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5G is Changing Our World

5G is in place in many parts of Canada and it’s starting to revolutionize the way we connect, communicate, and interact. Beyond the faster download speeds, 5G has the potential to transform society and our underlying infrastructure on a larger scale. In this post, we will explore what 5G is, its key features, and the profound impact it will have on infrastructure.

Understanding 5G

Previous ‘G’s laid the foundation for wireless capabilities, each bringing improvements in speed, capacity, and data transfer capabilities. 5G represents a leap forward with significantly faster speeds, lower latency, and support for larger amounts of connected devices. This latter part is often the overlooked but most significant aspect of how 5G will impact our future, which I’ll get to below.

Key Features of 5G

  • Enhanced speed and capacity: 5G networks can deliver download speeds of up to 20 gigabits per second, which is significantly above anything currently available.
  • Low latency: With latency reduced, 5G should be able to enable real-time interactions, which are critical for applications like autonomous vehicles or remote surgeries.
  • Multiple device connectivity: 5G can support a vast number of connected devices simultaneously, paving the way for the Internet of Things (IoT) to thrive at scale. Examples include the continuous connectivity of autonomous vehicles.

Future Impacts of 5G to Industry and Society

  • Smart cities and urban planning: 5G enables the deployment of connected sensors and devices that collect real-time data, facilitating efficient municipal operations and management, improved traffic flow, and energy conservation through smart grid use, intelligent transportation systems, and automated systems. All of this will work together to optimize resource utilization, reduce costs, and enhance sustainability.
  • Improved healthcare services: 5G’s low latency and high reliability will empower telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, and virtual consultations and surgeries, which will work to provide access to healthcare services regardless of geographic location.
  • Industrial automation and manufacturing: A lesser considered impact of 5G is its impact on industrial processes. 5G can enable faster real-time monitoring, control, and coordination of interconnected machines and robotics on factory floors, improving productivity, precision, and responsiveness, while also reducing costs through predictive maintenance, tracking, and supply chain management.
  • Transportation: Autonomous vehicles at full scale will not be feasible without 5G (or even 6G). 5G will help enables advanced vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication, facilitating safer autonomous driving, reduced congestion, and improved efficiency. The other aspect as mentioned earlier is improved traffic with real-time monitoring, optimized routing, and smart parking solutions. All of this combined will serve to provide a more efficient and shared transportation system and enable lower mobility citizens too.
  • Rural connectivity: 5G’s wireless broadband capabilities enable high-speed internet access in underserved areas, reducing the digital divide between urban and rural areas. This was made evident during the pandemic when rural areas were disproportionately impacted in terms of educational, economic, and social opportunities.

Likely Impacts on Existing Infrastructure

  • Wireless Nodes and Access: 5G requires continuous coverage of wireless nodes to provide optimal coverage. This can be a challenge in rural areas and areas where there is limited ability to connect to vertical assets such as buildings or existing utility poles. In particular, utility poles may need upgrades or regulatory changes to ensure there is space and electrical provisions for these devices.
  • Fiber and data systems backbone: None of this works without the ability to get the data capabilities to these areas. This means expanding or utilizing the current cable or fiber infrastructure to feed the 5G access points. Many areas will be fine, but areas without adequate incoming data capabilities will still need these upgraded before 5G becomes anything practical.
  • Electrical Grid Capacity: Along with the many new continuously connected devices, the addition of further 5G devices will only serve to increase electrical demand. Assessment of current grid capability and resiliency is key.
  • People: While not infrastructure per se, faster and more widespread connectivity will only continue the shift to a more service-based economy. The advancements will result in more automation in factories, transportation, field technical services, engineering, and other services.

5G technology represents a significant leap in wireless communications, offering unprecedented speed and enabling higher connectivity. As 5G becomes more widely accepted, its impact on infrastructure will be far reaching from transportation to medical to industrial and many areas in between. Embracing 5G will unlock countless opportunities for innovation, economic growth, and an increasingly interconnected future.