5G has been the talk of the town for quite some time with much anticipation on how it will replace, let alone, augment the existing 4G LTE connection. 5G is quite literally the fifth and next generation of wireless networks with outspoken capabilities that would surpass current wireless networks such as 3G and 4G by tenfold. It would not only surpass it, but rather be 10 to 100 times faster than the speeds we currently experience.
5G is seen as the technology that would accelerate the transformation of multiple sectors and industries. The integration of 5G will result in a much higher bandwidth, where speeds would top out to as much as 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) whereas 4G currently tops out at a theoretical speed of 100 megabits per second (Mbps). Latency, the time it would take for devices to respond to each other over a wireless network, would also significantly be reduced to a staggering 1 millisecond (ms). This would mean larger number of connections between multiple devices.
The capabilities of 5G would greatly impact the advancement in multiple sectors through its facilitation in the Internet of Things (IoT). This in turn would benefit several industries such as the automotive industry, infrastructure in building smart cities, health care industry, and of course, the financial industry.
What is 5G?
To understand 5G, we need to first begin to understand how it evolved over time. In the late 70s and throughout the 80s, the first generation (1G) of mobile networks were built, introducing wireless phone call. However, it was not encrypted, making it easy for anyone to intercept conversations. In the 90s, it evolved into 2G networks, where phone calls were encrypted and basic texting, emails, and other forms of communication and entertainment were introduced.
3G networks came in the early 2000s with the ability to access the web, stream videos, and paved the way for the smartphone revolution. In the early 2010s, 4G was built as an upgrade from 3G networks with data transmission speeds 10 times faster, enhanced capabilities of streaming videos in high definition (HD), and created new means of communications such as video chats.
When it comes to 5G, it’s easy to think it’s just another G, but it’s really more than that. Mobile global traffic is doubling every 18 months and with that, the demand for high-speed connectivity increases every second. With 5G evolved as a more competent network with higher speeds and reduced latency, it is able to efficiently deliver capacities for massive data growth, exponentially. This means a faster and uninterrupted experience for mobile users as well as the opportunities it presents for the world at large.
Source: Digital Realty
What can 5G do?
5G wireless technology surges immense power in its expected ability to connect with almost everything around us as a fast, reliable, and highly responsive network. Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the internet of things (IoT) can be used to their full potential by leveraging on 5G networks.
Autonomous cars make use of hundreds of sensors to enable faster and smarter decisions on the road. These sensors accumulate enormous amounts of data from their external environment which can be communicated to other cars on the road to inform them about certain road conditions in real time. The transfer of such data requires high-speed connectivity and deploying 5G would be imperative to reduce, if not, eliminate the chances of getting into an accident, ultimately saving countless lives.
Smart Cities and Public Safety
With 5G network, the infrastructure of cities will quickly lean into becoming smarter with more intelligent transportation and commute systems as well as traffic applications operating more efficiently. By bridging 5G network with the Internet of Things (IoT), it will bring significant benefits by enabling a wider range of connections with sensors and devices in real time. This will allow public works departments to be notified at a faster rate, easily track the root of the problem, and take action accordingly. Innovation- and solution-building will be much more stimulated and result in higher impacts of constructing smarter cities at a larger scale.
Remote Device Control
With 5G’s astounding low latency, devices, and machinery can soon be remotely controlled in real time by technicians, specialists, and more from anywhere in the world. This would open up potential for improved working conditions and medical services that would otherwise be unavailable in rural areas. In addition, industries will experience an increase in efficiency and reduced operational costs, let alone, minimising risks in hazardous environments.
It can be challenging and time-consuming for people in rural areas to receive healthcare, when doctors and medical centres are far from reach. To address such matters, devices such as telemedicine and remote monitoring systems are used to provide care to patients in the comfort of their homes. However, the increasing amount of data on networks can be straining which may lead to slower network speeds, potentially delaying a patient’s care and affecting them in the long run.
With 5G’s ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC) technology, the possibility of such inconveniences are minimised where healthcare is seamlessly delivered to patients across the fastest networks available. Moreover, improvements in telemedicine, physical therapy via augmented reality (AR), and even remote surgery are expected to be seen in the coming years.
What will 5G mean to the financial industry?
With 5G gradually rolling out, it will be seen as a catalyst for change and growth in several industries, including financial institutions (FIs). This would require FIs to significantly reform their use of technology in order to focus on customer engagement as well as strengthening their internal operations.
The arrival of 5G would change the paradigm for several FIs as a potential to develop new features and payment gateways and bring them into fruition. Features such as common authentication between different access networks and new security key concepts could be developed. New forms of payment gateways could also potentially be developed via smartphones, wearables such as fitness bands, IoT devices, and even virtual reality.
The fintech industry, a massive disruptor of the financial service markets, would also be significantly impacted by 5G networks. With 5G’s extremely low latency of 1 millisecond, it would aid the market into developing ‘high-frequency trading’ which in turn would alter the ecosystem in the securities sector.
Although 5G would not be widely available until 2025, it would serve FIs and FinTechs a great deal in increasing their market share and drive value creation through early adoption.
How does 5G work?
Much like how other cellular networks operate, 5G networks uses a system of cell sites that are divided into multiple sectors within a territory where data is transferred through radio waves. With the demanding requirements put on top of 5G network, 5G New Radio (NR) was developed as a new radio interface to adhere to the growing needs for mobile connectivity. 5G New Radio is the global standard for a more capable 5G wireless air interface, allowing mobile phones to communicate with cell sites/base stations more effectively. The development of 5G New Radio was key in enabling the 5G mobile communication system to operate. There are several key features to New Radio’s Infrastructure that enables 5G to operate:
New Radio Spectrum: Radio spectrum is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that ranges from 1Hz to 3000GHz. Electromagnetic waves within this frequency range are known as radio waves which are particularly used in telecommunications. There are three types of radio spectrums for 5G networks, namely, low-band, mid-band, and high-band.
