The 5G: what is it for and what is it used for?


The 5G: what is it for and what is it used for?

860 573 Lorna Barone

Fiber-like throughput, near-zero latency, and ultra-connectivity. The advantages of the new 5G mobile network are multiple. In addition to enhancing existing services, 5G will also enable new uses to be explored. Here are some explanations.

5G is presented as a breakthrough technology. However, for the time being, it is not going to radically change things for users. Initially, the 5G mobile network should be seen as an evolution of 4G.

With its multiple advantages, the 5th generation of mobile telephony will first of all enable existing uses to be enhanced and trivialized. It will bring more comfort to users. Another immediate benefit of 5G is that it will bring capacity to areas where mobile networks are in high demand, thus avoiding network saturation in the short or medium term.

Then, in the years to come, 5G will bring about a revolution in usage. In industry, in particular, with the development of applications, some of which will revolutionize our daily lives.

Giving oxygen to the networks: the first benefit of 5G

Immediately upon its launch, 5G will bring capacity to places where mobile networks are in high demand, such as urban centers and places with a high concentration of population (airports, train stations, shopping centers, stadiums). Thanks to the addition of new frequencies, it will simply avoid network saturation. This is the first benefit of 5G and it meets a necessity.

Indeed, for years now, we have been witnessing an explosion in mobile data consumption. It is around 40% per year. According to telecom equipment manufacturer Ericsson, our data consumption could reach an average of 200 GB of data per person per month by 2025. This increase can be explained by the growing use of high quality video and augmented reality on smartphones. However, existing networks are currently unable to cope with this rise in mobile data consumption.

Flow rate, latency and density: the three main advantages of 5G

  • Ultra-High Speed: this is the most obvious contribution of 5G, with speeds never before achieved by mobile Internet. In a way, 5G is to 4G what optical fiber is to ADSL. It should allow Internet connection speeds up to 10 times faster than 4G. With 5G, we are talking about a speed of 1Gb/s in reception (300 Mb/s in transmission). However, initially, operators will have to guarantee a minimum speed of 100 Mb/s in 5G. As an indication, according to the 2020 Arcep survey on the quality of mobile services, the average speed in 4G is 40 Mb/s at Bouygues, 47 Mb/s at SFR, 33 Mb/s at Free and 74 Mb/s at Orange.
    In 5G, the operators will have to provide a minimum speed of 100 Mb/s.
  • The other advantage of 5G is low latency. Of all the advantages of 5G, it is the one that should first allow the emergence of disruptive uses. Latency refers to the time delay between the moment data is sent and the moment it is received. With 5G, it should increase from 10 to 1 millisecond, compared to 4G. This increased responsiveness is crucial for the emergence of new services, such as autonomous vehicles or telemedicine.
  • The third major promise of 5G: density. The new 5G mobile network will be able to support “a very large number of simultaneous mobile connections”, says Arcep, the telecoms regulator. This will “multiply by 10 the number of objects connected simultaneously to the network”, comments the National Frequency Agency. This will first of all avoid network congestion. It will also allow us to switch to ultra-connectivity. This is the Internet of Things, with communications between a very large number of interconnected objects.

A tailor-made and on-demand network: another advantage of 5G

The benefits of 5G are enormous, both in terms of throughput, latency and connectivity. However, don’t expect to have a latency of 1 millisecond with a throughput of 1 Gb/s. Or don’t count on a density of 10,000,000 connected objects per km2 with 100 Mb/s of throughput for each of them. This is not possible. But then, how to adapt the signal according to the uses?

That’s where network slicing comes in, one of the new features of 5G. Network slicing is the virtualization of networks, one of the technologies used by 5G, which allows a network to be split into several virtual slices. Each of these slices can be configured according to the uses they support, which makes it possible to deliver a dose of throughput, density or latency adapted to each use.

In other words, the signal sent to a user is adjusted according to his or her needs. It is tailor-made on demand. This flexibility allows optimal management of the 5G network, with prioritization of uses, and will respond to the explosion in the volume of data exchanged on mobile networks. Slicing will enable new services to emerge and, for operators, it is the possibility of offering dedicated uses for businesses.

How will 5G change our daily lives?

The first thing that will change for mobile users with 5G is the significantly reduced download time compared to 4G. Take a look at this table, it’s better than a long speech :

With 5G, it’s not just the speed that will change. The other advantage is that the new 5G network will also provide the data capacity needed to enhance existing uses or develop new generations of applications. 5G will power new video formats: 4K, 8K, HDR, 360°. This will benefit all users of streaming video on smartphones. Thanks to its lower latency, 5G will also enable cloud gaming to take off on smartphones, and 5G will propel new formats and the emergence of virtual reality and augmented reality.

In addition, with 5G, emerging technologies will now be accessible on the move. For example, virtual reality will take on another dimension: traveling without moving will be possible, visiting an apartment from the comfort of your sofa will also be possible, as will watching a match with the feeling of being on the field. After virtual reality, augmented reality (superimposing reality with virtual objects in a sequence of images). With 5G, its possibilities will be even more numerous.

New uses for 5G in the future

According to the French National Frequency Agency, 5G is a breakthrough technology that “differs from previous generations in that it aims, from its conception, to integrate a number of new use cases”. He continued: “The performance jumps allowed by 5G should affect many sectors.

