Technology is known to progress at breakneck speed, and telecommunications technology is no different. It seems like only yesterday that the country got access to proper 4G connectivity and already we have consumers, networks and device manufacturers hopping on to the 5G hype train! The fact that 5G was one of the biggest talking points at the Consumer Exhibition Show (CES 2019) in Las Vegas as well as the recently concluded MWC in Barcelona, is only helping fuel the buzz.
But what is 5G exactly? At the simplest level, 5G is the fifth generation wireless cellular technology, succeeding 4G. Just like any new upgrade to technology, 5G takes everything 4G does and makes it better – or in this case, faster and more responsive. We’re talking about a theoretical download speed limit of up to 10 to 20Gbps and latency lower than 1ms. That would mean downloading a full-length HD movie in under 2-3 seconds! However, it’s not just about faster downloads, 5G is all set to change our lives in a number of other ways.
Home internet, sans cables
Ok, as it turns out, the first example is indeed about speed. However, that is not the focus here. As of now, to get the best possible internet connection, you have to rely on fiber optic connectivity being available at your location. If the internet service providers (ISPs) in your area don’t offer the service, and the ones that do don’t cover your home/building, then you’re out of luck. However, with 5G we could be looking at ditching wired broadband for good! With the speed and reliability that 5G offers, you won’t need to depend on a terrestrial connection any longer. This definitely benefits homes, but does an even better job of making work environments wire and clutter free. We’re talking about entire factories and industrial locations going cable-free, potentially reducing a number of risks and outages.
Smartphones will change
Smartphones designed for 4G traditionally have a metal frame with antennae placed along the edges. This is because the antennae on 4G phones do not take up much space and at times even the frame itself can be made to function as an antenna. This changes with 5G. The new standard requires several antennae to work and – judging by chip prototypes – they are too large for the edges of the phone. Hence, if the antennae need to be placed along the back panel, metal will be a difficult choice. End result? We might be looking at phones that are more plastic than metal in the near future. Of course, we’ll get more clarity on exactly how these phones of the future will look once manufacturers unveil some models at the upcoming MWC in Barcelona.
It’s not just the design that is set to change though. We all know how many electronic items have been replaced by the smartphone through its years of evolution (iPod, anyone?). Due to its high-speed connectivity, we could be looking at upcoming smartphones replacing the set-top box and the home router as well. It could become the one and only device you need to connect to the outside world!
AI assistants smarter than ever before
With computing moving to the edge on 5G, the currently frustrating and limited AI assistants on smart devices will truly gain the mantle of ‘intelligence’. Expect your Google Assistant, Siri or Alexa to not only understand you flawlessly but maybe even exceed your expectations with their capabilities. They’ll be able to offload more data instantaneously to servers for processing, data that they’ve gleaned not only from your smartphone but also a host of connected devices around you. The increased amount of data they can process this way will grant them contextual awareness. Take the example of Axis Aha!,
the banking assistant from Axis Bank. Today it is able to assist you with bill payments, fund transfers, and downloading statements. With 5G those statements will download in a flash. One of the other features of Axis Aha! Is that it can
help you set debit card spend limits. With 5G, along with that spending limit, it might be able to process data regarding your overall spending patterns across multiple websites, physical stores and apps. With the massive bandwidth 5G
offers it might even be able to check your wishlists and your location to suggest better options and deals around you that will save you money. All this will be in real time, since it will be offloading most of the processing to the bank’s
server, which contains additional information about your particular preferences. The advent of 5G even opens up additional possibilities of personalised care and solutions. For example, when the complexity of the query increases, Axis Aha! will be able to directly connect you to your relationship manager or branch staff on a blinding fast video call. This way all queries can be resolved instantaneously.
Truly portable gaming
While hardcore gamers might have beefy gaming rigs back home, on the go, everyone is forced to endure the limitations of the smartphone or portable gaming. All of that changes with 5G as gaming processing could finally move to the server, giving you the same visual glory as your console or PC, but on your smartphone. Server-side gaming already does exist in some form through programs like PlayStation Now, GeForce Now and Google’s upcoming Project Stream. However, 5G will make it ultraportable and accessible from even budget smartphones. And of course, the low latency will mean no more lag, so all your sniper headshots will definitely register.
Calling experience will change
If you thought we’d reached the peak of how we can connect with each other, you would be very far from the truth. While we do already have video calling, even in groups, 5G will bring with it the possibility of 360-degree video calling. The caller could be transmitting their entire surroundings in real time to you for you to explore while listening to them. Another possibility is holographic calling, where a number of sensors placed around the caller, or a subject, could transmit 3D visual data in real time. Augmented reality calls are definitely a possibility. Despite all these breakthroughs, perhaps the most beneficial aspect of 5G would be the overall improvement in the performance of standard voice calls. Due to its massive capacity to handle connections, 5G will make call drops and network congestion a rarity.
(Continue in Part 2)
Disclaimer: This article has been authored by Siddharth Parwatay, a Mumbai based independent tech-journalist, editor, and content-creator. Axis Bank doesn't influence any views of the author in any way. Axis Bank and/or the author shall not be responsible for any direct / indirect loss or liability incurred by the reader for taking any financial decisions based on the contents and information. Please consult your financial advisor before making any financial decision.