January 31, 2018
Alan Patterson, Consultant, FarrPoint
Although there has already been a lot of noise and many column inches dedicated to 5G, its definition remains wooly and its possible application to our daily lives somewhat abstract. So what is 5G and what will it mean for your business, your personal data and your telecoms usage?
In a nutshell, 5G will have similarities to 4G wireless services but will be more robust, faster and able to handle a very large number of connections without loss of connection quality. It will offer higher spectral efficiency, meaning that more information will go over a narrower bandwidth, and its low latency will mean that the time between requesting data and receiving it will be greatly reduced.
What will this mean to the home user? There is no doubt that 5G technology and connectivity will seep into our everyday lives via its potential use in a variety of sectors – from healthcare to retail and consumer applications. In the home there is scope for 5G to replace our current wired services but this will depend on the pricing point of your data being comparable to your current service – a sticking point with the 4G offerings that are available right now.
Of course there are potential downsides to the rollout and uptake of 5G. The extent of the 5G network in the UK still has some question marks around it. Will it reach more rural areas and will it be too prohibitively priced for some people? Will it serve to widen the digital divide that we already have and add to the problem of disenfranchisement? Certainly if the deployment is implemented using the same market driven regime that has been applied to date, then these problems will persist and the same issues of not-spots will prevail.
The potential applications for business are considerable. 5G offers the possibility of network slicing – the provision of multiple application groups over a single channel. For example providing high speed HD video conferencing at the same time as regular data usage for browsing and downloading without any sort of interaction between the services and no packet loss.
There may be applications in areas such as telemedicine, where remote diagnoses could be made alongside access to electronic medical records and the potential to carry out surgical procedures across a 5G network using robotic instruments. Wearable technology will integrate well with the IoT capabilities of 5G, leading to a new era in patient monitoring. Alongside cost savings, this will generate vast opportunities for the development of new tech and we have really only scratched the surface of the many potential applications in IoT devices.
As always, new technology comes with new threats and security is possibly the biggest challenge that 5G has to overcome. 5G in itself is a step-up in connectivity and as such does not pose a change in security threat level. The change comes in response to the increased availability of connectivity and the subsequent growth in the number of devices being utilised. The manufacturers of devices with IoT connectivity must be fully aware of the associated risks and potential vulnerabilities of devices that will become ubiquitous. Patches and updates will need to be made available with minimal customer intervention.
The challenges in security could lead to new legislation forcing vendors with poor reputations for security to improve protection for consumers. Alternatively, 5G service providers may come under pressure to implement security scanning and disconnect devices that are compromised or that fail a minimum threshold.
5G standards could well be in place this year and the first compatible equipment available very quickly afterwards. Don’t worry about upgrading your phone just yet though as it is likely that 5G connectivity for consumer devices may be some way off. Make no mistake though, 5G is on its way and it will change our lives, even if that may be by indirect means at first.