Get ready, 5G is set to take over

Emma Brannam got her geek on with a trip to China to blast a few zombies and check out a future with 5G.
Emma Brannam got her geek on with a trip to China to blast a few zombies and check out a future with 5G. Photo credit: Supplied

Is your home and office already overflowing with smart gadgets and gizmos? If not, it won't be long.  By 2020, it's estimated there'll be four Internet connected devices for every person on the planet.

All this machine-to-machine chat needs to be very stable and super speedy.  Step forward 5G.

What exactly is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation of wireless broadband technology and according to Chinese tech giant Huawei, one of the world's leaders in 5G innovation, 1000 times faster than 4G.

Like watching movies? Imagine downloading your favourite flick before you've even had time to make a cup of tea.

For a good gardening example, go get your garden hose and replace it with a fire hose and you'll get a good idea of just how powerful it could be.

How can 5G be used?

People will have better experiences when using their cellular and broadband devices but that's just the start. Think of smart cities, connected cars, 5G cloud robotics and virtual reality.

Huawei, which builds network equipment and smartphones, has more than 1000 engineers and scientists working on 5G projects.  It invited Newshub's Emma Brannam to see some of its research.

5G self-drive cars

At the  Mobile World Congress in Shanghai it demonstrate the world's first remote driving field test for a smart consumer car on a 5G network, a test it carried with China Mobile.

The driver sat 30 kilometres away from his car. High definition video cameras inside the car sent him real time HD video feeds over 5G providing him with a 240 degree view of the vehicle's surroundings.

Huawei demonstrates 5G driving with China Mobile.
Huawei demonstrates 5G driving with China Mobile. Photo credit: Newshub

Signals for the steering wheel, accelerator and brakes were also transmitted over the network, which provided the ultra-low latency (the technical term for turning around data quickly) needed to support instant response to different road side conditions.  At 30 km/h, the distance between braking and actual deceleration was only eight centimetres.

5G for smart manufacturing

Imagine 5G enabled, wireless collaborative robots, ushering in another industrial revolution. Factories could operate as autonomous entities, with machines exchanging information in real time.

Kuka robot integrated with Huawei 5G technology.
Kuka robot integrated with Huawei 5G technology. Photo credit: Newshub

5G for gaming

VR experiences are usually either tethered to a computer by cable or rely on a smartphone to deliver the experience.   At Huawei's headquarters in Shenzhen, I blasted zombies using 5G wireless technology that delivered not only 360% streaming visuals to a headset, but also tracked motion in real time.  

Emma Brannam has a go at killing zombies at  Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen and realises she needs to work on her gun slinging pose.
Emma Brannam has a go at killing zombies at Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen and realises she needs to work on her gun slinging pose. Photo credit: Newshub

When are we getting it?

A future with 5G sounds terribly exciting but this broad and ambitious network architecture is actually a while away from wide scale deployment.

In New Zealand, it's likely to become commercially available in the early 2020s and companies like Huawei and our carriers are working hard to make it happen. First we'll get 4.5 (LTE-Advanced Pro). Spark has already rolled it out in Queenstown and more places are likely to follow.

Huawei will also open an "Innovation Lab" at Victoria University which will focus on maximising the potential of the Internet of Things through future technology, most notably 5G.

Of course 5G isn't without challenges.  Some say a key challenge is the possibility of 5G frequencies being blocked by buildings and losing their intensity over longer distances which could undermine wider coverage.

Emma Brannam travelled to China and the Mobile World Congress in Shanghai courtesy of Huawei.

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