What are the 5G use cases today?
5G is more than just a technology and more than just “another G”. It is a collection of technologies and evolutions that will, over time, create significant shifts in the mobile telecommunications industry.Skip to 5G & healthWhilst 5G is being rolled out today, the actual standard specification of what 5G is, is no where near complete. There are so many things still being discussed and designed that makes the future difficult to predict or imagine.
However, 5G has already hit the streets so what can we expect from the first version of 5G?
I’ve summarised the current top 5G use cases below. This is really high-level, but I hope it helps you understand that 5G is not just about faster phones, it’s much more.
The evolution of 5G will bring a lot of very technical, exciting capabilities which will help industries be more flexible and responsive, create more efficient and dynamic facilities, improve safety and remove some of the obstacles to the adoption of more advanced technologies that industry has so far been reluctant to embrace.
Many mobile operators are already working on projects to test the limits of the current version of 5G in industrial settings, for example: connecting robotic equipment via 5G instead of wires, and providing workers with augmented reality heads-up displays to help them more easily visualise their tasks.
This is probably the most immediate benefit for 5G for many mobile operators, but not something that is immediately tangible to a user. 5G is a slightly more efficient set of technologies that can allow mobile operators to provide more users, more service and capability in areas that currently suffer from congestion through high demand.
For example, sports stadiums and city centres have huge numbers of people using their mobile phones and networks to consumer huge amounts of data for things like watching and sharing videos and images. With 5G, operators can more efficiently and cost-effectively allow more to be done, by more users in these high-density locations.
The UK mobile operator, Three, is steaming ahead with this strategy. Using a piece of 5G technology described as Fixed-Wireless-Access (FWA), Three plans to offer high speed home broadband to home users who currently can’t get a good service or in areas where there is an incumbent monopoly. This works by having 5G transmitters on things like lamp posts beaming data at high rates through your windows to your home WiFi router, giving you an in-home WiFi experience like traditional broadband or fibre, without the need to dig up the roads.
Part of the 5G standard includes new features for specific mobile connectivity required for massive deployments of Internet of Things (IoT). Whilst we have many IoT applications around us already, these are using a plethora of different network technologies such as 2G, 3G, 4G, NB-IoT, LoRA and SigFox low-power-wide-area-networks. Having many different ways of doing similar things isn’t great because it causes fragmentation and doesn’t really allow costs to be reduced through bulk-buying.
Read more articles on the Internet of Things (IoT) here.
Of course, we’re going to have faster phones, bigger screens which will hopefully have slightly longer battery life – due to the improved efficiency of 5G. However, these benefits willingly be available when you have access to a 5G network, and whilst most of the mobile operators are frantically rolling out 5G coverage, it will be patchy at first and mostly constrained to the places where capacity and congestion are problems, as mentioned above.
5G and healthread this article from the BBC.
Where does this concern come from? Well, like all mobile communication, data is transmitted using radio waves. The health impacts of mobile phones has been a topic of conversation and scientific investigation since the inception of mobile phones, but with 5G the public have become more worried because of one word that is used a lot, and often out of context or in the wrong context – microwaves.
Some types of 5G, called mmWave or millimetre waves, will operate frequency bands known as microwave. This is unfortunately the same name used for microwave ovens, and naturally people are worried about using phones that emit microwaves because they wouldn’t go putting their heads in their microwave ovens.
The problem with this is it’s all to do with power and distance. Again, I won’t go into the details, but the type of microwave used for mobile phones is thousands of times less powerful than your oven, and most of them will be significantly further away from you. Distance is a big thing in the physics of microwaves, with every meter you travel the power diminishes significantly more than the meter before. It’s bit like the opposite of the exponential growth I describe in this article.
The other thing that gets confused is the link between cancer and radio waves. Microwaves, whether in your oven or mobile phone don’t cause cancer because they are non-ionising, which means they can’t impact the DNA of our cells. Microwaves do cause molecules to move around fast and warm up (that’s how the ovens work), but again it’s all about power.
Update on 5G, Health and Coronavirus
I was absolutely astonished and how misinformation about 5G caused so much panic and damage. If for some reason, you missed all of that, let me recap. A campaign of 5G misinformation swept the world during the early part of 2020, suggesting that 5G was causing, or causing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is absolute nonsense, and if left alone it might have died out, but it snowballed with the other anti-5G campaigners and ended up in mobile sites being torn down, or burnt. Many of these weren’t even 5G sites, but that didn’t seem to matter.
The UK telecoms regulator Ofcom published a statement and this infographic to clear things up.
Understanding the Ofcom 5G Diagram
One of the arguments against 5G suggest that the higher frequencies of 5G’s millimetre wave technologies can cause bodily harm, DNA mutations and cancer. Well, the one piece of truth to that is that higher frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum can indeed cause those issues, but not in the frequency band that any mobile technology operates.
Looking at the chart above, as you move from left to right, the frequencies get higher, and they move from a classification of non-ionising to ionising radiation. That section on the right, the ionising radiation is where it gets a bit tricky. However, as you can see 5G signals, even the millimetre waves people are freaking out about most, are well below the frequency of visible light, and visible light doesn’t cause any of those side effects.
The first dangerous thing on that chart is ultraviolet light, UV. Yes, it is more dangerous to sunbathe than to use 5G, but will any of the conspiracy theorists avoid the sun? Probably not.
Hot on the heals of the Ofcom publication another 5G study was published, showing that the emissions from even the most powerful commercial 5G mast were 0.039% of the recommended safe exposure limit.