What You Need to Know About 5G Mobile Data Subscriptions

Technology continues to hold the key to the future of human existence and life as we know it. The future we dream about and see played out in sci-fi movies is becoming a reality. Gradually, we are seeing a future of possibilities that our past would be envious of. 5G is the beginning of the future.

What is 5G?

Fifth generation mobile networks, popularly shortened to 5G, is the latest in mobile network connectivity. Compared to speeds obtainable on current 4G networks, 5G is touted to be faster with shorter response times (latency). Such is the capacity and capability of 5G to meet the demands of many devices being connected while on the go. 

5G is in response to the continuous growth in data consumption and number of connected devices.

Another interesting aspect of the 5G mobile network connection is the huge computing power 5G-enabled devices will have. Combining this feature with the lower response time (about 1ms) means mobile users can enjoy instant connection to the internet. Also, streaming live content will benefit from the lower latency and downloading will be almost 100 times faster.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the benefits that come with embracing 5G.

Benefits of 5G Mobile Network Connection

There are other ways 5G can be beneficial asides faster connectivity speed and reduced response times. Admittedly, the other benefits of 5G are hinged on these two factors. This of because, with 5G, doors involving the following are unlocked:

The Internet of Things (IoT)

This involves the connection of many devices together and having them interact without humans acting as an intermediary. This is expected to find greater use in residential house, manufacturing plants and city infrustructures..

Real time communications

This takes advantage of the low response time associated with 5G when controlling devices. With continuous experiments on autonomous cars and providing networks of safer transportation, 5G networks can make this commonplace. Also, it is believed that 5G’s low latency will make medical treatment and procedures possible using remote devices.

Virtual reality and augmented reality

(VR and AR respectively) will provide a better experience on 5G compared to 4G. For example, you’ll watch live football matches as though you were jostled among the crowd.  You’ll travel to other countries and feel, never mind see and hear, the sites and sounds. All this will be possible with 5G.

Will a 5G Mobile Data Subscription be Cheap?

With some of the amazing possibilities that’ll come with 5G, it would be easy to think it’d cost a fortune. 

Well, I’ll be honest with you. 

It will cost more than you currently spend on your mobile data subscription. But not a lot more. 

The reason why it’ll cost more is because of the trends that were set as we moved from 2G to 3G, then 3G to 4G and now, 5G.

When mobile phones started out, they were on 2G and the primary function was making and receiving phone calls. Also, you could send and receive text messages too. 

Then 3G came along. It gave us the capabilities of the 2G network and added internet access. 

This was also the case when 4G was introduced to the public – 3G capabilities plus added features. Now, we have 5G.

According to Cisco, the last decade has seen data usage increase as wireless speeds got faster. The increased data consumption came mostly from 4G smartphones compared to non-4G devices which could only manage one-tenth the data usage. As a result, money spent on mobile phone data also increased.

The chart below is a mobile data survey carried out in the United Kingdom between March 2011 and June 2017. The chart shows the United Kingdom’s monthly average mobile data usage per active SIM. As you will observe, the average volume of data consumed has always been on the rise. For example, it was 1.26GB in 2016 and shot up to 1.9GB in 2017. Putting it into perspective, the United Kingdom’s total monthly data consumption in 2017 is a mind-boggling 155 petabytes.

Going by these stats, other factors that have brought about an increase in data consumption are:

  • Widespread use of smartphones with improved features, capabilities and apps
  • Optimising websites for mobile devices [Please hyperlink this to the Web Traffic For Mobile article. Thanks]
  • Social media sites
  • Increased time spent on the internet
  • Increase in number of connected devices

Asides these, we also live in an era where the thirst for information is almost unquenchable. Combine this need with continuous advancement in technology, AR and VR, high definition content, and we’re looking at even more data consumption in the future. 

