We have all probably heard of 5G. It stands for 5th generation, and it has been big news, but what’s all the fuss about and what is the science behind it?
The head of new businesses at a telecom equipment maker called Ericsson said this about 5G – “It will have the same impact as electricity, silicon and steam had in the previous industry revolutions”. 5G will change world! It will be able to deal with 1000 times more web traffic than 4G and will be much, much faster. On 3G, a 2 hour movie would take about 26 hours to download. In 4G it would take about 6 minutes but on 5G it will be possible to download a 2 hour movie in just a few seconds. 4G offers downloads speeds of about 60 mbps (mega bites per second). 5G might be as high as 10 gbps (over 170 times more information per second).
To provide this internet connection a higher frequency of EM (electromagnetic) wave is used allowing more data to be transferred as there are more waves in the same period of time.
The diagram above shows where 5G fits on the EM spectrum. It is a frequency that hasn’t been used for mobile devices ever before. 5G will use frequencies between 3.5GHz and 6GHz. The highest frequency 4G uses is around 2.6Ghz. Scientists are now looking into using millimetre waves. These are even higher frequency waves that have a wavelength between 1 and 10 millimetres. Millimetre waves have a frequency between 30 and 300 GHz, this means they’d be able to transport data at ridiculously high speeds and ‘loading’ would be a thing of the past. The main challenge with 5G and millimetre waves is that the signal doesn’t go far and requires a direct line of sight to the transmitter as high frequencies refract less. Trees or even rain can stop you getting connection. Luckily, scientists have created transmitters that are very small, and can be attached to traffic lights, pylons and street lamps. The plan is just to have so many transmitters that there is always at least one in direct sight. Many people think that this brute force solution is a bad idea as it would be very expensive. Nevertheless, scientists haven’t come up with a better solution to the problem.
5G will have many benefits other than very fast downloading and almost instant connection on our phones. It may lead to extra progress in the development of driverless cars, and the ability for them to communicate to avoid traffic jams or even accidents! AI will have the potential to get a lot smarter and technologically advanced with 5G, AR and VR will be dramatically improved and become much more realistic, drone deliveries will finally be made commercially possible and some people even thinks that doctors will be able to perform surgery on somebody in a different country using robots, due to the near instant speed of connection.It isn’t just cities that will feel the affect of 5G. Farmers will be able to monitor livestock and fields digitally in a way that has never been possible before, therefore improving agricultural performance.
5G has the potential to revolutionise the world that we live in and is already being used, South Korea are embracing this technology already and the US is also building some 5G transmitters. Some mobile phone providers have already created and are selling phones which are 5G compatible. Experts say that 5G may add $12 trillion to annual sales of businesses, products and technology in just the next 15 years. This is the same amount of money as China’s entire economy, which is why so many countries and companies are ready to embrace it.
Some people worry that 5G will affect people’s health. The truth is that there isn’t really much evidence to support this. Dr David Robert Grimes is a cancer researcher and a physicist, he said, “the radio frequency in phones is strictly non-ionising so we wouldn’t expect it to be able to cause the kind of DNA damage that leads to cancer”. Generally, evidence that 5G is dangerous is negligible so we have nothing to worry about.