The advent of fifth generation of mobile network technology (5G), the next generation mobile network after 4G, will bring with it not just faster access speeds, but also risks, reported AFP.
5G will be rolled out in the next two years in Asia and the US, and offers improvements in data transmission speeds and capacity compared to current networks. It is with 5G that networks could make the leap from telephony to other objects, as is required by the Internet of Things.
IoT, still in a nascent stage, has not quite taken off yet due to limitations in mobile networks, transmission speeds and the latter’s ability to handle huge volumes of data. 5G is supposed to bring about transmission speeds fast enough to enable IoT significantly, such as allowing for doctors to carry out telemedicine and self-driving cars to take to the roads.
5G will also cut the cord on augmented and virtual reality. The ability to connect more sensors will help make many services ‘intelligent’, such as helping to manage traffic flow and telling the sanitation department when garbage bins need to be emptied. The industry is in particular looking forward to 5G to reinvent manufacturing and allow it to monitor various processes, noted AFP.
The risks of 5G
However, 5G also poses risks, highlighted by AFP as follows:
Security risks: More data and more types of data will travel over 5G and there are now more potential targets for hackers. Much of the data transmitted by sensors could be sensitive, such as proprietary information about manufacturing processes that business rivals would be interested in acquiring, data from homes that could contain personal information.
Increased reliance: More reliance on the mobile network means its disruption would have even more serious consequences, both in terms of safety and economic activity. A failure during a remotely guided operation could lead to the death of a patient or a crash of a self-driving car. A longer outage could disrupt an economy. Reliance also poses national security risks—Huawei is a major manufacturer of equipment used in building 5G networks and the recent fracas with the US reflects the latter’s awareness and concerns that the company’s equipment could be a conduit for Beijing's intelligence and military.
More infrastructure needed: 4G users were often let down when the backbone of 4G networks could not match the speeds of their phones, but the networks have since caught up. If 5G is to live up to its promise, the number of mobile base stations needed to support it is enormous, or users may end up falling back to 4G and slower networks
Investment risk: Operators are spending billions to roll out 5G, which is an issue because competition in many countries has hemmed in prices that companies can charge consumers. While they may in the end be able to finance building the new networks, they may not initially be dense enough to handle some of the most anticipated applications. The costly infrastructure-building may find operators having to seek partners from users of new services, reported AFP.