5G marks the next major evolution of mobile phone networks, designed to support new services in an increasingly connected world. What are the features and benefits, and to what extent has the technology already been rolled out internationally? Here’s your chance to understand more.
Everything will soon be ready for the first commercial launch of 5G in France. On a technical level, Orange is already conducting pilots in several cities, and these will intensify in the second half of the year. In parallel, by the summer of 2019, the French regulatory authority will publish full timescales and allocate frequency bands that will form the basis for future 5G developments. The first commercial offers should therefore see the light of day from 2020.
And what about 5G worldwide?
Europe is following broadly similar timescales. Most national regulators have already conducted or are preparing auctions that will enable operators to apply for new 5G frequency allocations.
Worldwide, South Korea are leading the way having launched their first commercial offers in April. People in Seoul can already access certain services from a 5G-enabled phone, even if networks are still not fully available.
In the United States, deployments have begun in a few major cities, but in a more fragmented way. 5G is being seen as an alternative to fibre in terms of offering high speed connectivity in rural areas.
Japan has completed its frequency allocation, which should allow the four selected operators to offer 5G services by 2020. All hope to be ready before the summer.
What is 5G?
From a technical point of view, 5G extends the possibilities of 4G through the allocation of new frequencies. In the short term, 5G will therefore increase mobile network capacity, especially in built up areas where current networks are likely to reach saturation.
In the longer term, 5G also reduces mobile communication latency, which is the time it takes for a message to receive its intended recipient over the network. It also increases network reliability and resilience, or its ability to automatically find an alternative solution for routing data in case of any local issues. These assets make 5G a network of choice for connected services that must be able to react in as close to real time as possible.
It will still take some time, however, for 5G to deliver on these promises. Firstly because deployments will be gradual across the three frequency bands provided as part of the standard. And secondly because the increase in data speed and latency reduction also imply upgrades to the infrastructure supporting the network.
What will 5G be used for?
5G should open up a new range of possibilities in terms of consumer services. Increased speeds and reduced latency will favour the development of more and more interactive multimedia experiences, in very high definition or virtual reality. New capabilities will also avoid network congestion that sometimes occurs when many people are trying to use the network at the same time in the same place – for example during festivals or sporting events.
In the business world, 5G offers another step forward for solutions relating to IoT, automation or robotics. For example, in manufacturing, for a production line to be controlled remotely, it needs a reliable network that can transmit near-live information captured by hundreds of sensors. The benefits of 5G will extend to all professions. In the field of health, it could for instance enable a surgeon to remotely supervise an operation.
5G will also play a crucial role in the development of driverless cars, connecting the car to the street it is driving along and all the supporting infrastructure. This will ensure increased safety for all road users, as well as optimised traffic management and fewer jams. Orange is currently conducting technical trials on the Linas-Montlhéry test track in France.