5G coming “soon" to mobile phones, but already has a quiet foothold on campus

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016
Recently, Qualcomm announced that by the first half of 2018, we will be seeing the first 5th generation (5G) wireless modems in phones. The first of these will be the Qualcomm Snapdragon X50, which will support speeds “up to 5Gbps.” To provide some perspective, 4G LTE has only just recently broken into Gigabit territory with modems like the Snapdragon X16. Even so, most 4G LTE connections will provide up to 450Mbps, and that’s pushing a bit considering most consumers will not have these kinds of speeds most of the time. That said, 5G aims not only to provide greater bandwidth and network speed for users, but also greater network stability.

Last year, I had the opportunity to attend a real-time communication (RTC) conference thanks to taking ITM 440 (Data Networking) with Professor Carol Davids here at Illinois Tech. I was very intrigued by the sound of the 5G network presentation, and my attendance was not wasted. The gist of the presentation was that the key word would be “stability” for the coming wireless generation. Stability, in this context, refers to maintaining a constant, uninterrupted network connection. Clearly, you can see why this is a good thing, but a brief read of the Nokia 5G white papers pointed out a couple of use cases that demonstrate the value of stability. Due to the projected minimization of latency by 5G (less than one millisecond ping,) a remote surgery could be performed by a robot with almost one-to-one precision of remote commands to surgical motions. In the world of utility, data could be constantly monitored wirelessly to such a degree that manual human surveillance would be unnecessary. Instead, more time could be spent actually fixing leaks, for instance. What these examples shed light on is that we are reaching a point where wireless will be stable and sustainable to the point that we can reasonably rely on it for needs far outside the scope of just entertainment.

All said, there has been a functioning 5G network of sorts on campus since 2013, named Eduroam. This is a wireless network that Illinois Tech students and students from many other schools can access with their regular university credentials. Not only does it have the greatest range of any wireless on campus (from my usage), but you can log on to it with your respective college credentials from any college that provides Eduroam. Now, the speeds you get will not be significantly higher than IIT-Secure or Connect by using Eduroam, but the network itself embodies this idea of stability and seamless internet usage, as indicated by the universal credential setup. Keep this in mind; Illinois Tech has been helping pioneer the next generation of wireless for some time now, even if on a small scale.

If you’re interested in finding out more, you can find Nokia’s 5G white paper on their website simply by providing your email. The 2015 RTC conference 5G presentation can be found with a Google search. Look forward to seeing 5G come to a phone near you in the coming years.