How 5G May Radically Change the Mobile Landscape
We all know 5G is coming. Technological progress is inevitable, with older technologies getting subsumed and replaced by newer, better technologies. The record was replaced by the 8-track, which was then replaced by cassette tapes. In short order CDs killed cassettes, and now digital downloads and streaming have supplanted the CD. People always want easier, faster, stronger, and better, and businesses are happy to satisfy the demand.
The history of cellular mobile phones is no different. 2G (2nd Generation) networks replaced the original cellular plant. The unveiling of 3G networks brought mobile phones into the mainstream, with speeds four times faster than the previous generation. And 4G networks ushered in the age of the smartphone and mobile computing with marked speed and reliability improvements. The industry is now poised for the rollout of 5G, which is predicted to happen worldwide by 2020. 5G may be a watershed moment for the industry, when everything we know about mobile computing changes.
Why 5G is a Game Changer
Of course it’s still too early to quote exact specifications, but most experts agree that 5G networks will deliver around 10x the upper limit for 4G networks, or 10 Gbps. But remember that most 4G LTE networks never realized the full potential of 4G technologies which means the apparent jump in speed realized by 5G networks will be significantly larger.
To put this speed gain into context consider that at current 4G speeds it takes about 10 minutes to download a full HD movie. With 5G that same file would come down in seconds. For smaller files downloads will effectively be instantaneous, and high quality streaming will function flawlessly. This is why 5G will radically alter mobile communications and computing. When you no longer need to worry about transfer speeds, and most transfers happen instantly you’re no longer locked into performing most functions on your device. You’ll be able to rely on the massive computing power of the cloud to perform processor intensive operations and have the results instantly available on your phone. With 5G, the distinction between your device and the cloud won’t just blur, it will be entirely eradicated.
We’ve been using the cloud on mobile devices for years now, but it’s been limited to applications that don’t require large amounts of data to be transmitted reliably. With 5G we’ll be able to offload nearly everything we currently task our devices with. We’ll also store all of our files in the cloud and access them with zero latency. This means you won’t need impressive phone specs to get impressive results. Technically you’d barely need a processor at all. With most processor intensive operations handled by the cloud, mobile devices become terminals only, touch screens that connect you to the massive power of the cloud.
Apps may no longer run on your device, but instead run in the cloud with instantaneous data transfers, making the experience indistinguishable from a local app. And because your phone won’t need power hungry processors or large amounts of RAM anymore mobile device life should dramatically increase. The space that once was occupied by the guts of your phone could now be handed over to larger batteries. Smaller mobile devices, like smart watches and even smart clothing will be just as powerful as today’s high end tablet computers. 5G will usher in the age of massively powerful mobile devices at any scale that can go days or weeks without needing a charge.
If your phone is just a dumb terminal connected to the cloud then you could use anyone’s phone as if it were your own. All you’d need to do is switch user accounts. You could easily share content with other mobile devices and desktop computers. And with the rise of the Internet of Things, the centralization of computing that 5G creates would allow every smart device in your house to connect and share your mobile accounts. Moving from one device to the next would be seamless, with all of them aware of each other at all times and all sharing the same data and mobile processing power.
Of course forecasting the future of technology is difficult, but all signs seem to point to 5G as the moment where mobile computing becomes entirely ubiquitous, enormously powerful and as continuously present as the air we breathe.