Mobile phone networks have evolved over the years, starting with 1G (first generation), which was launched in Japan by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone in 1979. 1G network was available in the US by 1983.

The first commercial digital cellular network, 2G, was launched in 1991. This was followed by 3G, which came into service by 2001. It enabled internet surfing and streaming of music on mobile devices.

4G, which offers today’s standard services like video streaming, online gaming, high speed data transfer, etc., was launched in 2009. But it has reached its capacity and now the world needs a faster network. 5G was launched in 2019, and it is expected to be 20 times faster than 4G and will support mass IoT (Internet of Things) deployment.

The network capabilities of 5G, which hasn’t been launched across the globe yet, will lead to the next digital revolution. The next generation of wireless cellular tech will see the enhancement of machine-to-machine connectivity, bringing in a new automated society. Technologies such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), IoT, and cloud computing will make extraordinary leaps with 5G.

In the health industry alone, 5G is revolutionising the way medical professionals and patients work together. On 5G’s network, AI will be able to diagnose and develop treatment plans for patients. Soon, robots could be found on farms, monitoring crop conditions.

5G will change almost every aspect of our lives — how we drive, grow our food, and even how we support our favourite sports teams.

Apple, Samsung, Goggle and Motorola have already rolled out 5G compatible phones in the market.

5G is based on OFDM (orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing). It is a method that reduces interference by modulating a digital signal across different channels. 5G will expand the mobile ecosystem to new industries. It will contribute to enhancing user experience through boundless extreme reality, smooth IoT capabilities, new enterprise applications and instant cloud access. With higher data speeds and reliable networks, 5G will boost efficiency in businesses and, at the same time, provide users quick access to more information.

5G for the military will improve intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems and processing, and enable new methods of command and control. It would streamline logistics systems for increased efficiency. Every munition, sensor, weapon and robot in the battlefield will be connected and they can communicate with each other.

The way the military would be able to collect, process and interpret data and control devices and sensors remotely will bring in new dimensions to warfare.

In India, 5G is still at a nascent stage, no commercial development has taken place so far. Network operators like Reliance Jio, Airtel, Vodafone Idea, etc., have already partnered with global vendors and are working on establishing 5G networks.

For specific uses

Earlier this year, the Standing Committee on Information Technology was informed that 5G will roll out in India for specific uses by 2022 as 4G is expected to continue in India for at least another 5-6 years.

Mobile users do not need a new SIM for 5G. The existing 4G SIM will work, but with some limitations. Also, 4G phones will work on a 5G network, but not at the coveted 5G speed.

The cost of using data on 5G wireless service will not be that different from what customers incur to get 4G service. 5G technology has the potential to bring data costs even lower than for the current 4G services, industry experts believe.

But 5G will require new transmission infrastructure, including thousands of cell towers and tens of thousands of antennas.

The writer is an an independent consultant in energy, project management, and software