Monday, 14 october 2019 | Redacción CEU
Connectivity is one of the great keys for the future, since it is crucial for the development of autonomous cars, telecommunications, the industry sector, the field of virtual reality, smart cities or the Internet of Things. These are more than enough reasons to justify that mobile operators worldwide invest an average of 160 billion dollars per year in the development and updating of their networks. Experts estimate that this technology will have a great economic impact in the coming years. In particular, 2.2 billion dollars in the next fifteen years. Nonetheless, the fifth generation of wireless communications technologies and standards is now almost imperceptible in the eyes of the average consumer. If 5G is so revolutionary and it is already here, why do not we notice it?
When talking about 3G, 4G and 5G or the different generations of wireless communication technologies and standards, people refer to the Internet that cellphones use to connect to the network. In other words, the technology that enables users to connect from their smartphones at anytime and anywhere. At present, we are in a transitional period from the fourth to the fifth generation. What does this change imply? It is estimated that this new technology could be between 10 and 20 times faster than the current one, something that, among other things, will make it possible to download or upload an HD movie in just a few seconds.
The reason why this technology has been labeled as "revolutionary" is largely due to its development being linked to that of other advances. 5G will be key to bringing the Internet to all places, such as remote locations until now. It will also enable more devices to be connected and create intelligent scenarios like those needed by the automotive industry for the full implementation of self-driving cars or the real state sector for the design, construction and commercialization of smart homes. Another example of what can be achieved with this technology is found in the last edition of the Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona. In it, Dr. Antonio de Lacy conducted the first surgical procedure in real time and remotely through 5G.
Has 5G arrived in Spain yet?
Vodafone has been the first mobile phone operator to market the 5G network in Spain. The implementation of this technology is not being comprehensive, but gradual. Since June, fifteen cities have had access to this new network: Madrid, Barcelona, Coruña, Vigo, Gijón, Santander, Bilbao, Vitoria, San Sebastián, Pamplona, Logroño, Zaragoza, Valencia, Sevilla and Málaga. Recently, the company has announced that it will implement 5G in another 32 Spanish cities during the first half of 2020.
Although Vodafone has implemented 5G, it has done so only in one of its categories: the 5G NSA. This version of the fifth generation is not autonomous, that is, it is supported by the current 4G infrastructure. This does not mean that Vodafone’s 5G is not real, but that it is an initial version of this technology. In fact, the organization that sets the standards and mobile telephony protocols, 3GPP, decided to organize the transition to 5G in two phases:
- The 5G NSA (5G Non-Standalone) is the initial phase. In it, a 4G infrastructure is used to transfer the data and communication is stabled through 5G protocols. It is a kind of advance of what will come in the future with the 5G SA.
- The 5G SA (5G Standalone) corresponds to the second and last phase. This technology needs both new infrastructures and a lot of hardware. This stage has not arrived yet but, with it, 5G will reach its full potential.
The reason why many users have not tested 5G yet is because to do so they need to be customers of an operator that offers this service, contract the proper rate, have 5G coverage and use 5G-enabled devices (for now, it is available on high-end cellphones). Those who meet these requirements can benefit from a greater speed (between 5 and 10 times faster than the 4G network), faster downloads, high quality multimedia content display, etc. But it will not be until the arrival of the 5G SA version, when users will enjoy all the advantages offered by this technology.