5G in Software Application Development
China’s lead in 5G technology and concerns over the security of data in the hands of privately-owned company, Huawei, have sparked a media furore around the upcoming large-scale commercial roll-out of 5G. At the time of writing, the USA has shunned Huawei’s 5G technology, whilst Google has revoked Huawei’s Android license. Here, we steer clear of the politics and explain what it is about 5G technology that is prompting so much caution…
It’s estimated that by the end of 2019, mobile networks will only satisfy around 80% of mobile and content traffic demands due to the continuing development of more powerful mobile devices, using more complex apps with better functionalities, and a user expectation for consistent access to data. These ‘smart’ apps are undoubtedly the future of software applications, both for business and consumer use.
To meet this growing demand, 5G is about to extend the possibilities that current 4G networks offer.
- High-speed wireless connectivity: 5G will significantly increase the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks. The speed of data transmission over a 5G network could reach 20 Gbps. 5G will also improve the communication in crowded or remote areas.
- Quick reaction time: 5G is 100 times faster than 4G, with latency around 1ms or lower and gigabit-per-second speeds.
- 5G will increase the available bandwidth, so the amount of data transmission will increase significantly.
For developers like Blueberry, who need to consider network requirements and devices features, 5G will dramatically improve:
- Security: especially for network slicing, trusted computing or alternative ways of handling user identities
- The ability to add new functionality: speed and latency constraints will stop being a problem which will allow us to include new functionalities to our applications.
- Immersive augmented reality and 3D gaming: 5G will have an impact on the development related to these emerging areas.
- New case uses and new mobile apps that require better movement connection.
5G will affect both web apps and mobile apps and will open up the market for IoT devices, since it offers the ability to send and receive data almost instantly, as well as low latency (meaning there are fewer delays and interferences across the 5G network) and extended battery life (the 5G network will see a 90% reduction in network energy usage, with up to 10 years’ worth of battery life for low power IoT devices).
Low latency is an important feature of 5G, as it makes practical many real-time applications – such as driverless vehicles, where collision avoidance with a nearby vehicle depends on the speed of data exchange, or apps that are running machines or predicting real-time data for businesses.
When critical actions are being completed by these sorts of smart apps, latency will need to be as low as possible to make sure any machine error is minimised. Therefore, 5G will be crucial, as it promises 10x less latency than the current 4G infrastructure. Furthermore, by using edge computing, processing can happen extremely close to the user (or device) which will impact how quickly apps connect and communicate whilst being used.
The distributed nature of edge computing will also require changes to application architecture and design – using microservices and container-based architecture, for example, and breaking up large applications into smaller sets of services, possibly using different databases and programming languages. As the new apps begin to take shape and evolve, so will the need to deploy app code securely, reliably, and quickly to the edge of the network.
How will 5G impact you?
There are several areas where 5G will result in significant improvement, some of which have already been touched upon above.
- IoT – it is estimated that there will be 20.4 billion IoT devices by 2020. 5G enabled real-time processing of the data from these devices drastically increases the scale at which IoT can be used.
- Location accuracy – the accuracy of positioning with 4G is between 10-500 metres. 5G brings that to within 1 metre.
- Gaming – high speed, low-latency 5G networks will help with transmission of large amount of data, significantly improving game play.
- Adverts – not many people like ads on their mobile devices. Without network speed constraints, expect advertisers to send interesting video, AR, better-targeted, pinpoint location ads. It’ll be just like the film Minority Report!
- “Augmented Reality” (AR) and “Virtual Reality” (VR) – these, by their very nature, require a lot of data processing. 5G will make it much easier to experience AR/VR on mobile apps.
- Video streaming – video accounts for 60% of all current mobile Internet traffic, mostly using low-definition formats. 5G will change that, with 4k and 8k video streaming without buffering and latency becoming a reality.
Will there ever be a 6G?
Possibly. According to China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, China is starting research into 6G – the next generation of connectivity – concepts this year, although actual development of 6G will officially begin in 2020, with commercial use most likely to wait until 2030. 6G could make mobile internet speeds of 1 TB per second mainstream. To put this into some context, this means you could download around 100 films in less than a second.
More importantly, 6G could connect our IoT devices more efficiently than 5G, increasing transmission rates 10x over 5G.
5G-ready smartphones are due to be released this year, which will greatly improve download speeds over mobile networks and provide much faster internet services than 4G. Top-end 4G networks, known variously as 4G+, LTE-A or 4.5G, can deliver peak download speeds of 300Mbit/s. By comparison, 5G promises to offer speeds more than 1Gb/s (1000Mbit/s), with many estimates placing it closer to 10Gb/s (10000Mbit/s).
As a result, 5G is predicted to accelerate the development of powerful ‘smart’ apps, which will become the norm for future applications, both for business and consumer use.
The Internet of Things is growing so fast that once 5G is in place, every piece of technology will soon need a wireless connection to the internet. These technologies will include cars, net connected smoke detectors, house alarms, fridges, farm animal sensors, thermostats, washing machines, dish washers, smart watches, sleep monitors, fitness bands, bins and street lights with sensors for monitoring traffic, air pollution, noise and parking – the list is enormous.
Edge computing will be employed to allow devices to talk to each other wirelessly and when required they will piggyback off each other while finding a route to the internet. This essential element will help free up bandwidth.