We are beginning to see the gradual launch of the first 5G enabled phones. 5G has been in development since before the mass roll out of 4G and LTE technologies. Just like 4G before it, it promises to bring faster speeds, lower latency, and more bandwidth to our wireless communications.

What’s the Difference Between 4G and 5G?

5G is a better technology than 4G. It promises to be up to 100 times faster than 4G, delivering speeds as high as 100 GB/s in lab conditions. This will mean faster download and upload speeds to 5G enabled devices. It achieves this using a technology called Massive MIMO, which means multiple frequencies are used together to create multiple connections.

While the speeds will provide many benefits, the main difference between 4G and 5G is that the latter has a lower latency. This means that it will take less time for devices to communicate with each other. Gamers will be most familiar with latency as it is what causes lag in games.

So how will these differences benefit the end users?

The Internet of Things

There has been a lot of talk about big data and the Internet of Things for many years now. Connecting more devices to each other has been touted as a way to solve problems from traffic congestion to food shortages, but remains a theoretical concept in many areas.

5G will make the Internet of Things more practical as it provides more bandwidth and lower latency, both of which are important for sensors that need to provide instantaneous alerts to changes in their readings.

Big data is already used in several areas, including profiling customers to provide loyalty incentives and to assess risks in casinos. It is also used in online advertising and in streaming services like Netflix to make suggestions for new products or shows to customers to keep them engaged or spending for longer.

The Internet of Things has already begun entering the mainstream, with devices like Amazon’s Alexa, Hive Thermostats, and Ring Video Doorbells. However, they could also be used for betting management of cities, controlling traffic, turning off street lights when they’re not needed, and improving recycling rates. 5G will make these devices more practical and effective.

iphone with netflix streaming

Streaming

Streaming has become a major draw on internet bandwidth in recent years. Netflix alone consumes 15% of global internet traffic. However, there is a lot more than media companies want to do with streaming, and 5G could allow it.

Streaming 4K to a mobile device could become practical. 4K video streams require 7.2GB of data per hour, 720% more than HD video, requiring at least 25MB/s. However, this is not enough if you want your device to be doing other things at the same time, meaning 4K pushes the real-world capabilities of 4G already.

In addition, video game streaming, which would let players play games without having to download any content, is a concept still in development. This requires very low latency as a user’s input must be sent back to the server and it returns an updated video feed to reflect this, all instantaneously.

While it’s not yet certain how successful video game streaming will be, many believe 5G will be crucial in giving it a chance.

Medicine

Conducting surgery on patients can be very risky. Transporting these patients across a country or even internationally to be operated on can be even riskier. 5G may reduce these risks by allowing surgery to be conducted remotely.

The low latency means that a robot could be controlled elsewhere by a surgeon, allowing for them to make precise movements without the risk of lag. Ericsson and NeuroDigital Technologies are working with King’s College London to develop a VR system that lets doctors conduct remote surgery.

It uses a haptic feedback glove that can give the surgeon physical feedback when they touch the organs, just like if they were doing it in person.

There are many possibilities that 5G opens up, and these are only a few key possibilities. Ultimately, anything that can take advantage  from low latency and high bandwidth could become possible in a 5G world.