A lot of people were expecting this 2020 to come, as it was supposed to bring wider availability to one of the most anticipated technologies of the last years – 5G. The fifth-generation tech standard for cellular networks got its early deployment during 2019, so it was only natural that tech enthusiasts were drooling over a more widespread availability. And then came the Coronavirus pandemic and made us wait a little longer.
Thus, we can’t be entirely sure as to when we’ll see a proper 5G deployment, as we’ll surely have to wait until the pandemic subsides to pick up the work where we left it. However, we can use this time to learn a little more about this new technology that some are saying will change our lives for the better.
Such strong words about it partly explain why so many people are expecting 5G’s arrival. Experts say that it will allow for the popularization of Internet of Things devices, the democratization of internet access, the rise of driverless cars, and the widespread adoption of immersive experiences through virtual and augmented reality. All of those applications have 5G at their very core, which is funny because a lot of the experts predicting these solutions don’t have a clear idea as to what 5G truly is, where it stands today, and what it can provide is in the future.
So, to clarify a little bit about 5G, we’ve compiled three major points that only a few people (even within the industry) are discussing. They are eye-opening facts that will provide you with a deeper understanding of 5G, and that will ground your expectations around it.
5G is Safer Than 4G, Healthwise
The COVID-19 pandemic has had its fair share of conspiracy theories but very few as lunatic as the two that have 5G in their spotlight. According to people supporting these conspiracies, 5G would be responsible for the spread of the Coronavirus. One theory says that 5G suppresses the immune system making people more vulnerable to the virus. The other one just blames 5G for being the carrier of the virus itself.
Beyond the fact that both theories are absolute insanities, they both subscribe to a long-standing tradition of pointing to radio waves of all sorts as potential health risks. Cellular networks, in particular, have suffered all kinds of accusations over the years, so it’s not a surprise that 5G is being targeted as well. Apart from the coronavirus conspiracies, certain people are saying that 5G signals can cause cancer and other ailments.
Though a legitimate concern in the face of new technology, this claim doesn’t have a scientific basis. There’s been some research about 5G’s safety that proves that it is safer than 4G, the current network.
One of those tests was conducted by the US government, which included more than 13,000 exposures on volunteers in static demonstrations and realistic operations. The results confirm that there’s only a 0.1% chance of injury and that the system was unable to penetrate the skin beyond 1/64th of an inch. It’s highly doubtful that such a small impact would be able to develop cancer, especially when you consider that the real 5G uses far less power in their stations than the one used during the research.
Another research conducted by the French National Frequency Agency compared 4G and 5G and found out that the best-case scenario with 4G is slightly better than 5G’s worst-case scenario in radiation terms. This comes to show that implementing 5G isn’t just safe – it’s a step ahead in the right direction in health terms.
We’re Some Time Away From True 5G
As excited as a lot of people are about 5G’s 2020 deployment, the reality is that we’re still some time away from a true 5G experience (AKA the implementation that will change our lives for good). So, all those talks about 5G being around in selected cities and regions were all a hoax? Not precisely. It has to do with the politics surrounding these types of advancements, and it’s closely related to some members of the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) number of standards organizations that develop protocols for mobile telecommunications.
Those 3GPP members wanted to deploy 5G quicker, which could only be possible with the adoption of the NSA (Non-Standalone Architecture). That led to a two-step process where cellular operators would take the first NSA step in 2019 and then follow it with a SA step later on. That allowed for Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile to use their existing 4G infrastructure as a support for their current 5G networks.
Naturally, this isn’t a true 5G experience, as current 5G devices need to be connected to 4G and 5G simultaneously to work properly. In other words, any 5G network in place right now has very limited coverage that gets boosted through 4G. The faster speeds that current 5G networks can provide come from a combination of 4G and 5G through dual connectivity technologies like EN-DC. This is how carriers can offer better upload and download speeds without having a “real” 5G network.
The step that comes next involves embracing the Standalone 5G architecture, where the entire network is compliant with the 5G specifications. This will be a step when 5G brings all its promoted benefits: higher speeds, network slicing, and lower latency, among others. Since providers still have to make the necessary changes to the infrastructure to embrace the SA 5G, we can safely say that we won’t have a true 5G experience for some time.
It’s Hard to Predict How We’ll Use 5G
If you’re feeling some sort of excitement about 5G, then chances are it has to do with the potential that comes with this new generation of the cellular network. That promise of a better world we mentioned above is only possible with 5G’s higher speeds and latency. Those features are what we expect to power the revamped Internet of Things, the ones that will allow remote users to have high-speed internet access without cables, and the ones that will drive our increasingly automated tasks through robots.
From a theoretical standpoint, it’s easy to see 5G supporting all those uses. But if we were to refine our approach, none of those things are that groundbreaking. Those ideas are nothing but evolved versions of things we already have – at least in some sense. We already have devices connected to the internet and among themselves. People can access the internet through satellites. Robotics has taken huge strides in the last decades, and it’s present across industries.
Sure, all of those are expected and realistic use cases for the future 5G. But what’s interesting is what hides behind them. Though we could do an exercise in imagination and try to predict truly futuristic 5G uses, the reality is that there’s nothing that would indicate how far off we’d be from reality. Think about it – no one could have anticipated that Uber or Apple Pay would be born out of 4G, yet they are direct children of it.
The bottom line is that it’s hard to separate what’s true potential from just fantasy, and even harder is to truly predict what will happen once we have 5G among us. Though that might feel like a turn-off to some, it’s quite the opposite, as 5G will surely open the door to devices, applications, and new habits that we can’t even imagine today.
Getting Down From The Hype Cloud
As it happens with most cutting-edge, there’s a lot of hype around 5G and its potential. A lot of people are giving their opinions about 5G’s potential and future uses that allow us to imagine the near future, once the 5G is deployed. However, a lot of those opinions are misinformed or blatantly ignore reality.
That’s why it’s best to get down from the hype cloud and analyze 5G from the ground. The horizon looks promising enough without all the hype, and it provides a more realistic view that will allow us to better prepare for the deployment of the next generation of the cellular network, whenever that is.