Why is this even a question, you might ask? The answer to that is quite simple. While there are countless articles and studies about what 5G is and what 5G does, there are still people expecting it to turn them into slaves to some obscure force, eager to take over. Oh, yeah…and the coronavirus is involved. Of course.
But what is 5G?
To put it simple 5G is the fifth generation of cellular wireless. It promises speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G, what with it reaching 10 gigabits per second, diminishing download times to mere minutes, from what could have taken hours before, in the case of large files. My phone currently has 5G connectivity in some areas of the city and it works like a charm. This makes going into areas with only 4G coverage all the more jarring.
At first sight the difference between the two should not be that significant, and if used to download a picture of a cute kitten it might not be noticeable, however when testing the two with the download of a larger file, it is obvious why 5G is the superior choice. Why? Let’s see:
It uses broad channels in under-utilised parts of the radio frequency spectrum to transmit data, with little chance of overload at peak times.
The time lag in processing data (known as latency) is far lower than with 4G. In effect, this means virtually instantaneous connection to, and communication within, the network. Low latency has obvious value in applications like self-driving vehicles, remote robotics and traffic collision avoidance…and many more yet to be developed.
The capacity to connect a lot more devices and applications to each other will increase vastly.
Source: 5G: How it works and what it does
Using 5G networks to send and receive information quickly will help develop new services and devices, particularly connected cars and vehicle-to-vehicle information, virtual-reality gaming, remote surgical operations, and translation software.
Is the above important? Given the desire to transform Europe in a carbon-free continent in the next 30 years, the importance of digitalization and implicity of the speed at which things are moving in the virtual environment becomes all the more obvious. You cannot transform the world at a snail pace, especially given that everyone else seems to be ahead in the game, with The US, South Korea and China already leading the charge.
5G can lead to changes that could improve virtually everything, however the change is slow due to high costs and the lack of a coherent policy across Europe. The constant squabbles with groups that believe 5G is somehow the mark of the Apocalypse are also a barrier against the quick implementation of a technology that provides superior speeds, lower latency rates and improved security and regulations.
Does it work?
The answer to that is a resounding ‘Yes!’
The speeds are definitely supperior, with and without the use of a VPN service, on mobile. However it is noticeable that when the VPN is disconnected the speeds increase and the latency period decreases significantly. I tested the difference between 4G and 5G with Speedcheck to see if I was just falling under the spell of the novelity and publicity. Turns out I wasn’t:
By comparison the 4G network on mobile only provides half of the speeds a 5G network offers, for both download and upload, at least on mobile. Given the proven differences between the capabilities of the two, the differences would not be in favour of 4G on a laptop either.
Would it really improve life for users that are in the market for entertainment only?
Even if the sole purpose of your phone or laptop is to download a movie or watch youtube videos, the answer would still be yes. Why? Because everyone deserves a better experience, regardless of what they are doing.
In our era of instant gratification, 5G will make augmented reality and virtual reality experiences in real time so whether we are gaming, exploring or shopping, everything will feel more dynamic and instantaneous. The speed of 5G will eliminate lag in these AR and VR devices, which will eliminate the motion sickness that high latencies on VR and AR devices occasionally cause. 5G will create a realistic and immersive experience uninterrupted by delays and make users feel as if they have been truly transported elsewhere.
Currently the coverage is still spotty, however as this infographic shows, we are heading in the right direction, hopefully sooner rather than later.