An Introduction to 5G and What It Means For You

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In May 2022, Ethiopia announced that it has launched the 5G network, making it the first in the horn of Africa. What role will be the advantage of 5G?

Progress has been a recurring theme throughout human history. Our species has always strived to be better than it was the day before. The human race's rapid technological advancement and monumental achievements stem from this need for improvement. The internet is one of these achievements. It was created about 40 years ago and has transformed our world in ways we could never have imagined. The history of the internet is one of potency, with each accomplishment being topped by something better. And this dynamism has resulted in the development of 5G, a new stage in the information revolution.

What is 5G?

5G, which stands for "Fifth Generation," is the most recent generation of wireless networks. Through 5G, we enable a new kind of network with far greater speed and responsiveness than its predecessors. The 5G network is said to ignite a “fourth industrial revolution”, and the statement is not without merit. 5G brings forth the possibility of downloading a 2-hour-long movie in a matter of seconds. With that kind of network speed, people can do far more with their devices. Beyond just personal use, 5G deployment will have far-reaching implications across many industries, including emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality and AI.

5G’s development is more akin to an evolutionary process than a sudden discovery. The 1980s saw the birth of the internet, also known as the 1G era. . We saw our first mobile phones (albeit not so mobile) and voice calls. The 2G era of the 1990s followed, when services such as SMS became available. Then, the 3G era introduced us to smaller phones and mobile web browsing. 4G came after it, which gave us the smart devices we use today, along with services like e-commerce and online streaming. And now we live in the 5G era, which is defined by the development of emerging technologies.

No single entity is responsible for the development of 5G. However, because it was an evolutionary process, several companies have contributed to its development. Among those, Qualcomm was instrumental in developing the foundational technologies for the development of 5G.

What Makes 5G Different?

5G's magic has three main characteristics. The first one is high bandwidth. Bandwidth is the maximum amount of data transmitted over an internet network in a given amount of time. A 4G network, for example, has a bandwidth of 200 megabits per second, whereas 5G has a bandwidth of one gigabit per second, which is five times that of 4G. The second one is its low latency. A data packet in a 5G network travels faster from one point to another. This advance significantly reduces response time, enhancing the user experience. The response time of a 5G network is around one millisecond. It is quite a leap compared to 4G’s 100 millisecond response time. The third ability manifested in 5G networks is dense connection. A 5G network can connect masses of devices in a given area without compromising the network’s quality. 

What Can We Use 5G for?

The potential of 5G can not be overstated. From advances in road traffic to life-saving enterprises such as healthcare, the connectivity 5G offers will open up new doors to cross us into a new technological era.

5G will help create more sustainable environments by enabling smart electricity grids that reduce carbon emissions. Improvements in road safety, emergency services, and drone technology will also contribute to the overall welfare of human beings. 5G will have a notable impact on our industries as well. Logistics, production lines, and industrial efficiency will improve significantly, rendering service to more people.

Education and entertainment will also reach new stages. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and extended reality (XR) will all reach new peaks, resulting in a more immersive learning experience. Medical students can practice surgeries, and engineering students can construct things while learning. The same technology can be used in the film and gaming industry. Viewers and players will have more engaging and interactive media consumption experiences. Overall, 5G represents a sign of societal progress.

5G in Ethiopia

In May 2022, Ethiopia announced that it has launched the 5G network, making it the first in the horn of Africa. The deployment was made by China’s Huawei, costing Ethiopia $40 million. Currently, the network is available in select areas of the capital, Addis Ababa. But government officials say that expansion plans are underway. In the coming months, more 5G sites in the capital and beyond are expected.

Including Ethiopia, only six African countries have managed to launch 5G networks so far. These countries are Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Seychelles, and Mauritius. Several reports suggest that Nigeria might join these countries soon. While these are positive developments, 5G penetration in Africa is still negligible. In the coming 4 to 5 years, only 20 million Africans will have subscribed to it. This is very low, and for 5G to have ground-breaking effects in Africa, the penetration rate must increase.

5G truly is a landmark achievement of the human race. We are fortunate enough to see the inception and development of such a great invention. But 5G is not the end of it all. It’s only a matter of time until something new (a 6G maybe) comes along, and we all but forget about 5G and all its excitement. The best we can do is utilize what we have and wait for what the future holds.

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