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5G technology is coming… But what does it mean for you?

A city connected by 5G

As the UK begins to launch its first 5G networks, we explore the impact of 5G technology.

Find out how 5G works, where it will be, whether it will replace technology we’re accustomed to and if 5G is safe.

A remarkable application of 5G technology

As 5G integration begins, we found this case study particularly amazing…

In March 2019, a patient in Beijing, China, was given a Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) implant. This was to help reduce the tremors that result from Parkinson’s. The surgery began at 9am, using the tools you might expect to see during such a procedure. The catch? The surgeon operated from 3,000 kilometres away in Hainan.

This was China’s first attempt at 5G-enabled surgery and the procedure couldn’t have gone better. With the help of China Mobile and Huawei 5G technology, surgeon Ling Zhipei conducted the three-hour operation by manipulating surgical instruments through a 5G network.

Ling told CGTN: “The 5G network has solved problems like video lag and remote-control delay experienced under the 4G network, ensuring a nearly real-time operation.”

Where else will we notice 5G integration?

We will notice the impact of 5G in various ways. Initially, we will notice that websites load faster. Film and video will load and download quicker. Games will no longer lag. Communication between devices will speed up.

Virtual reality

Because 5G is able to reflect reality far more accurately than 4G, virtual reality (VR) development will accelerate. We can create these worlds already but 5G will transform the experience. The increased speed and bandwidth of 5G will allow the VR industry to expand rapidly as it becomes integrated into our phones, cars and computers.

Autonomous vehicles

The launch of the autonomous vehicle into the mainstream has long been promised. These vehicles rely on technology that can respond not only at the same rate as, but quicker than a human. Previous technology has closely mimicked human reflexes but ever so slightly missed the mark.

Thanks to 5G, vehicles are now capable of matching and succeeding human responses. These intelligent machines have sensors that will react to road infrastructure as well as other vehicles, people, animals and objects.

This will likely make roads safer. If a car breaks suddenly, for example, the vehicle behind will respond instantaneously. If a vehicle is set to overtake you, your vehicle will respond accordingly to prevent a crash. From preventing road tragedies to circumventing congested areas, 5G is set to transform travel.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

It’s difficult to imagine our future roads supporting autonomous vehicles without smart city integration. And guess what – 5G can help with that, too. The Internet of Things (IoT) describes devices connected to the internet. When these devices are online, they can gather information and communicate with other devices.

Smart city technology is designed to blend with our current state of living. There are myriad ways to make a city smarter using 5G, including:

  • keeping track of issues such as floods or faulty streetlights
  • improving public safety
  • creating greener buildings and spaces
  • running smart street lights
  • managing traffic
  • monitoring air pollution
  • detecting chemical leaks.

Our homes will also integrate with this smart landscape. 5G IoT will improve such factors as home security, household chores, home connectivity and energy-use.

Will 5G replace WiFi?

If 5G brings the speed and connectivity we’ve been waiting for, what does that mean for the future of WiFi? As far as we can tell, WiFi isn’t going anywhere and there are several reasons for this.

  • There are billions of WiFi-only devices used every moment of every day by a diversity of people
  • Businesses rely on the availability of WiFi connections as part of a multi-connectivity scenario
  • The WiFi market is officially growing, not shrinking.
  • 5G technology will be owned by operators. As such, you won’t be able to build or buy your own 5G point of connectivity.

We expect 5G and WiFi to work side-by-side to provide ultimate connectivity and coverage.

Is 5G safe? Depends how you feel about coffee…

Bristol is set to become an early-adopter of 5G in the UK. More than 5,000 people (at date of publication) have signed a petition urging Bristol City Council to switch off the 5G network due to health implications.

As with 4G, people are anxious about radio-frequency (RF) radiation and its alleged association with cancer.

However, this radiation has been deemed safe for human exposure by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as the U.S. National Toxicology Programme. The World Health Organisation categorise RF radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” – the same category they apply to coffee and talcum powder.

When will 5G arrive in the UK?

EE is Europe’s largest 4G provider and is predicted to mirror this success with its 5G network. So far, EE have launched 5G in six cities, including London and Manchester. Ten more will be granted access later this year. EE will continue to grow the network in 2020.

O2, Vodafone and Three UK are also working on their 5G offering. Again, larger cities have been connected first, with more set to benefit throughout the year.

Realistically, we probably won’t see widespread 5G connectivity until 2022 at the earliest. However, with initial integration already taking place, the race is on to expand and embed 5G nationwide.

What next?

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