From Michele Metcalfe, Vodafone UK’s Head of Wales Region
We were excited to announce, earlier this year, that Cardiff will be one of our 5G trial areas and in September we made the first UK 5G holographic call – a sign of things to come.
2019 will mark the beginning of an exciting new generation of communication. Vodafone will be rolling 1,000 5G sites across the UK by 2020. Digital transformation will help Welsh communities and businesses.
This will include heightened connectivity between cities and regions, improved communications with nations all over the globe, harnessing the creativity and productivity of a new generation of workers. This will help drive the economy of Wales forward in 2019.
5G technology is going to be at the heart of the UK’s digital future. So whether it’s blockchain technology, better chatbots, improved artificial intelligence, augmented reality or the Internet of Things, digital transformation will continue to change how we live our lives and run our businesses.
You’d be forgiven for not fully understanding the differences between each new generation (that’s what the G stands for) of mobile networks. But believe me, there’s good reason to be excited about the potential 5G brings. Smart homes and work spaces which can adjust lighting and heating by themselves, driverless cars, mobile gaming and innovations in healthcare will all depend on the ultra-fast mobile internet provided by 5G.
More immediately, everyone who is on a 5G network will see benefits. 5G can bring double, triple or even four times the speeds of which 4G is capable.
The other key difference is something called latency, which is about how responsive the network is, affecting how quickly you get an answer when you want to do something or how quickly your web page or your YouTube video loads.
We will also see more use of a technology called Massive MiMo. If you think about 4G as being a motorway with cars going backwards and forwards, what 5G does is bring multiple motorways together at the same time, so you’re able to transfer a lot more data than you would be able to do normally.
The other amazing thing that the technology is able to do is something called “beamforming”. You can think about beamforming as the system creating your own private bubble of signal around you. What the system will do is follow you as you move around. These beams will follow you both vertically and horizontally, so you get a much better signal and data throughput than you would with 4G.
There are also some really exciting, potentially lifesaving breakthroughs in the field of medicine which 5G will pave the way for. In a largely rural area like Wales, where ambulance services can take significant times to reach patients in need, these developments are really important.
These revolutionary innovations include connected ambulances, whereby emergency crews will be able to collect critical patient data and share it with the A&E in real time, before they arrive at the hospital. It will make emergency doctors and nurses better prepared to receive the patient, which means a smoother, more efficient handover process.
With 5G, route optimising applications could be continually updated, providing ambulance drivers with the very latest data and helping them get patients to the hospital quickly on the shortest and least congested routes.
The low latency that 5G brings will make remote surgery a real possibility. If we can guarantee an upper latency limit of about 30 milliseconds, surgeons might soon be able to use remotely controlled robots to perform life-saving surgery on ambulance patients without even being in the same location.
There are other potential innovations, like remote monitoring of patients’ heart rates or blood pressures so that caregivers can get in touch with patients before they become ill. It’s all stuff which might have seemed impossible even a decade ago.
We didn’t know what was coming with 3G or 4G. So, once the speed and the technology is here, what will developers come up with, what kind of applications will come along that will change the world again? It’s going to be really exciting to see.