5G and the Future of Everything

By Channa Seneviratne
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Channa Seneviratne, Telstra Network & Infrastructure Engineering Executive

The 2010s represented an explosion in technology that changed human history and how we live day-to-day. The 2020s are set to build on this foundation of incredible technology, and at the centre of what’s to come is 5G.

So, what is 5G?

Each wave of wireless unlocked new possibilities:

  • 1G was the beginning when we didn’t even know about the G’s;
  • 2G brought mobile to the masses, had SIM cards for security, and offered very low data rates for the first time to enable mobile emails;
  • 3G enhanced mobile data to provide the internet on the phone, paving the way for smartphones, and
  • 4G boosted the mobile broadband experience for streaming entertainment and video calls on the go.

Now, 5G offers higher speeds and vastly greater capacity than 4G. Telstra customers with 5G devices are already receiving speeds twice as fast as 4G on average in 5G areas. We predict that when 5G reaches its peak it could be 10x faster than the current 5G speeds enabling a download of a HD movie in around a second. 5G is about more than just the individual handset user too: future 5G capabilities will provide ultra-reliable ultra-low latency communications that will unlock the promises of the future, from smart cities to self-driving cars.

So, where are we at?

We’ve already taken the first steps into a 5G future, and we’re about to break into a sprint. Telstra has 5G in 35 cities and counting around Australia and there are already seven hundred suburbs around the country that are at least 50 per cent covered by Telstra 5G. There is also a range of premium 5G phones and devices available to buy already for low prices, and analysts predict most major manufacturers will have a 5G device available before the end of 2020.

5G is not just about handsets either. Tablets and laptops can both benefit from connectivity to 5G and those devices are on the way. Given 5G’s ability to facilitate virtual and augmented reality applications it is reasonable to expect a growth in peripheral devices over the next twelve months.

The first 5G applications are already appearing too, demonstrating how 5G will change the world for the average consumer. Based on projects that Telstra and our partners are currently working on, here are some things to look out for:

5G TEACHING OPPORTUNITIES

Through AR and VR, the capabilities of 5G are already offering new opportunities for learning, education and training.

Award-winning Australian Startup Flaim Systems are now using VR and Haptic technologies to prepare firefighters. Flaim’s suit even heats up as trainees get closer to the virtual fire. 5G will more readily mobilise Flaim Systems’ training program. Combining VR technology and high-speed networks will allow an unprecedented ability to train firefighters all around the country.

NEXT GEN ENTERTAINMENT

4G powered the growth of mobile entertainment. Streaming services and mobile gaming applications were able to use the new speed and capacity and offer better and better resolution. 5G will power the next step-change.

5G will offer content providers a wealth of new opportunities. Last year, Telstra broadcast live over our 5G network from a Queensland beach on the Gold Coast, not only in 8k resolution but also in 360 degrees.

Telstra is currently developing a VR sports experience which can transport multiple users (able to interact with each other) inside a live sports event.

Cloud gaming is set to disrupt the world of gaming in 2020, with major brands set to roll out their cloud gaming products. Again, 5G will play a role here, both with eSports, where every millisecond counts, and also with the mainstream gamer. The ultra-low latency will greatly enhance the capabilities of mobile devices as gaming platforms and with cloud gaming machines hosted at the mobile edge, the quality of mobile games is set to sky-rocket.

Expect 5G to offer enhanced experiences at live entertainment also, not just because 5G will offer greater connectivity in areas of mass participation, but also because 5G can offer augmented reality services. Imagine an AFL game where the crowd can track their favourite athletes and get the stats and trivia that sports fans thrive on, live through a mixed reality experience.

PLAYING IT SAFE

5G will, hopefully, make our world a little safer. From enhanced automotive safety systems, through to anti-fraud and even shark detection around beaches.

And while conversations continue around fully automated vehicles, Telstra is already working in partnership with Lexus Australia and the Victorian Government on the Advanced Connected Vehicle Victoria. The project is currently trialling cellular V2X technology and advanced driver assist features that create a safer driving experience through the ultra-low latency of 5G for reducing automated response times.

We’re excited to be at the centre of innovation for the future. As new devices, experiences and applications are introduced, we know that connectivity sits at the centre. 5G offers a bright future for more than just faster downloads: it unlocks the future for everyone.


The author is a Network & Infrastructure Engineering Executive at Telstra

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