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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Decoding 5G: What it means and where it will take us

5G enables a new kind of wireless network that will seamlessly connect everyone and everything – machines, objects, devices, and people.

January 7, 2021 7:50:49 pm
What is 5G and where will it take us and why does it matter? (In this photo signage for 5G mobile experiences is seen at the Qualcomm Inc booth at the Mobile World Congress Shanghai in this file photo. Image source: Bloomberg)

By Rajen Vagadia

Technologies evolve over time – sometimes gradually, sometimes in leaps. 5G, while a successor to the 4G networks we use today, is a big leap in the evolution of wireless technologies. Significantly faster than 4G, it is a unified platform that is more capable and uses spectrum better than its predecessor. 5G enables a new kind of wireless network that will seamlessly connect everyone and everything – machines, objects, devices, and people.

Why does 5G matter?

5G is designed to deliver higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds for even faster internet than we enjoy today; ultra-low latency for almost-imperceptible time lapse between action and response; greater network reliability, which is a must-have; massive network capacity to support more people and more devices without a dip in performance; increased availability for supporting multiple enterprise applications and users at any point in time; and a uniformly excellent user experience.

5G antennae consume significantly less power than existing ones, which makes it a superior technology for small battery-powered devices. This has significant implications for industries as well as consumers. The uptake of 5G, therefore, will be driven not just by smartphones users but by a wide gamut of industries and applications. The high performance and efficiencies of 5G will power new user experiences and connect different industries in new ways.

This decade has witnessed rapid and widespread changes in how we consume information, create content, and expect the delivery of everyday services. Think how commonplace shared transportation and online food ordering have become. It has been a period during which mobile-based technologies and applications have advanced by leaps and bounds improving the access and the quality of entertainment and aggregation services.

This is reflected in the meteoric rise of streaming and OTT, video sharing platforms, shared transportation and online food ordering. 5G, however, goes beyond mobiles, and covers almost every existing aspect that will leverage technology and connectivity. It will open a world of hitherto unexplored possibilities in every sphere of human activity, most of which are still not uncovered or unfathomed.

How will 5G impact consumers and industries?

On the personal front, as we adapt to doing many of our daily activities remotely – working, learning, social interactions and entertainment – it has become important to have enterprise-grade connectivity even in our homes. 5G is perfect for these needs. It will, for instance, improve the quality of remote learning by allowing real-time interactivity and transporting students to virtual classrooms, where they can learn from the best teachers from any part of the world. In post-pandemic times, once schools reopen and life regains some semblance of normalcy, 5G will similarly enable immersive learning experiences at schools.

A visitor looks at a monitor showing Qualcomm Inc 5G Interoperability Development Testing (IoDT) at the company’s booth at the World IT Show 2018 in Seoul, South Korea in this file photo. (Image source: Bloomberg)

The impact of 5G will be felt across all kinds of industries and organisations – public, private and government. Besides education, there are some industries that deserve special mention, as they are vital for the nation and will be among the biggest beneficiaries of the improved capabilities that 5G offers. One of them is healthcare. Integration of electronic communication into medical care is already transforming doctor-patient interactions.

The number and the efficiency of online consultations is increasing. The introduction of 5G will allow us to maximise the potential of the Internet of Things (IOT), telemedicine, and healthcare services at an unprecedented scale. Extended Reality (XR) will integrate very well into telemedicine and further improve doctor-patient interactions. Among the other industries that will look forward to 5G is logistics, which is the backbone of most industrial and commercial activities. By enabling and connecting location beacons and different kinds of sensors with centralised control systems, 5G will enhance the efficiency, reliability, and monitoring of logistics operations.

What will 5G mean for IoT?

5G is the foundation for realising the full potential of IoT. Together, 5G and IoT will create what can be termed as “connected intelligence” – capabilities that will power industries and businesses and form the bedrock of most technology advancements going ahead. We will see the emergence of devices that will communicate with each other and with us; they will learn from our behaviour and habits, to simplify, or even automate, many of our routine activities. Such devices and solutions will power the smart cities and smart homes that are being envisioned for the near future.

Wearables have become widely popular since the time they were introduced. The era of connected intelligence will see the emergence of wearables that go a step further than merely monitoring our vital signs or calories or location; they will anticipate or suggest our next move and keep things in readiness for it. Imagine returning home after a morning jog and finding that the air conditioning has been turned on just before your arrival. Or being able to rush off for an appointment without worrying whether you have turned off all the lights and the appliances, because you know that your wearable will communicate with your smart home and automatically put these things in order.

Also read: Qualcomm to MediaTek: Here are all the smartphone processors, which support 5G

Even on the road, transportation will be smarter for drivers and safer for pedestrians. Vehicles are gradually evolving into something akin to smartphones on wheels. Many automobile makers around the world are working with wireless technology companies to manufacture next-generation connected vehicles that are intelligent, location-aware, and wirelessly connected not only to the devices of their occupants but also to the roadside infrastructure and the cloud. The first in the field of autonomous driving will be cargo fleets, resulting in big reduction in cost of transportation.

At an industrial level, 5G and IoT will combine to enable the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – an area that is generating a lot of interest in both mobile and industrial players. 5G has the potential to become the de facto connectivity solution for IoT as well as for Industry 4.0, which has been talked about for many years now but is yet to take shape. 5G will also address the hitherto unmet connectivity needs of India’s growing and highly promising tech startup ecosystem.

Opinion: The 5G game is being played strategically by China

Omni present connectivity brings in huge data streams, which are being analysed and acted upon using Artificial Intelligence. AI would be complemented with 5G to bring about acceleration in innovations across all industries be it: healthcare for real time analytics and diagnosis or even detection of spread of infectious diseases; climate change with more accurate predictions on major calamities using the weather sensors and data arriving from various connected sources; near-real entertainment with cloud and online games or even higher security through high resolution cameras, with edge analytics and cloud connectivity.

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused people, businesses, governments, and nations to relook at their goals and priorities. These are times of great change, of new ways of thinking, of disruptive innovation. It’s as good a time as any to embrace a disruptive technology that will power this era of transformation and yield benefits for everyone and everything it touches. It is probably the only other moment with a potential to significantly alter the world, post the first industrial revolution of the mid-18th Century.

The author is VP & President, Qualcomm India & SAARC. Qualcomm is one of the leading players in the 5G ecosystem.

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