Every new generation of mobile technology, from 1G to 4G, has heralded faster speeds and more functionality. Now we are headed towards 5G – the next-generation of wireless technology that ultimately promises to assist in delivering the kind of speeds that let you download a 3GB HD film in seconds (compared to around a minute or two for the latest 4G LTE technologies).
What is low latency?
5G will help deliver faster speeds, more capacity, and the scale to support ten times more connected devices. But one of its biggest game-changing features is latency – the round-trip time it takes for data to transmit from one point to another, or put simply, the response time.
Compared with 4G, 5G may eventually deliver 1/30th of the latency. We’re talking about 30 milliseconds on 4G vs 1 – 6 milliseconds on 5G (though early 5G won’t be quite this responsive). This quicker relay of information with less delays in between will assist in making a difference to various technological applications.
For instance, imagine an on-road autonomous vehicle that uses a variety of on-board sensors to read its surroundings. Faster end-to-end transmission from those sensors to the cloud means it could quickly process and recognise any potentially hazardous situations and react in a timely way.
“5G still has to adhere to the laws of physics – limited by the speed of light. However, with 5G technology, what has changed is the time it takes for data to travel from your device to the tower, through the server, and to a router to get somewhere" says Paul Milford, Networks Principal, Mobile Innovation Rollout at Telstra.
How does 5G’s low latency benefit real-world business applications?
The decrease in latency would be beneficial in a lot of instances when response and reaction times are critical. Combined with other technological innovations like software defined networks, big data, machine learning and IoT, the potential is vast.
“Imagine a race where high-performance cars relay a huge variety of data, from braking to acceleration to wind dynamics, back to the team’s dashboards. Now imagine if all that data is relayed via 5G. In a car race when every millisecond matters, giving the team virtually real-time data would help them make in-the-moment racing decisions” says Paul.
In another example, imagine a healthcare professional remotely controlling a robotic arm to conduct ultrasounds or surgery on patients via 5G. The faster haptic feedback that’s only possible through 5G will enable more accurate outcomes.
How do we get there?
It’s anticipated that 5G will contribute as much as $50 billion to Australia’s GDP by 2030 according to Deloitte’s recent report.
At Telstra, our ambition is to help ensure Australian businesses can be among the first in the world to leverage the transformative potential of 5G. We’re leading in rolling out 5G, achieving a number of world and Australian firsts, and have already rolled out more than 200 5G-enabled sites.
The use cases for 5G will keep growing as the technology develops. That’s why at Telstra we’re continuing to prepare for significant adjacent new opportunities for technologies such as the Internet of Things, AI, augmented reality and drones, which will be dependent on the quality of the underlying network.