You may have read recently that Vodafone, Audi and Nokia are going to set up a 4G mobile network on the moon next year.
It’s happening, and it forms part of a private lunar mission to explore the surface of the moon. What you might not know is that the decision to set up the network with 4G technology was a deliberate choice over 5G, which is gathering momentum, if not yet in the roll out phase, here on Earth.
Evidently, for space, 5G is not yet up to the task.1
Yet down here for us Earthlings, 5G is very much the talk of the telecommunications and technology worlds, with some communications specialists arguing it could be one of the most important developments in human history.2
But what exactly is different about this new wave of wireless technology? As shown in the below infographic, 5G is a major step along the history of mobile networks. The first generation (the ‘G’) enabled analogue voice transmission, the second, digital voice, pictures and text messaging. 3G brought the addition of video calling and crucially, mobile data (enter the internet on your phone). With 4G things started to get interesting with increased speeds to allow better streaming of video and games.
It’s important to note however that while we call these Gs networks, they’re actually not. In reality, they are a set of standards that give the technical specs for companies in the wireless tech industry to adhere to.3 Therefore, 5G, is the next generation of consensus on how to build.
The reason 5G is considered a big deal is that the standard enable an incredible amount of bandwidth, which means data transfer will be dramatically faster, even faster than your home internet.4 At its maximum speed, 5G is marketed as being a hundred times faster than 4G. In other words, movie downloads will take seconds, but also that physicians will be able to perform specialist medical procedures remotely with extremely low latency over the network, and traffic controllers will be able to predict possible collisions before they happen. None of this is possible under previous Gs.5
With such unlimited potential, everything could become 5G, faster and more secure than WiFi. And with it, a lot of things will be enabled – from virtual surgery as above, to VR realities at sports events and in schools.
Indeed, the industrial applications are equally as exciting. The enablement of AI through 5G means Stage 5 autonomous vehicles can scale quicker: lower latency and higher speeds means faster response times. In other words, more self-driving cars, operating more safely at close proximity.
It also allows the Internet of Things to connect more ‘things’ and produce better outcomes, such as in agriculture. Sensors that help farmers determine the best times to fertilise and protect against pests, while monitoring weather, could maximise crop yields.6 These are just two examples of what’s ahead as 5G propels us towards the fourth industrial revolution.
With all this coming soon, you can’t help but feel sorry for the poor old moon getting left behind.