Fifth-generation cellular networks will stretch across most of the industrialized world within a few years. Thanks to researchers and developers in Bologna, Italy, that will include the inside of buildings, opening up a wide range of new uses.
The technology, best known as 5G, is on the cutting edge of cellular networks. It offers faster and more stable network connections and can support up to ten times as many users in a given area compared to traditional fourth-generation (4G) networks.
Specifically, it can support as many as a million devices per square kilometer, compared to less than 100,000 devices per square kilometer for 4G.
According to Raffaele Barberio, director of Key4biz, a leading technology and digital communications portal, that makes 5G ideal for areas with brief, dense numbers of users, such as stadiums, rallies, or concerts.
But thanks to the work of researchers and technology developers from the University of Bologna and communications company JMA Teko, part of JMA Wireless, 5G networks are being used inside buildings, where they have the capacity to run industrial robots and guide automated assembly and production lines that must be precisely synchronized.
In this way, the use of 5G networks is not just better than 4G, Barberio said, but also superior to wireless-fidelity, or wi-fi, systems that are used to allow devices to communicate and coordinate.
“The ‘in-building’ networks are a unique way to take advantage of the frequencies that allow very high concentrations of devices to be connected with very fast speeds, with more capacity, shorter delays, and more stability than would have seemed possible a few years ago,” Remo Ricci, chief executive of JMA Teko, told Xinhua.
JMA Teko, one of the creators of “in-building” 5G networks, was the first to offer the technology commercially though others have since followed suit, according to Ricci.
Much of the worldwide focus on 5G networks has been on the impact they will have for personal mobile phone usage. There are predictions the new technology will represent a new boom for mobile phone producers, since consumers will have to buy new devices in order to access the new, faster networks.
But according to Barberio, the main value of 5G networks will be their industrial and commercial use. The Key4biz portal predicted the global impact of 5G networks around the world will be worth more than 17 trillion U.S. dollars — roughly the size of the gross domestic product for the entire 28-nation European Union — within 15 years.
“The potential is immense,” Barberio said in an interview. “It is mistaken to look at 5G as simply a faster version of 4G. It is not just a faster moving river, but also one much, much deeper and wider.”
He went on: “It is a little like the Internet many years ago; I think that in the future 5G networks will have uses we cannot imagine today,” he said. Xinhua