Until today, many areas were still too dangerous to entrust to a machine. But 5G, with its promise of near-zero latency, is expected to solve this problem. And the first sectors to benefit from it are likely to be industry, transportation, healthcare and urban planning.

5G and industry

Thanks to 5G, industry will undergo profound change. The new mobile network will foster the emergence of the factory of the future. It is a tremendous gas pedal for the 4.0 industry, synonymous with predictive maintenance, reconfigurable factories, industrial big data, widespread connectivity, automated guided vehicle fleets, etc.

In short, 5G will change the way factories are built and disrupt manufacturing processes, with the help of robots and sensors.

With what results? In Finland, for example, the Oulu plant, powered by 5G technology, has generated productivity gains of 30% and savings of 50% in the time it takes to bring a product to market.

5G and transportation

Thanks to 5G, the hyper-connected car, the 100% autonomous vehicle and intelligent transportation are coming soon. Europe’s ambition is to become the world leader in 100% autonomous mobility and for all new vehicles to be connected to the Internet by 2022. Moreover, according to the European Commission, 90% of accidents are linked to human error. With 5G, vehicles will be able to become autonomous. Thanks to the very low latency of 5G, they will be able to quickly process much more information and thus gain in responsiveness and security. However, we will have to wait until 2025 to see 100% autonomous vehicles enter the automotive market.

With communications between vehicles, but also with other users and infrastructures (roads, traffic signals, traffic lights, etc.), it is easy to imagine applications to reduce accident rates and travel times, and thus improve traffic flow and air quality.

5G will also enable transportation professionals (ships, trains and planes) to improve operational efficiency.

5G and health

With 5G, new uses can also be expected in the healthcare sector. Telemedicine in particular is set to develop. In the future, there will be remote surgical interventions, but that’s not yet for tomorrow.

In the meantime, 5G will nonetheless serve the healthcare field, notably home healthcare with teleconsultations, but also telemonitoring or telemonitoring of patients at a distance. Finally, 5G will make it possible to make better and faster diagnoses, thanks to tele-expertise or tools that will be able to be carried in ambulances when this is impossible today.

5G and urban planning

5G could finally sign the advent of smart cities, with new uses in transportation and video surveillance. They will also serve the environment, with better energy management or better waste management. The aim of smart cities is to improve people’s daily lives, to encourage communication between residents and local authorities, and to improve the operational management of cities.

5G and the Internet of Things

5G will boost the density of connections per antenna. With 5G, it will be able to reach one million connected devices per km2. This means that many more people and many more objects can be connected at the same time. Objects that will be able to exchange information and interact with each other. In short, a new world is being prepared: the world of the Internet of Things (IoT).

The objective is to be able to multiply low-power, low-speed devices in very large numbers in the same area. We are thinking in particular of connected watches and connected homes. In a few years, for example, your refrigerator may be able to make an order for you when you are dangerously close to being out of stock. By 2020 or 2025, almost all of our household appliances will be connected, not to mention all the gadgets we will have installed for a wide variety of uses. 50 billion connected objects are expected by 2025.

The Internet of Things is not just for individuals. It’s a field in which 5G offers many different perspectives for use. Already present, but in homeopathic doses, in the transport, health, industrial and local authority sectors, the Internet of Things market is expected to grow considerably. Indeed, 50 billion connected objects are expected by 2025. Welcome to World 4.0.

Soon 5G boxes?

There are 4G boxes, so why not 5G boxes? We can indeed imagine that one day, 5G will eliminate the frontier between our fixed and mobile devices. In any case, the border between fixed and mobile Internet has never been so thin. Moreover, 5G boxes are already a little more than a possibility, they are already a reality.

In fact, since October 2018, the American operator Verizon has been offering 5G fixed-line Internet in four US cities: Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento. The 5G Home offer offers speeds ranging from 300 Mbps to 1Gbps. In addition, since 2019, several manufacturers have launched 5G-compatible routers on the market, but not yet in France. 5G routers are available.

5G, with its promise of near-fiber speeds, even lower latency and the ability to connect millions of devices simultaneously is a serious alternative to fiber. In addition, 5G boxes would also respond to a logic of uses: We use more and more our mobile Internet connection. Outdoors, it’s obvious. But also at home.

The 5G: a more economical and ecological network?

Yes and no at the same time. What is certain is that 5G is more efficient than 4G. In other words, for the same amount of data, it is more efficient in terms of performance while consuming less energy. In fact, at constant consumption, a 5G antenna consumes three times less than a 4G antenna, it’s been established.

However, since a 5G antenna is capable of handling many more connections and higher data rates, the switch from 4G to 5G will cause an explosion in digital data consumption. This means that what we will gain on one side, we will lose on the other. In the end, therefore, the 5G network should be more energy intensive than 4G.

And it’s not over yet. Because, to all this, we have to add the environmental impact of installing new antennas. Now, we know that in order to have 5G coverage equivalent to 4G, a greater number of antennas will have to be deployed. There is also the problem of renewing smartphones. To take advantage of 5G, it will indeed be necessary to be equipped with a smartphone compatible with the new mobile network. It is therefore easy to imagine that millions of devices will be prematurely scrapped by their users.