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How 5G is poised to change the world

Low latency, high-speed connectivity like 5G opens up a whole new range of opportunities for businesses and should lead to something of a technological revolution.

Johannesburg, 17 Jun 2020
Read time 3min 50sec
Pedro Maia, MD, Intdev
Pedro Maia, MD, Intdev

Perhaps the single most vital cornerstone of success in the modern technological world is connectivity, and as new forms of connectivity, such as 5G, and new opportunities – such as the freeing up of unreleased spectrum – come into play, organisations across vertical markets can expect this to drive significant changes in business.

When it comes to 5G, explains Pedro Maia, MD of Intdev , the predicted speeds of up to 10Gbps represent an increase of around 100 times that of 4G. In practical terms, the move to 5G will mean exciting possibilities for consumers.

“A simple example of the kind of speed we are talking about is that something like transferring a high-resolution movie at peak download speeds will go from taking seven minutes to just six seconds. That kind of time saving means a user on a plane could quickly download a new hit film, virtually in the time it takes the flight attendant to ask them to switch their phone to airplane mode,” he says.

“Latency also drops significantly, as the new 5G networks will have even lower latency than 4G LTE – round-trip transmission of data should take less than five milliseconds. This means 5G latency will be faster than human visual processing, making it possible to control devices remotely in near real-time. Human reaction speed will become the limiting factor for remote applications that use 5G and the Internet of things (IOT), and many new applications will involve machine-to-machine communication that isn’t limited by how quickly humans can respond.”

The real question, he asks, is how will 5G help businesses to scale their technology initiatives? In essence, 5G will deliver up to a thousand times more capacity than 4G, creating fertile ground for IOT development. After all, 5G and IOT are a perfect match and will redefine how wireless networks – and the Internet as a whole – are used. With capacity for hundreds or thousands of devices seamlessly communicating, continues Maia, new applications and use cases for cities, factories, farms, schools and homes will flourish.

“For businesses, the impact of increased bandwidth will echo across many departments and divisions in the form of big data. Today, companies receive far more information from customers, suppliers and teams than they can process and analyse for insights. With 5G connectivity and big data analytics, these businesses will more easily be able to turn large volumes of data into actionable knowledge.

“One of the greatest beneficiaries of low latency and high-speed networks will be the healthcare and social care industries. A low latency and high-definition network could, in the future, turn anyone into a surgeon if they were placed in a situation where they needed to save someone’s life. If the connectivity is good enough, a live stream with a certified practitioner would enable them to work under instructions of the expert in order to perform the operation. The applications here just in terms of remote clinics and telemedicine are huge.”

He also points to the impact 5G may have on self-driving vehicles: A true self-driving car will have to be able to detect and avoid other cars, people and objects. Obviously, all data collected by these vehicles needs to be analysed in the car – as opposed to in a data centre – to mitigate the risk of delay and maybe even a collision.

“As these cars simply have to connect to everything and everyone around them, as well as be able to aggregate this information with the data gathered by its own sensors and cameras, high speed and low latency connectivity becomes absolutely critical.

“Of course, the big challenge here in Africa is the high speed, low latency nature of 5G is such that it requires dedicated power. It cannot operate effectively running on the power delivered by a generator, for example. This means rolling it out here poses some difficulties in the form of our ongoing power constraints and blackouts. However, I believe that if Africa can solve this challenge, the network improvements brought about by 5G will have incredibly far-reaching impacts on how people live, work and play,” he concludes.

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