- Low-band spectrum are radio frequencies ranging from 600MHz to 1GHz and offers substantial area coverage and wall penetration however, with the drawback that data speeds are peaked at 100Mbps.
- Mid-band spectrum are radio frequencies ranging from 2GHz to 6GHz, delivering faster speeds and lower latency than low-band. However, it is unable to penetrate through walls as effectively as low-band. Data speeds for mid-band are peaked at 1Gbps.
- High-band spectrum, also referred to as ‘Millimeter Wave’ (mmWave), delivers the highest performance for 5G although conjoined with major weaknesses. Radio frequencies for this spectrum go above 24Ghz. Data speeds would peak up to 10Gbps with extremely low latency. Drawbacks, however, are low area coverage and poor building penetration. Small cells are used to recompense for the low area coverage and poor building penetration, while maintaining high speeds. Small cells are low-power base stations covering small geographical locations 300m apart from each cell.
Optimised OFDM: OFDM or Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing is a method of reducing interferences and crosstalks at different frequencies. OFDM has been successfully used with 4G however, with 5G’s additional processing power, several forms of optimisation can be applied to it. This specific version of OFDM used in 5G-NR is known as cyclic prefix OFDM (CP-OFDM).
MU-MIMO: MIMO, or multiple input multiple output, is an antenna technology for wireless communications that enables multiple transmitters and receivers to transfer multiple data at the same time. By utilising the distributed and uncorrelated spatial locations of multiple users, more devices can be connected to routers without facing any decrease in speed. This has been defined as Multi-User MIMO, or MU-MIMO as shown in the image below.
To recap, the development and deployment of 5G highly relies on 5G New Radio’s infrastructure consisting of multiple components all working together to enable 5G to operate. With 5G NR, all different spectrum types will be natively supported from low-band to high-band frequencies. On the contrary, 4G networks are limited to low-band frequencies of up to 1GHz. The use of CP-OFDM in 5G’s high processing power will significantly reduce interferences and crosstalks for multiple devices. Lastly, MU-MIMO would support multiple devices to be connected to routers without experiencing slow speeds, whereas standard AC routers used for 4G networks could only support one device at a time with speeds being reduced for every additional device connected.
Where is 5G now?
Although the wide availability of 5G would not be accessible till 2025, there are several countries who have already rolled out 5G networks commercially in 2019.
Telecom companies like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint have already launched 5G networks in more than 31 cities, in early 2019. Despite rolling out quite early, there are still caveats to the launch of 5G in the US. For instance, there are only a handful of smartphones that are compatible with 5G networks. Moreover, 5G’s full potential of accessing high-band networks (10Gbps) has yet to be offered in many cities rather, only being limited to low-band networks (100Mbps).
“By 2035, 5G will enable $12.3 trillion of global economic output and support 22 million jobs worldwide. Much of that growth will come from the digitization of transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, and other physical industries.”
– Ronan Dunne, Executive Vice President and Group CEO, Verizon Consumer Group
Currently, telecom carriers in the U.S. are pricing 5G home broadband plans between $50 – $70/month, whereas 5G mobile data is priced anywhere between $10 – $75/month depending on data usage. On the other hand, T-Mobile subscribers can access 5G data at no additional cost.
Much like the U.S., 5G networks cover a limited number of areas in a total of 50 cities in the UK, with plans to reach 70 cities by May of 2020. EE, UK’s largest telecom operator, was among the first network companies to launch 5G in the UK on May 2019, with Vodafone following in July, and O2 in October. While being promised 1Gbps speeds, the UK so far has been seen receiving a range between 200-400Mbps. In addition, the number of smartphone devices are also limited in compatibility with 5G.
EE offers their 5G services through the purchase of compatible phones on a monthly plan ranging between $41 – $87 for up to 100GB. Their broadband or Wi-Fi service is offered for $127 upfront with either a monthly payment of $63 (50GB) or $95 (100GB). Vodafone offers 5G services through their mobile data plans ranging between $63 – $127 for a monthly plan.
As of 31 October, 2019, three of China’s network carriers launched 5G namely, China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom. The 5G wireless network is available in 50 cities including the most popular areas in China: Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. This rollout was part of a movement to accelerate a digital infrastructure to fuel high-quality economic growth. Moreover, China has activated 130,000 base stations to support the 5G network, one of the largest 5G deployments.
China Mobile currently offers its 5G plan at less than $20 with the use of 30GB at a max speed of 300Mbps. China Unicom’s 5G packages would cost $28 on monthly plans, while China Telecom would charge between $28 – $86 for its 5G monthly plans.
Telecom carriers around the world are still tinkering with pricing as of now until 5G becomes completely available in other global markets for prices to be fully determined.
Although 5G would not be fully accessible until years to come, it certainly holds the future for a much more connected world. The deployment of 5G networks would ultimately change the way individuals would communicate, interact, and consume media. It would also shift the way organisations operate in different industries and bring about lucrative opportunities. Higher bandwidths and extremely low latencies would significantly increase the connectivity between multiple devices and mitigate network congestion. In essence, 5G will be transforming the technological era, giving rise to unlimited possibilities that would not only change lives but save them in return.