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5G and the ever-faster wireless Internet

By Jean-Claude Elias - Nov 01,2018 - Last updated at Nov 01,2018

Each time the industry manages to increase the speed of one of the specific aspects or applications in Information Technology in a significant manner, the first question that comes to our mind is “why always faster, technology already is fast enough?”

The question is raised again, now that ultrafast 5G wireless Internet is practically at reach, though in a limited number of countries and by only very few service providers for the time being.

The question may be relevant and the answer to it simple. Much faster — Internet in this particular case — is not about performing the same tasks faster, as much as it is about performing new tasks, some of them being considered as unthinkable without the noticeable increase in speed.

Surely you do not necessarily need 5G to upload a couple of photos to you friend, to watch a Netflix movie, to shop for a pair of blue jeans online, or to browse news websites. In most cases like these 4G would be more than enough. 5G is particularly attractive to the consumer because it will make a certain number of very high-tech, advanced applications possible.

This includes, for example and for now, monitoring and controlling driverless cars, remote medical assistance and even actual treatment for a large number and types of patients, assisting in various ways elderly people who are living alone, and last but not least entertainment applications based on Augmented Reality. There is little doubt that that when 5G is actually implemented on a large scale, in most countries, the industry will think of many more applications that can put 5G to good use.

Whereas the final 5G protocols are still under work some countries have already made 5G a reality. The world first 5G connection was made and achieved in Qatar last May by Ooredoo ISP, followed in August by Vodafone. It was quickly followed by several operators in the USA, Norway and South Korea, to name some of the few countries that are pioneering 5G usage.

At the same time, and from the purely technical viewpoint, the 5G protocols are still being finalised. They will reach Phase 1 in March 2019 and Phase 2 sometime in 2020. By then it is expected that most countries would have actually implemented 5G.

5G wireless Internet is essentially about speed, but not only that. Whereas, theoretically at least, its speed can reach up to a baffling 20 Gb/s (that is gigabits per second), 5G also brings with it lower latency and more stability of the signal, two non-negligible aspects of any Internet connection, as users know it all too well.

Latency is the time it takes the network to “react” or “respond”, and understandably is an important characteristic of any network or connection. The lower the better. Currently, and with a good 4G connection latency is somewhere between 10 and 20 milliseconds. With a cabled fibre optic connection it can go down to 5 or even 2 milliseconds.

Makers of cars, smartphones, tablets, and of all kinds of mobile devices that can be connected to the web, including of course mobile medical equipment, are making plans to include 5G connectivity in their products, to make it a “built-in” functionality. In less than two to three years it is going to be an important requirement. Internet users in Jordan are anxiously waiting for one of the local ISPs to announce the date when 5G will be available in the country.

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