5G is here — but it’s also not here. And it is still coming.
This can be a little confusing.
Every U.S. carrier has launched some form of 5G network, and many European carriers have as well, but what exactly is it? And why should we care?
Here are 15 things every business owner must know about 5G as it rolls out into wider availability and use:
- 5G stands for fifth-generation cellular wireless.
- 5G will bring three main improvements to your cellular connection: larger channels to speed up your connection, lower latency for faster responsiveness, and the ability to connect many more devices at once.
- The actual 5G radio system is different from the 4G system, which means that coverage maps are different. Where current carriers are relying on 4G and 5G, this can mean outages where the two don’t overlap.
- 5G uses three different wave spectrums — low, middle, and high. Low band right now is about the same as 4G. Mid-band is the most commonly used in countries outside the U.S. And high band is the really new stuff; they’re very short-range frequencies, requiring more towers, but blazingly fast.
- The first all-band 5G phones are set to debut in 2020; current phones only use one band, so consumers are forced to choose.
- How fast? Speeds will be 10 to 100 times faster than 4G. At these speeds, you could download a full-length feature film in seconds.
- Some people are worried about potential health risks from 5G because it uses higher band, shorter frequency electromagnetic radiation. However, there is no scientific evidence that these radio waves will constitute a health risk.
- 5G networks will have to be much smarter than previous networks, because they will need to manage more cells that can change size and shape to provide those faster speeds.
- 5G home and business internet has the potential to be much faster than existing 4G internet and much easier for carriers to offer than laying fiber optic cable to every street and every building.
- The business potential for 5G is still in its infancy, but any business that would benefit from high-resolution, fast streaming video will certainly be affected. It will also enable industrial automation and driverless vehicles that interact with other cars and even the roads themselves.
- Because it can accept so many more devices, 5G may also usher in a boom in smart devices and smart sensors.
- With these new networks comes new data, and that signals opportunities for better machine learning and artificial intelligence systems.
- For the first time, mobile networks will be a true replacement for wired networks, which may allow businesses to set up satellite offices in previously unreachable locations. It will also make working on the go — from planes, trains, and automobiles — much faster and more reliable.
- The biggest change 5G is predicted to bring to phones is the ability to do more with virtual reality and augmented reality, which provide their own business opportunities.
- Of course, with the advent of any new technology, there will be costs to upgrade hardware that will likely be more expensive than current models. Businesses that want to take advantage of what 5G will have to offer should start budgeting for those upgrades now.
It might still be several years before 5G is fully rolled out, businesses would be wise to start preparing for the change today. This might include costs for upgrading hardware, but also potential opportunities that will open up with gigabit speeds. Regardless, the companies that are prepared for 5G will be poised to reap the biggest benefits.