With the ceremonial rollout of 5G in India this Saturday, it’s only a matter of time before it is available widely. While Airtel announced at the event that eight cities have 5G coverage as of now, that’s only for users positioned near 5G-equipped mobile towers. Coverage will improve as the operator gets more 5G-equipped towers up and running.
Airtel has announced that existing 4G users will be able to use the 5G network on their existing plans. New 5G tariffs will be announced later this year. Most of the larger cities should see a rollout by March 2023 with pan-India coverage by March 2024 on the Airtel network. Jio, on the other hand, has announced that there will be pan-India 5G coverage by December this year. The only other player to have 5G spectrum, Vodafone-Idea, has not given the public a timeline yet.
While it’s easy to think of 5G as just another generation jump, it brings in major improvements to our cellular networks. No wonder then, that all prominent smartphone manufacturers began shipping 5G-enabled devices years before the technology was to roll out — a little under 10 percent of all smartphones in use in India are already 5G-enabled.
So, what is it that 5G will definitively change about our internet experience? Here are 5 ways 5G as a technology is going to make our lives a whole lot better.
4G tends to max out at around 100mbps, but with 5G you can theoretically observe speeds as high as 100 times that — but there is a catch. 4G speeds in India tend to average around 15mbps in India right now. In the US, we are witnessing high 5G speeds in areas which have the mm Wave technology, in India we should expect speeds that might be 3-4x of what we have with 4G right now.
This is because of the three kinds of bands for 5G, telcos have chosen to not focus on the high band over 24GHz, and instead focus on low and mid bands. Although mm Wave offers far higher speeds, it is just not practical when it comes to providing large areas with coverage as the signal loses strength quickly with distance and also struggles with obstacles like walls a lot more. To make it work for larger areas would mean installing a very high number of mobile towers, and that is just not feasible for most locations, especially when you take costs into account.
That said, even 4x is a significant upgrade and can make it much easier to stream content, do video calls with much better video quality and much more. To be fair, a 4x increase in speeds could mean the difference in being able to download the latest episodes of our favourite TV show as you are boarding an aircraft, and being stuck without anything to kill time while onboard.
While the effects of a bandwidth upgrade might not be as noticable as boosted speeds, they’ll definitely help when it comes to offering good service in crowded areas.
For instance, you might have noticed that in a crowded stadium, you have to wait for extended periods of time for a website to load. Increased bandwidth will help in such scenarios like these. It will also help with things like dropped calls in a crowded location.
Latency is the time it requires for your device to start sending or receiving information after receiving an instruction to do so. 4G already had extremely low latency, but with 5G it will be even lower and will prove particularly useful for things like video calls and gaming.
A consistent gripe that gamers in India have is the spotty 4G connection that we experience in large parts of the country. Much of this is just higher latency on certain networks — and stands to improve with a new 5G connection.
While 4G made it possible to stream videos effortlessly on your phone, it isn’t really a network built for the Internet of Things (IoT). With 5G, that will change and more devices including all manner of wearables, smart home electronics and much more can connect to the network. This could open up possibilities when it comes to automating our houses better or monitoring our health more effectively.
Things like e-health, connected car tech, AR, VR and the metaverse are hampered by low bandwidth, slow speeds and high latency. With 5G, much of the challenges around connectivity that are faced now will start dissipating.
Whether that helps us in avoiding in-person doctor visits or allows us to spend more of our lives in a metaverse might not be so easy to say right now, but it will definitely pave the way for it.
Lead Image: Unsplash