All you wanted to know about 5G

Hari Vishwanath | Updated on December 28, 2020

India’s tryst with 5G is expected to commence in the second half of 2021 with a network roll out by Reliance Jio. RIL Chairman Mukesh Ambani believes this will make India a global leader in the fourth industrial revolution — a world driven by artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, quantum computing and the internet of things (IoT).

What is it?

5G refers to 5th generation mobile network. When rolled out, it will represent a quantum leap over the current 4G mobile networks. If successfully implemented, it can deliver 10 times faster internet and more than 10 times improvement in latency (the time difference between sending and receiving messages) over 4G. Ultimately 5G is expected to reduce latency to 1 millisecond (one thousandth of a second). Human reaction time is around 200-250 milliseconds. Hypothetically devices connected to 5G, can have a response time that is 200 times faster than humans. 5G also comes with substantially more capacity and hence will enable more connected devices without issues of network congestion.

Why is it important?

5G has potential to unleash a whole range of services and capabilities that are not possible today in terms of scale and precision — mass deployment of autonomous cars, using drones for delivery, remote healthcare (even for critical cases and robotic surgery), precision agriculture (real time management of crops and fields), virtual reality and industrial automation. This is expected to pave the way for way a whole new world of connected devices communicating with each other.

The time it will take for 5G to roll out pan-India will depend on the infrastructure readiness of the telecom players, their ability to successfully bid for and win spectrum and the government’s willingness to auction the required airwaves at an affordable price. Jio appears confident of upgrading its country-wide 4G network to 5G based on its current network infrastructure. Airtel expects 5G will become the norm in the next 2-3 years. Successful and timely launch however will require support and foresight from policy makers in fast tracking the 5G spectrum auction and removing regulatory hurdles. With most telecom players in India making losses, there’s also the question of their scrounging up the capital to acquire spectrum and invest in the required infrastructure upgrades.

Why should I care?

Just as 4G did, 5G too will change, but in a much bigger manner,the way we work, shop, consume entertainment, communicate, travel. 5G is also expected to unleash a whole range of new career opportunities and make certain jobs redundant. If you are a student , you may want to build skill sets that will be in demand. Since 5G will result in an exponential growth in data and its use cases, proficiency in computer science, statistics and mathematics might be in demand. If you are in the middle of your career span, you may want to see how your profession will be influenced by these changes and can plan to upskill. If you are an entrepreneur and you do not adopt new technology, you may lose out to competition. Finally, as a country, timely roll out and scaling of 5G can ensure we don’t lose out on innovation against countries like US and China.

You’ll need to upgrade your devices to reap the benefits of 5G. Alphabet investment in Jio and partnership to develop cheaper Android phones could make the devices more affordable.

The bottomline

5G is not going to work miracles in your life tomorrow. But do plan for it so that when it comes, you are not left wondering who moved your cheese.

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Published on December 28, 2020

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