The networks needed to support these city-wide applications will come much later than mid-band 5G networks, IDC’s Solis said, especially after the spread of multi-access edge computing, which moves processing from remote server farms to physical locations at the edges of the network, which are closer to the population and faster accessible.
The rollout of 5G networks is only part of what will usher in a new era of connectivity. Without those speeds and reliability, we can’t imagine the best apps yet, as we’re still thinking about how we use 4G LTE phones. At the time, it took developers a while to think about how to use higher mobile bandwidth for brand new applications.
Solis compares this to how, in the days of 3G, our access to data on the go was so limited that we couldn’t even imagine such a thing as a ride-hailing app, but these days, Uber and Lyft are essentially modern travel infrastructure.
“Nobody said, ‘Oh, we need a faster network to (support ride-hailing apps),” Solis said. “Networks and phones got faster and then it came because it was there. It’s kind of like the ‘If you build it, they will come’ mentality.”