With 4G coverage so low in some areas, why has the focus shifted to 5G already?
5G has actually been years in the making.
During an interview with Tech Republic, Kevin Ashton described how he coined the term "the Internet of Things" – or IoT for short – during a PowerPoint presentation he gave in the 1990s to convince Procter & Gamble to start using RFID tag technology.
The phrase caught on and IoT was soon touted as the next big digital revolution that would see billions of connected devices seamlessly share data across the globe. According to Ashton, a mobile phone isn’t a phone, it’s the IoT in your pocket; a number of network-connected sensors that help you accomplish everything from navigation to photography to communication and more. The IoT will see data move out of server centers and into what are known as ‘edge devices’ such as Wi-Fi-enabled appliances like fridges, washing machines, and cars.
By the early 2000s, developers knew that 3G and even 4G networks wouldn’t be able to support such a network. As 4G’s latency of between 40ms and 60ms is too slow for real-time responses, a number of researchers started developing the next generation of mobile networks.
In 2008, NASA helped launch the Machine-to-Machine Intelligence (M2Mi) Corp to develop IoT and M2M technology, as well as the 5G technology needed to support it. In the same year, South Korea developed a 5G R&D program, while New York University founded the 5G-focused NYU WIRELESS in 2012.
The superior connectivity offered by 5G promised to transform everything from banking to healthcare. 5G offers the possibility of innovations such as remote surgeries, telemedicine and even remote vital sign monitoring that could save lives.
Three South Korean carriers – KT, LG Uplus and SK Telecom – rolled out live commercial 5G services last December and promise a simultaneous March 2019 launch of 5G across the country.
As we’ve seen, 5G stands poised to act as the mobile network of the future, helping to make the IoT a reality. This wouldn’t have been possible without the steady march of technological progress from 1G to the present day. As Ashton points out, the IoT isn’t just “the refrigerator talking to the toaster”; it’s a way to facilitate countless increases in human productivity.
One caveat is that unlike previous generations like 3G and 4G that could piggyback off the infrastructure left by the previous generation, 5G is far more expensive and complicated to implement. 5G requires many more base stations than 4G and these must be positioned closer together, potentially leading to possible, as-yet unstudied, health complications. According to Bloomberg, upgrading to 5G could collectively cost the tech industry over $200 billion and the benefits may not be worth the costs.
I’ll dive into controversies and complications surround 5G in a future post…Stay tuned!