From a report made by Ofcom, the UK’s telecoms regulator, the United Kingdom had the highest mobile-driven website traffic in Europe. This was because 16% of the website traffic came from users on mobile devices (phones and tablets). 40% of adults and 62% 18 – 24 year olds in the UK make up these stats through the use of social media sites.

With internet speeds getting faster and lower latency, and smartphones becoming smarter, our data consumption will continue to increase. 

Pros and cons of 5G

Pros of 5G

Faster internet speeds – Having faster internet makes things easier, doesn’t it? You don’t have to wait around for pages to sloth onto your screen or suffer stuttering video. Instead, with 5G, huge data downloads take mere seconds (up to 10 times faster). Downloads speeds averaged 442Mbps (megabytes per second) in tests carried out using 5G by Qualcomm.

Almost zero latency – From the tests carried out on the 5G network, latency (response rate) was as low as 1ms (millisecond). Below is a comparison between 3G, 4G and 5G’s latency values.

A huge benefit of 5G having lower latency means there won’t be any noticeable delays in accessing content on mobile devices. Also, games will run lag free with improved response times. Augmented and virtual realities will benefit from this near-zero latency.

Glimpse into the future – With the numerous possibilities of 5G, I can’t help but anticipate what the future has in store for us. Examples of things to come include self-driving cars, remote medical treatments and care are glimpses of what 5G offers.

Cons of 5G

Uses more than one frequency – 5G requires more than one kind of radio frequency as evidenced by the various spectrums different network providers use. Although this is to ensure reliability and widespread coverage of 5G internet, real life situations can make it complicated. Also, higher frequencies tend to have shorter distance penetrability (Radio signal ability to pass through walls.) compared to the lower frequencies which can travel further through different materials. 

Need for many access points – The shorter penetrating distance of higher frequency signals mean that 5G networks utilise MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) antennas. These antennas will be placed at regular intervals to ensure that connections are maintained at all times. This mode of transmitting signals poses a challenge when infrastructures with many levels are being considered.

The cost of 5G may be on the high side – Currently, no mobile network provider in the UK has hinted at a price structure for 5G connections. As with all new entry-level technologies, they tend to be pricier to begin with until the market adjusts. This also happened when we had 2G, 3G and 4G networks introduced to the mobile world before price adjustments were made.

In addition to the high cost of data, new network services, upon release, tend to have mixed reviews. This is because, as with the releases of 3G and 4G to the public, connections were quite unstable.

It won’t be as widespread as first imagined – This applies to residents in rural or sparsely populated areas of the UK, especially those in the countryside. Over time, there have been complaints by residents having limited to no connection on the current 4G network. As a result, they’ve had to adjust their mobile settings to use 3G, which is much slower than 4G.

5G, on the other hand, has a higher radio frequency so its signal can only travel short distances before degrading. Therefore, providing residents with a stable 5G connection across rural UK won’t be cost effective for network providers. This is because they (network providers) would have to provide the same network coverage as they do in densely populated areas.

Should network providers choose to take this course of action, it would mean higher cost of 5G mobile internet data. Hence, 4G may be used to supplement 5G connections in these areas and 3G phased out.

Mobile devices are not 5G compatible – This is an obvious issue when it comes to connecting to 5G’s frequency. Currently, most mobile devices in circulation max out at 4G connectivity and therefore, cannot connect to the 5G network. Another aspect to 5G compatibility that needs to be considered is the mobile device’s battery life and processing power. To harness 5G’s faster downloads and data processing, mobile devices with powerful RAM, CPUs and bigger battery capacities are required.

Summary

A lot has been said about 5G and the future it paints for us. I know I can’t wait for 5G becoming commonplace especially when I consider the improvements and “realness” 5G will bring to virtual reality. It’s going to be amazing. So you’ll be forgiven for getting a little ahead of yourself.

In summary, the benefits of 5G include:

  • Fast internet and connection speeds
  • Response rate is very fast and virtually no delays (lower latency)
  • Greatly improved user experience
  • New technologies and possibilities are unlocked

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