5G is Coming: Here’s What You Need to Know!

Staff Writer / 13-09-2019 / News

Faster internet is just around the corner with the rapid development of 5G wireless technology across the globe, but is it that much better than what we have right now?

In order to understand 5G, let’s look back at the wireless technologies that paved the way for it to become a reality. The first generation (1G) of wireless technology emerged in the early 1980s with the introduction of mobile phones like the Motorola DynaTAC, which could only be used to make phone calls. Then came the second generation (2G) that improved the quality of voice calls as well as enabled SMS and later MMS. The tail end of the 90s saw the emergence of 3G technology, which finally gave cellphones internet access and video calling capabilities.

The latest, and soon to be replaced, generation of wireless technology is 4G LTE, which has taken internet usage beyond mere web browsing. These 4G networks enable people to live-stream, make group video calls, stream video and music, play online games and much more thanks to faster speeds between 10 to 50 Mbps, depending on the network.

Fast forward to 2019 and we have 5G on the horizon, with tech giants all scrambling to bring the 5th generation of wireless technology to consumers around the world. According to telecoms experts, 5G will provide users with real-world speeds of between 700Mbps to 3Gbps! This means that a file that took you a few minutes to download on 4G would take mere seconds on a 5G wireless connection.

Other applications will also benefit from 5G technology, especially those that require real-time connections like Uber or Taxify. 5G could also aid the development of autonomous driving and robotic surgery. International tech website cbinsights.com say that 5G will revolutionize the health-care, manufacturing and automotive industries. Microscopic cameras equipped with 5G will be able to provide real-time streaming in and out of patients’ bodies, setting the groundwork for more remote diagnoses and other more complex practices. We’ve already seen progress in terms of robotic surgery - in January 2019, a team in China tested 5G remotesurgery for the first time, successfully removing an animal’s liver in the province of Fujian.

However, it’s not all great news. As 5G provides more bandwidth, cell towers will have a smaller coverage radius. Networks will have to build more cell towers to reach all their subscribers, which will result in higher costs for the networks that consumers will likely end up bearing. In simple terms, 5G isn’t going to be cheap.

It’s expected that 5G technology will be launched globally in 2020, but cellphone manufacturers have already started developing 5G-ready smartphones. Samsung, Huawei and LG have already released phones that support 5G; surprisingly, Apples latest iPhone 11 range lacks 5G suppo rt. Former Minister of Telecommunications Siyabonga Cwele last year stated that South Africa will only release 5G licenses when the standards of 5G have been agreed upon by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the telecommunications body of the United Nations.

Some of South Africa’s networks have already started testing 5G technology and are just awaiting the official roll out from the rest of the globe. The USA has also started 5G trials this year, so you should expect it to hit SA sometime next year if all goes well. It comes with a massive jump in download speeds and lower latency, but it seems that you will have to fork out a bit more for 5G technology during the initial launch period.

Stay tuned for more updates on South Africa’s 5G rollout as we get them.

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