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5G and the Future of Wireless Internet
11. 7. 2018

Sarah Schneiter


Lately, the term “5G” has popped up in several media outlets, becoming somewhat of a buzzword. The new mobile data standard, which will be the successor to the current 4G/LTE networks, might significantly change the way mobile internet is used throughout Switzerland and the world and affect your everyday life. Connection speed will be the main improvement for users: Based on estimates, up to 1.25 gigabytes of data could be transmitted per second, which would be around one hundred times the speed you get with today’s networks. But what exactly is this fifth generation of mobile data transmission going to bring you as a student or university employee?

Since the successor technology for 5G is in its infancy, many aspects of it are still being tested and improved on. However, predictions as well as test results show that with a decent coverage it might become a serious competitor to broadband internet via DSL, TV cable and fiber optics in many home and business applications. The strength of this technology rests not only in bandwidth but just as much in a very low latency of around 1 millisecond – this means that data will be able to travel almost instantly, further reducing loading times.

Another central aspect of 5G is the significantly higher amount of parallel connections supported by the network, which contributes to better capacity (by a factor of a thousand) and lower energy consumption (about 0.1% per transmitted bit compared to today’s 4G standard).
Currently, first steps are being taken by several providers to build networks for testing purposes and the race is on to offer the best network. Meanwhile, bandwidths for the final coverage are being auctioned by the Swiss government. Most manufacturers of end user devices as well as network providers state that around 2019/20 first 5G services as well as phones and routers will be available, so it may not take that long for you to be using your first 5G smartphone.

The significantly higher speed of this new technology will likely lead to the use of 5G routers or cell phones as access points for internet at home. A similar use of mobile internet routers can already be observed in larger U.S. cities with 4G (among other places), where this solution provides internet without any setup cost or landline. 5G will raise the speed and stability of mobile internet services to a point where the bandwidth will be sufficient for most work and entertainment purposes: Synchronizing large files with a cloud and streaming a high definition movie simultaneously should not pose any problem which will most likely make 5G an interesting option for you.
Depending on your current data plan or the connection speed you need to work, you might still heavily rely on WiFi hotspots at your university or the nearest coffee shop today. With fully developed 5G, at least speed will no longer be an issue and limited data volumes are likely to be increased as the demand grows and within a couple of years that “Free WiFi” sign may not be much of a factor in your choice where to spend your lunch break.


Todays mobile data flat rates are either being restrictive, often limited to a certain number of Gigabytes per month, or more expensive than broadband, if you factor in the lower speed. However, competition as well as the capabilities of 5G will likely keep providers from raising their prices too much and with the added speed unlimited flat rate subscriptions will provide you with more for your money’s worth since you don’t necessarily need your broadband internet subscription any more.
If you need to commute, the new technology might offer you some great options. Lately, SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) announced that they intend to offer free internet onboard their trains soon and will inform the public in late 2018 about their chosen solution and plan of action. With 5G around the corner, signing in to a mobile data network with an app might be a likely candidate for such a service since its introduction would cost less that retrofitting an entire railway fleet with WiFi routers. Other companies might follow suit or chose similar solutions to offer you free internet access in their facilities without investing much in infrastructure.

Based off of the time it took to introduce 3G and 4G to Switzerland, you can expect rapidly increasing coverage, starting off in the urban centers, followed by tourist regions and rural areas. The technology will likely have an impact on the way you use mobile data networks, increasing their importance in everyday life and open up many possibilities.

Links:

swissinfo.ch - Article
Netzwoche - Article on “5G for Switzerland”
NZZ – Interview with head of the SBB (German)

 

 

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