We already live in an age of near-flawless digital video communication and data transfer. With the arrival of 5G, however, digital video viewing and conversations are about to become lightning-fast and undergo a huge boost in quality — 5G will exponentially improve live communications and allow us to download 20 high-definition movies in the time it now takes to download just one. It’s going to be a game-changer.
Of course, there are hurdles to overcome in the rollout of this cutting-edge tech. 5G antennas are powerful but limited in range, so a much larger number of them are needed than are required to run a 4G network. More hardware naturally increases initial investment, operating expenses, regular testing and maintenance costs. Furthermore, the greater connection among users may breed new security issues, while far improved speeds could lead to irreversible mistakes being made or cybercrimes being committed in the blink of an eye.
Regardless of these and other obstacles, the implementation of 5G is progressively moving ahead. South Korea and China are leading the way, but the rest of the world isn’t far behind. Here in Southeast Asia, the infrastructure for 5G networks is rapidly rolling out, with Singaporean carriers poised to deliver full 5G services during the next 18 months and 5G expected to become standard internationally from 2024. By that point in time, experts predict that 5G subscriptions worldwide will be nearing 2 billion, with coverage available to some 65% of the global population.
Unlike the gradual, incremental progressions across previous generations, the switch to 5G marks a giant leap forward. The way most industries operate will be deeply impacted by 5G’s capacity to provide increased speed in transmissions, far lower latency (delay or lag in data transfer), and ability to accommodate a much larger number of connected devices on a network, without any deterioration in quality or speed. Let’s explore the potential effects of 5G in several key sectors.
On the most basic level, yes, 5G will allow you to watch standard streaming content on services such as Netflix or Apple TV much more smoothly, faster, and at a higher quality. But it’s in the realms of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) that we will truly see entertainment seize upon the potential of 5G. Watching a movie, program or concert, for example, you’ll be able to enjoy an immersive and interactive experience, adjusting camera angles and perspectives, providing feedback, altering storylines and more — all in crystal-clear sound and vision.
Viewing an action film, you’ll observe what the stuntman sees when he jumps from a plane. Gaming will be an ultra-realistic communal experience shared live, instantly, by players around the world. A travel TV show will truly take you there. On social media, rather than simply observe the lives of celebrities and influencers, you’ll be able to ‘virtually’ sample their very existence. Entertainment will ascend to another level altogether.
Sports & Events
All the improvements 5G will bring to other forms of entertainment, it will also offer sports spectators, often making what has in past been quite a passive experience much more involving — and active. Instead of simply watching the competitors in a triathlon, for example, with 5G VR or AR, you might be able to ‘virtually’ join them in a vigorous swim, run or uphill cycle. At large sporting events, with help from a 5G-enabled headset, even those with seats way up in ‘the heavens’ will be able to get up close and personal with the competitors, tailoring the watching experience to their particular needs.
For major gatherings of any sort, from athletic spectacles to large business conferences, perhaps 5G’s major benefit is in allowing all attendees to have an efficient, super-quick wireless network connection. This opens the scope for high-tech on-site mixed reality elements, better gathering of analytics, heightened safety and security, improved services and convenience (for example, ordering self-collect food and drink via an app, cutting waiting time for the customer and from an organiser’s perspective, saving on staffing). Giving event attendees an incredible connection not only ensures they get the most out of the experience but from a marketing standpoint, guarantees they have every opportunity to share their experience and amplify the event on social media and other platforms.
The COVID-19 crisis has forced a focus on tech-augmented teaching, but we’ve only had a glimpse of what will soon be possible. In the near future, teachers will be able to use 5G-enabled technology to take students on virtual field trips, without ever leaving the comfort and safety of the classroom or their own home. Interactive lectures and classes will be delivered to students, lag-free, regardless of their location, and space-related restrictions on class size will become a thing of the past.
By reducing the cost of providing education, so much of which results from the outlays involved in maintaining the physical real estate of a school or college, far larger numbers of people will be able to receive schooling. On campuses, many more devices will be able to connect to a single network than is currently possible. Remotely, we may see holographic teachers appearing in students’ homes and manual skills being taught via robotic avatars. Science fiction is becoming fact.
Fitness & Wellbeing
Post-pandemic, with many of us looking to bring the gym experience home, tech-enabled workout devices like Peloton cycles and the smart fitness Mirror will only become more commonplace — and enabled by 5G, the on-demand and streaming audio-visual workout sessions they provide will only improve.
In addition to making the experience on large and sophisticated smart devices more impressive and engaging, 5G allows smaller, relatively simple devices to perform complicated tasks since much of the data processing can take place in the cloud. This will create the potential for sleeker, unobtrusive wearable tech that can help improve health and fitness — for instance, gadgets that instantly advise when a runner’s gait or a yoga pose is imperfect and requiring adjustment, or flag irregularities in vital signs and other indicators of general wellbeing, calling for assistance if needed.
Medicine & Healthcare
With 5G, more and more medical consultations will be conducted through video communication, which AR and VR will elevate to a level we can barely imagine while looking at today’s comparatively unsophisticated telemedicine. In locations where patients now may have to travel for hours or even days to seek medical assistance, doctors will be able to consult immediately, from hospitals nearby or across the world, tapping the skills of a medical professional where they’re most readily available.
Although this certainly will not happen immediately, soon enough we will also see surgeries being conducted remotely using robotics — a specialist doctor in the United States could operate on a patient in Australia, receiving video feedback and sending commands to a robot-operated scalpel or laser in microseconds, without the risk of potentially life-threatening transmission lag.
In order for some of the scenarios described here to eventuate, 5G’s rollout will need to be complete and its adoption universal. Once that happens, though, 5G is going to forever alter the way numerous industries and sectors operate. Delivering super-quick, buffering-free, high-quality digital video viewing and communications, it is going to change our lives. In certain situations, it even has the ability to help save lives. Being able to stream high-definition Hollywood movies more conveniently will be great, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg of what 5G can and will do.
Antoine Bouchacourt (Vice President of Asia) at Shootsta, the only subscription-based, scalable video solution in the world. He started Shootsta Asia in May 2017, and now leads an amazing team in Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan servicing clients all across the region. He has 15 years of experience in Business Development within Asia, having worked for the likes of Gameloft (Video Games), Brightcove (Video-Tech) and as the first employee of various tech startups venturing into the region. He has experience developing go-to-market strategies, growing revenue, acquiring and retaining clients, hiring great teams, and you may see him occasionally speaking at industry events.
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