5G technology is expected to be the next wireless revolution, bringing consumers faster and more stable connectivity than ever before.
Carriers such as Verizon and AT&T have already announced plans to launch 5G services in various markets by the end of the year. Sports have also served as a prominent platform for highlighting this next-generation technology. 5G networks debuted at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games in South Korea, Russia is reportedly running 5G trials at the World Cup, and Fox Sports partnered with Ericsson, Intel, and AT&T to use 5G technology to stream 4K video during the U.S. Open Championship this past weekend.
How much faster will 5G be compared to LTE, the 4G mobile communications standard? Predictions have varied. According to the Consumer Technology Association, “5G will be 100 times faster and five times more responsive than today’s networks.”
Tommaso Melodia, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern who studies wireless networking, said 5G will address two fundamental needs: connecting more devices faster than is currently possible and significantly reducing the lag time between these devices. “It’s going to be able to transmit much more data from more devices, and do so in a more responsive way,” said Melodia, who heads the university’s Wireless Networks and Embedded Systems Laboratory.
Melodia said 5G technology will have significant implications for the internet of things. Surgeons, for example, will be able to use 5G to perform computer-assisted procedures on patients in remote locations. 5G, he said, will also make it possible for vehicles to communicate with each other—and roadway infrastructure. “Hopefully there will be systems in which traffic lights interact with cars and create a more efficient flow of traffic.”
Many people, he said, are particularly interested in the technology’s ability to transform the workplace. 5G, he said, will eventually allow people to hold remote meetings in virtual spaces. “Everyone is in their own room, but they have the impression of being in a common space,” he said. “You need to transmit a lot of data in a very fast and responsive way and today’s networks cannot send data as fast as needed for these types of applications.”
Melodia said 5G technology is several years away from being integrated into everyday life, adding that it will come at a significant cost. The consulting firm Accenture predicted telecom companies will invest $275 billion to deploy 5G technology over the next seven years.
“As usual, we get there gradually,” said Melodia, who is also director of research for Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research, a federal initiative focused on supporting next-generation wireless communications networks across the United States. “There’s a lot of activity in the industry. Companies are going in that direction. But you won’t see full picture for a while.”