What is 5G and What Does it Mean for the Future of 2G in the UK?
Brace yourself for the new standard in telecommunications: 5G. This new generation of mobile network may have the potential to revolutionise not only the daily lives of millions, but the strength of communication for emergency services and the conservation of energy resources. Scheduled for rollout from 2020, 5G will offer unparalleled response times and coverage as well a bandwidth up to 1000x greater per area.
Why do we need 5G?
The applications for 5G technology are limitless. As we speak, companies all over the world are developing solutions that utilise the freedom of effortless connection, in the interest of changing the way we live. One of the most practical possible applications allows for a safer and more enjoyable driving experience- although you may not soon be driving your own car. Road sensors, allowing early detection of a traffic incidents, smart cities that find you the best parking area and self-gritting road surfaces could revolutionise the safety and comfort of travel. And yes, your car may be driverless…
There are millions of potential improvements that can be made to the way we learn and interact with the world around us. Entertainment, as you might imagine, will benefit hugely from 5G; Virtual Reality could be the future of gaming but may also have medical and navigational applications. Could a surgeon save a life from the other side of the world with the help of VR?
How is this possible?
5G will employ, for the first time, the millimetre wave bands (20-60 GHz) which would support much larger access speeds and form a converged fibre-wireless network. This would provide a service that behaves more like Wi-Fi than a traditional mobile network. In order for this to happen and the latency to be as low as the predicted response speeds of 100MB per millisecond, an additional spectrum of high frequency bands will be required.
Research continues in this area, alongside investigations in cognitive radio technology- designed to locate unused spectrum and adapt transmission as required. This would allow different technologies to share the same spectrum efficiently- vital in enabling the myriad of applications to work in harmony for billions of people across the world.
Will 2G be phased out to make room for 5G?
The answer to this question depends on your global location. Japan was the first to turn theirs off and that was almost a decade ago, in 2008. US and Australian operators are planning to remove 2G from end of 2017 along with Singapore and Taiwan.
Here in the UK, 2G provides reliable, low frequency cover in rural areas and is therefore still in demand- arguably more so than 3G which has largely been superseded in coverage and speed by the release of 4G in recent years. Machine to Machine technology also utilises the 2G network as a means of solid connection and thus provides a steady revenue stream, with a place in almost every industry.
With the growth in IoT markets, simply “turning off” 2G in the UK is not a viable option at present. Respectively, European operators are looking more towards 2020-2025 to make the change, where it will most likely outlive 3G.
With the introduction of the LoRa Alliance and 5G, the sky really is the limit. These technological advancements could mean bigger changes much faster than anyone expected- but don’t worry, your 2G is safe for now.