5G mobile technology is here. Multiple cities around the world have been testing – with measured success – the functionality of 5G services and the technology was available to everyone who attended the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang.
So why isn’t 5G being rolled out now?
The major problem is blanket coverage. Unlike 3G and 4G networks, which were incremental increases in technology, 5G is a completely new beast. Where 4G brought us faster data and improved functionality, 5G will offer autonomous vehicles, instant downloads and complete automation. These types of technology require complete coverage in areas that provide 5G. For example, if you were to operate an autonomous vehicle and there were coverage issues in certain parts of the city, your vehicle would become detached from the very intelligence that makes it autonomous. It’s like when you are watching a video on YouTube, and move out of coverage – the video stops working. In fact, the video metaphor is perhaps more relevant, because if there is not blanket coverage, the major promises being made by 5G – instant downloads everywhere and seamless communications – will be broken by poorly set up infrastructure.
The solution is an old technology known as small cells. These cheaper, weaker and smaller versions of cellular towers were originally created to fill in coverage gaps in urban centres. You have probably seen a few of them in underground car parks and alleyways in your local city. They will be used for the same purpose in the 5G network, except rather than filling in gaps, they will offer complete coverage. Using grids, these small cells will overlap each other, with additional cells providing redundancy in the event of a malfunction or maintenance requirement. You will be able to travel from one side of your city to the other and never lose signal.
Once this technology is in place, 5G technology and all the advantages it brings will be brought online. With analysts reporting that Apple and Google are likely to have an autonomous vehicle offering within the next three years, your days of driving yourself could be almost over.