What is 5G?

Wil, here is the answer to your question on the Gruen show

I came across this hilarious video – titled “What’s 5G?” – by the Gruen show. For those who do not know what Gruen is all about, here is how ABC TV introduces it; “The show that tracks advertising almost as closely as advertising tracks you. Wil Anderson and a crack team of experts reveal industry secrets and watch every ad so you don’t have to.”

Wiping tears of laughter off my face, I realised the horrifying truth. Us – as in the industry – have failed to clearly explain what 5G is and more importantly, what it means to consumers. What I am referring to here, of course, is an easy to understand explanation of the technology or some real-life use cases which an everyday person may experience.

So, Wil Anderson, let me answer your questions and take you on a journey to tomorrow 😉

So what is this 5G thing?

It is an upgrade to 4G – the same technology you use in your phone today – with three key differences;

  1. It has a higher bandwidth. In other words, you can receive a lot more data, or to use a highway analogy, it has many more lanes for cars to drive on
  2. It has ultra-low latency. In other words, you can get your data a lot faster. Back to my previous analogy, it means significantly higher speed limits
  3. It can use edge-compute. In other words, we can do calculations and compute work closer to you the consumer. Back to my analogy again, it has many more petrol stations along the way so you do not need to stock up heavily or fill up your tank to the max

What can 5G do for you?

What do the high bandwidth, ultra-low latency, and this edge-compute thing do for the everyday person? I have provided some examples which are – or are about to be – available today;

Last-minute entertainment on your flights

Ever been in a situation where you are at the airport, boarding your plane and realised you have not downloaded your favourite TV series or movie to watch on the plane? The horror! But worry not as with 5G you can download all you wish to watch in seconds. Of course, I am talking about legal downloads here.

Augmented Reality and Smart Glasses

Yes Wil Anderson, I too do not find hologranny all that exciting but Augmented Reality (AR) is another thing. Imagine walking around streets or parks and wanting to find out more about a building or a plant. You can hold up your phone to it and straight away get all the information you need. Sure, that is to a certain extent possible today with 4G, but with 5G we can add a lot more graphics and information, thereby improving your experience.

If we can use our phones for this AR experience, why not use smart glasses? Previously, one of the reasons the smart glasses did not take off was due to their design/size. They were bulky and not fashionable. We can offload some of the compute requirements from the glasses and onto the edge-compute thereby designing smaller and more fashionable glasses.

A new shopping experience

We can take our AR experience and use it in our shops. I for one am not a huge fan of using change rooms in fashion stores. I rather stand in front of a smart mirror or screen and have it show me how I would look with the item – be it trousers, shirts, shoes – on. This would save time, improve overall hygiene and reduce the required retail footprint. We have the technology available today, but with 5G and edge-compute, we can significantly reduce the associated costs.

Fewer App updates

I update my apps as soon as an update notification is sent. My primary concern is security, but new features are also welcomed. One of the reasons we have so many app updates is because we tend to have heavy apps; these are apps where most of the software is stored on your phone. With 5G, we can have skinnier apps and leave some parts of the software in that edge-compute thing we talked about earlier. This means, fewer app updates and better security. This could also mean more space on your phone for music, photos and videos, and better battery life.

Live translation

If you live in any multicultural society (i.e. anywhere in the world!) chances are you have used Google translator or similar sites/apps. Imagine if you could have a live translation of your conversation with a person speaking in a different language. 5G and edge-compute provide us with all the speed and computational power needed to do what is called Natural Language Processing and bring this live translation dream into reality.

Say goodbye to the game consoles

Those bulky game consoles could soon become a thing of the past. With 5G and edge-compute, it is possible to stream your games direct to your TV. Google’s Stadia is already doing this. Soon however, we will have more graphics-rich and delay-sensitive games also being streamed.

No more home wireless?

It is possible to do away with our ‘modems’ and those bulky, unsightly wireless devices in our homes. Imagine if our smart TV and other smart appliances had an eSIM, much like our smartwatches. We could then not worry about setting up wireless networks, not worry about its security (to an extent) and not worry about bad wireless reception in our bedroom.

Vehicles of tomorrow and smart cities

Unfortunately, this is not going to be available immediately. But imagine a future where our vehicles talk to each other, talk to street signs, to pedestrians, emergency vehicles, bicycle and motorcycle riders, street lights, electric charging stations, and just about everything else. Our roads will be safer, there will be far less – if any – road congestion, and the journey to our destination far more enjoyable and timely. This technology – vehicles communicating to anything – is called Vehicle-to-X or V2X.

Now take the concept of V2X and apply it to our cities, buildings and utilities.

What next?

Of course, there is no telling what the next entrepreneur will dream up in her/his garage but these are just some of the examples of what 5G can do. So, Wil Anderson, I hope this answers your question and please, worry not as 5G will not (as you have so eloquently put it) shrink your balls. Also, if you get in touch, I will commit to buying you and the fridge guy your cakes.