We have seen cellular technology evolve rapidly in the past 25 years.
From 1G in the mid-90s to 5G in 2020, the progress has been staggering.
Every decade brings new cellular data technology that promises to be faster.
- 1G allowed analog voice calls.
- 2G brought digital calls.
- 3G brought broadband to mobile (then defined as 512 Kbps).
- 4G ensured super fast internet in handheld devices.
And now we have 5G rollout across the globe.
The new network will offer data transfer of 3 Gbps, which is about a hundred times faster than what we have today.
Data transfer numbers are measured under ideal conditions.
In real life, 3G seldom provided more than 750 Kbps (promised 2 Mbps) and 4G over 10 Mbps (promised 100 Mbps).
Therefore, even pessimistic projections mean 5G will deliver at least 50Mbps speeds. By any measure that is a lot of data.
Benefits of 5G
The 5G rollout has begun. Due to the enormous investment necessary in brand new networks and switching equipment, it is slow, but by 2025 it is expected that most large markets will deliver 5G.
South Korea was the first to proceed with large-scale deployment in 2019. The US and Europe are in the process of launching the network. India is slated to follow by 2024.
What are the benefits of the new technology and how does it differ from 4G? Before you hire Android
app developer understand what’s at stake.
- Enormous speed
5G is set to be blazing fast. 4G made it possible to watch Netflix streamed at 4K.
5G would make 8K with high-fidelity sound as easy as apple pie.
No more will you be plagued by video buffering. An entire 50 GB movie file can be transferred in 10 seconds and you can watch it when you please.
5G will also provide enough bandwidth to run 8K video calls.
No app offers 8K video calls (or even 4K) at the moment, but it is going to be considered normal in 2-3 years.
- Low latency
Latency is the time taken by the network to relay a packet. For example, you click on a webpage and it takes several seconds to load.
Latency can be caused by the server but is also a disadvantage of wireless networks. Too many packets of data are in the queue and it takes time for these to reach the right destination.
5G would make latency a thing of the past. Most 5G networks would be able to offer less than 8 milliseconds of latency.
That would make browsing a smooth experience. Unfortunately, the constant ads will load as smoothly as YouTube content. 5G will be fast but probably have equally nagging commercials.
- Seamless connectivity
5G supports more devices per node.
For mobile app developers, this is perhaps its biggest advantage over 4G.
Whereas the network can support 2000 devices in 4G, in 5G this increases to one million (per square kilometer).
If the total smartphone density in Mumbai (one of the most populous cities on the planet) is 70,000, then why do we need a million?
Because the 5G network would also support smartwatches and other wearables, automobiles, consumer durables, and more or less anything that has a 5G chip.
How Will 5G Impact App Development?
- IoT implementation
More apps will emerge that will connect gadgets and allow seamless communication between them. The Internet of Things is the hottest technology trend of the past few years. IoT allows devices to talk to each other and act in an autonomous manner without the interference of human beings.
For example, as your car nears the neighborhood, the home air conditioning will turn on and the water heater start its work ensuring that you are able to have a hot bath as soon as you reach.
The refrigerator will instruct the shopping app that eggs have to be ordered for delivery the next day.
A smart home will now be a reality thanks to the huge connection speed.
- Better streaming
YouTube brought in a massive change as soon as the pandemic happened.
Working from home was placing unprecedented pressure on 4G networks.
YouTube app had till then allowed the user to set the default video quality to 1080p. From March 2020 it began to offer videos at only 480p. Even after the pandemic, YouTube by default offers videos at 480p and each video has to be adjusted to deliver 1080p or 2160p.
If there is a pandemic again (God forbid the notion) we can all watch videos at 4K thanks to 5G connectivity.
At the moment Netflix offers 4K sporadically. Your 4K television is seldom used to its full capacity. In a couple of years as 5G becomes the norm, 4k transmission would be the default standard.
- AR and VR
The greatest possible impact will be on AR and VR.
Till now it has been relatively difficult to implement these due to high bandwidth consumption. The deployment of 5G removes this bottleneck and makes it easy to step inside a virtual universe.
It is with an eye on this impact that Mark Zuckerberg began to invest in Metaverse. However, do not expect that his version of an alternate universe is the only one out there.
Just like Facebook spawned the social media gold rush and that resulted in TikTok, others are also looking at 5G with greater interest.
- Streaming gaming
Cloud gaming is already a thing thanks to Nvidia NOW and Xbox cloud gaming. But the issue of speed and latency has made it impossible to use low-power processors in phones. The phone needs to have a robust GPU and CPU to cope with gaming.
50-100 Mbps networks make that redundant because the speed is faster than the internal bus speed of a device. One can safely host a CPU-independent gaming platform, veritably a slim client with a processor just powerful enough to handle the data and power up the screen while the gaming computations happen remotely.
Streaming gaming would probably be the first blockbuster application of 5G. There is a huge population of young gamers in India, Brazil, and elsewhere who lack flagship devices for gaming. With streaming, that lack is removed.
- Accurate GPS
5G is more accurate in pinpointing a location.
4G is accurate to 10 meters. That is why an Uber either stops short or ahead of you! 5G is accurate to one meter. Ten times more precise.
There is a clear arena where this matters. Self-driving vehicles have been making headlines since 2018. Though they are yet to become mainstream companies such as Tesla are getting impatient.
GPS accuracy to a meter or less means every vehicle can accurately tell a hundred others its location on a freeway. Even when moving at 80 km/h a cohort of vehicles would know where the other is located within 25 centimeters.
That not only makes it possible for more cars to move at a faster speed but cuts down conveyance time.
Last but not least…
Mobile apps have thus far been rather fractured. iOS and Android have their own stores and are different in every aspect.
5G, if it indeed delivers 1 Gbps speed, would dissolve the line between cloud and local device.
The overall impact on apps would be tremendous. Just as 4G made social media a force to reckon with, 5G would bring a new era of apps that redefine our times.