The world of wireless terrestrial telecommunications is on his way to 5G, a new approach to use the radio spectrum that is incompatible with all previous efforts.
The main improvements promised by 5G are higher speed, higher number of connected devices at the same time, and lower latency. The standard bodies aim at 20Gbps speeds, with latency close to 1 ms: we humans perceive real-time reality when latency (delay between events) is lower than 10 ms.
Higher speed allows to transfer more data at the same time, or the same data in a shorter time; industry 4.0 and smart city paradigms require thousands of devices to be connected at the same time. Lower latency allows to respond in real time, opening a new breed of consumer and industrial applications.
Today’s 5G system, the so-called NSA (Not Stand Alone) network, is not compatible with 4G but it will need 4G for a few years until SA (Stand Alone) 5G arises. 4G is not disappearing either -offering up to 1Gbps speeds- but will continue to improve, making the most of smaller cells, new technologies, and software/protocol improvements, stealing also from 5G and satellites breakthroughs. But as soon as SA-5G network is deployed, 4G survival chances will be really limited. Radio spectra will be allocated to 5G according to an ongoing masterplan.
Indicative spectrum allocation over time
Let’s start with what allows for higher bandwidth: the working frequencies. 4G networks are normally associated with the 2 GHz band, but they rely on a plethora of radio spectra located from around 0.4 GHz to about 6 GHz, depending on many regulatory (local) conditions. 5G data are encoded in different standards to 4G data, allowing better results.
The data speed is given from many competing factors, basically given from the channel width (in Hz) multiplied by the coding system. The higher the broadcasting frequency, the larger the channel.
A 4G channel transfers data at 20 MHz maximum, allowing for bonding up to 8 channels, thus limiting the bandwidth to 160 MHz. 5G channels are 100 MHz wide, so you have much more bandwidth in which encode your digital data. You have to remind that not all countries/regions have free radio spectrum to allocate clear 100-MHZ wide channels to 5G.
You have many more channels if you send them over the higher frequency: that’s why 0.7 GHz has less capacity than 2 GHz, 2 GHz less than 5 GHz, and much much less than 52.
About 5G, normative bodies divide spectrum frequencies into two major categories: up to 6 GHz, over 6 GHz, up to 52 GHz. To be more clear, 5G primarily runs in three kinds of airwaves: 0.4-4.7 GHz, 3-7 GHz, 6-39-52 GHz. Bands are not clearly separated: they often overlap, due to historical and normative reasons.
There is a growing feeling of hysteria about the effects of 5G radiation on our health. From a media standpoint, the highest the frequency, the worse the health of all living beings, humans included.
“5G can seriously damage your health” is a motto that somebody would like to be printed on all 5G devices. Many commissions are then asked to respond to all the facts. Protest movements are continuously arising all over the globe, claiming even that old trees cut has been imposed by 5G companies to keep their signals strong.
All radio emissions carry some health danger. Radio frequencies radiations are always been considered dangerous for human health. The worst damage is probably still given by 50/60 Hz radiation from hair dryers when used very close to the brain (<30 cm), and more lightly by all AC radiation inside buildings.
This effect is amplified not only by the used frequency, and the transmission power, but also by the encoding system. When the Bluetooth standard introduced frequency hopping, there was a new wave of studies demonstrating how dangerous it is.
With the introduction of 5G, new studies reveal that the direct effect of high-frequency radiation could increase the number of uncommon tumors in our hearts, brain, and glands.
The US National Toxicology Program (NTP) conducted toxicology studies in rats and mice to help clarify potential health hazards, including cancer risk, from exposure to radio frequencies like that used in 2G and 3G cell phones.
The NTP studies found that high exposure to radio frequencies used by cell phones was associated with malignant schwannomas tumors in the hearts, malignant gliomas in the brains, and any kind of tumors in the adrenal glands. Similar results have been confirmed by the Italian “Istituto Ramazzini”.
There is a basic consideration to make: science always considered a trade-off in new technologies. If there is a direct risk for a small number of people, and an undirect risk for a higher number of people, but a clear advantage for the highest number of people, there’s a deal in deploying that technology.
