5G is round the corner in India now. Indian consumers and the government are eagerly awaiting the ultrahigh speeds and lower latencies of 5G networks to power the next phase of India’s digital transformation.
Undoubtedly 5G offers several magnitudes of higher speeds and lower latencies compared to 4G and globally it has started powering some interesting use-cases that are transforming the lives of people and also changing how the industry operates.
One of the key breakthroughs of 5G technology is to make several new bands of frequency spectrum suitable for wireless mobile communication. Licensed spectrum is a scarce and precious resource worldwide and 5G is ensuring a lot of new spectrum can now be used for commercial services.
We may wonder what the benefits of 5G could be, unless there are new applications that make use of the higher speeds and lower latencies that it brings in. If licensed spectrum is a precious resource, even more precious is time, the productive time spent by customers using mobile devices. With its higher speed, 5G will be saving users’ time, compared to 4G networks.
5G has been around in some corners of the world for about three years now. New applications and use-cases that take advantage of 5G are being developed and deployed constantly. As we head into the 5G era in India, let’s understand how 5G is making a difference to users worldwide.
Massive rise in content consumption
As one would expect, the average mobile data consumption has shot up because users have started consuming more video and social media on the go as the faster network gives them more time to do more. The content consumed is of a higher quality resolution with zero lags resulting in a more immersive experience than before.
For example, US carrier T-Mobile has its top-tier 5G users consuming 35 GB of mobile data per month, streaming 39% more video and 36% more social media. 5G speeds and latencies are seen to be better than typical home Wi-Fi. Some networks report that fewer of their 5G users are connecting to Wi-Fi and instead they are hosting hotspots for other devices, thanks to the huge 5G backhaul they now have access to, which by far exceeds their own necessities. In addition, by using 5G solutions as the backhaul, Korean mobile operators are delivering enhanced Wi-Fi services to fast-moving subway trains and on station platforms.
5G is changing the experience of sports viewing
In big sporting events like NFL, there will usually be several cameras in the stadium tracking the game from several angles. However, due to bandwidth limitations, broadcasters normally choose a particular camera at a time and offer that to viewers. The sheer bandwidth of 5G now allows several media streams to be delivered simultaneously to devices and users can choose the view as well as switch the viewing angle as many times as they like. Many more media streams can be generated by placing cameras with players, referees and in the stadium.
For the NFL Super-bowl in the US, Verizon offered a “multi-view” to users wherein every 5G smartphone user experienced an immersive game as if they were in the middle of the action themselves. More and more NFL stadiums in the US are being equipped with 5G by Verizon to enable a similar experience.
Similarly, German Football League added an immersive augmented reality app that provides statistics, match analysis and images as an AR overlay in real-time using the low latency 5G service.
Real-time remote music collaborations
In the parallel world of music too, capabilities of 5G are being put to similar use. Real-time music collaborations and concerts are now possible where all the performers and band members need not be co-located. Streams of music from each performer’s location are transported to one another and all such streams are simultaneously available to viewers over a 5G network. The high capacity and low latency of the network ensure that the collaborative performance is life-like.
Factories of the future
5G has long been awaited as an enabler for Industry 4.0. With its huge capacity to simultaneously serve tens of thousands of devices, any industrial establishment, be it a factory or a port or an industrial estate, can be fully digitized and made highly efficient.
Industry 4.0 and IoT have enabled the smart factory where devices, machines and robots work in a connected environment and operate autonomously and automate many tasks. Smart factories also have the ability to monitor production equipment remotely, in real-time. Automation of processes and remote monitoring of production also allows manufacturers to analyse and predict breakdowns and prevent unwanted downtimes.
The trend of 5G private networks is seen around the world. With the help of a virtualized 5G network, which can be deployed on an off-the-shelf hardware and multi-access edge computing (MEC) where applications can be hosted right along with the 5G network, today any establishment can setup a private network for its premises. For example, in China, more than 6,000 private 5G networks have been deployed so far and those include smart factories, smart mines, smart grids, ports and hospitals. All those enterprises have reported considerable efficiency and productivity improvements.
Making cloud-based gaming a reality
A favourite of many application developers around the world is 5G gaming. Highly tactile and interactive video games that need the capabilities of 5G are under development and are being trialled. In a cloud-based gaming environment where all the computing power can be shifted to the data centre, 5G can enable a very high resolution (4k to 8k) streaming of the game at a very high frame rate to user devices.
So much is already happening around the world based on 5G technology and we are not even talking yet about even more advanced applications such as virtual reality and driverless cars, which are in various stages of development.
As India is set to launch 5G soon, we will surely see many India-specific use-cases and applications of 5G emerge, alongside the tried and tested global one being adopted here. We are sure 5G will be a catalyst to India’s digital transformation and for Powering Digital India!
(The author is Senior Director, Samsung R&D Institute, Bangalore)
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