The average life span in the civilized world is much higher than 50 years ago and still improving. This does not mean that there is no risk, or that we could underestimate a fatal risk.
Installing Ericssons 5G radios in Australia
5G emissions could impact not only human health, but also weather satellite’s. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, potential interference from 5G networks could reduce the accuracy of weather forecasts by up to 30%. That loss would leave forecasts no better than they were in 1980, giving US coastal residents two to three days fewer to prepare for impending hurricanes.
5G will empower all kinds of vehicles
What’s sure is that 5G could bring many changes in the still roaring world of software development. The effects could be unpredictable, but 5G will change many ICT pillars, starting from the cloud computing itself.
Many market operators ask themselves if cloud will survive. This is a not-so-subterranean shadow question. Among the others, Marty Puranik, founder and CEO of Atlantic.Net, tried to solve the puzzle in a story published on Information week on May 2019.
According to Marty’s worst-case scenario, 5G will terminate the cloud. In his best-case scenario, 5G will take the cloud to new heights.
Should the worst case happen, the cloud as we know will become obsolete. Longer term, a dystopic post-cloud world would involve billions of autonomous smart devices. They would process and act on the data they collect at the edge of the network, in real time. This new barycenter would credit the local data elaboration of edge computing as the main paradigm, leaving centralized elaboration inside data centers in a lower ranking.
Needless to say, most of ICT will become obsolete, if 5G succeedes in the given timeframe and if nothing really comm-hungry springs out. The latter chance is what normally happens: mid-term, new, richer capabilities are used in unknown ways to the previous, lower capabilities. So Marty, go back to the future! (this was an easy call) and let’s look at the best-case scenario: 5G takes the cloud to new heights.
Establishing new landlines is a difficult goal to achieve globally. 5G’s promised speeds and latencies, forecasts Puranik, “will be a boon not only for individuals and their personal uses, but also for businesses owners who haven’t been able to take advantage of cloud computing due to infrastructure barriers”. Warehouses will be managed in real time through 5G-IoT devices, AI-powered business analytics will be available, training will be everywhere and empowered with UX-rich interfaces.
Thanks to the high band in a seamless way and real-time connection, telecommuting will be the main choice for almost any kind of job.
Remote control and tactile internet will be enabled by 5G technology
One field normally unrelated to 5G is vehicle innovation. On the contrary, all aspects of vehicle use and management will be impacted by 5G’s direct and indirect capabilities. Autonomous and remote guide, vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-network, vehicle-to-person, and vehicle-to-everything applications will become the normal way of riding and driving.
Vehicle-to-everything will soon become a major source of earnings for software developers and infrastructure managers.
All of this will apply not only to desktop and laptop devices but to mobile devices mainly. The conundrum of multiple versions will ask most companies to let down all old versions and to envision new business models -that’s not new stuff in the software business.
According to many, the real-time feature management will be the main issue for next-gen developers. The Navigational mobile app, in particular, looks a basic paradigm to be fully understood by everybody who wants to stay in the mobile web.
“High-quality, uninterrupted communications will open up a whole new world of opportunities for the development of navigational apps”, states a short tutorial by Awwwards innovators published in April 2019. “5G will contribute a lot to the growth of the tourism industry: for instance, a developer will be able to build a mobile app containing all the popular historical places from different countries as well as offering a bunch of unique features to users”. The same paradigm will be at disposal for fleet control, working force support, community empowerment (from family/condominiums to large organizations).
Banking, bidding, and any kind of money transfer will change forever with 5G near-zero latency.
Users will be able to stream many kinds of video from their smartphones without any lag: 4K, 360°, 3D and many new formats that are still ongoing development.
3D gaming, immersive augmented reality, and additive manufacturing will have a great chance on both desktop and pocket devices. New environments and apps will take place virtually everywhere there is something to be understood (education) or made (parts, devices, even constructions).
Forget all misfunctioning chatbots. Real-time will assure prompt feedback. Higher capabilities will give a chance to the dawn of Tactile Internet, where users can control and receive haptic feedback, powered through AI-based services (one more area for 5G-native developers).
The message to any persons involved in the software development is: don’t underestimate 5G‘s impact on your business: it could be disruptive, even insanely rich.