The Cloud and 5G

By Matthew Reeve on 18th September, 2019.

After what has seemed like an eternity, 2019 finally saw the rollout of 5G networks. In the last few months, EE, Vodafone and Three have all launched 5G networks across 17 UK towns and cities, with O2 due to launch next month. In response to this, companies like Samsung and Huawei among others have released 5G compatible smartphones.

In line with all other countries introducing 5G networks, the coverage will not be comprehensive, and it will take years before it achieves the levels of connectivity it promises. However, when it does fulfil its potential, the influences of 5G will be significant for the connected digital world and undoubtedly make huge waves across many industries.

But what can we expect from 5G? And how will 5G effect cloud computing and cloud applications? In this blog we will breakdown 5G, how it will impact and interact with current technologies, and more specifically how it will affect cloud computing.

What is 5G?

It’s likely you’ll be familiar with the 3G and 4G networks that most of us currently use when connecting to the internet from mobile devices. Essentially, 5G is simply the next generation and evolution of this wireless mobile network. Let’s take a look at what each generation has brought so far.

Unlike its predecessors, 5G is much more than simply a mobile cellular network. It’s capabilities far exceed simply supporting a couple of devices through a hotspot or improved calling and streaming features like previous iterations. 5G is also being developed for homes and businesses; cellar broadband on a level we’ve never experienced.

Like the generations before it, 5G uses radio wave frequencies to transmit and receive data, with huge improvements on upload and download capabilities. For a network to be classified as 5G, the minimum upload speed must be 10 gigabytes per second and the download speed 20 gigabytes per second. To put that into context, when 4G was released the minimum upload and download speeds were 15 megabits per second and 150 megabits per second, respectively.

As well as this, and possibly more importantly, 5G will introduce an enormous improvement in terms of decreasing latency – the time taken for a device to respond to another device on its network. The latency on 5G will be as low as 1 millisecond, so pretty much instantaneous. This is really ground-breaking and will be hugely beneficial for technology that requires real-time responsiveness and real-time control.

Expanding the IoT

5G can also facilitate extensive improvements to the Internet of Things (IoT); the concept of having any device that we interact with connected to the internet and able to communicate and transmit data. The data gathered from these devices can help make technology more efficient, improve the way we interact with technology and help make real-time decisions. A simple example of this is imagining your alarm clock communicating with your coffee maker and telling it what time to turn on and start brewing your coffee based on the time of your alarm.

Now imagine the concept above but apply it to all things that we interact with, or anything that can be switched on and off. The potential opportunity for us to learn from the IoT and improve our lives in the process is almost limitless.

Think of smart cities, able to monitor and improve energy usage, waste and pollution, traffic and transport – all things connected – communicating, transmitting and analysing data in real-time. This is where 5G can bring real possibilities for technological advancements in this field, as currently we simply don’t have the connectivity to support this.

5G and The Cloud

Virtualisation technologies and the rise of cloud computing demanded a need for physical infrastructure to hold and process vast amounts of data. 5G will introduce requirements of its own. Most notably, the computing and storage capabilities of connected devices, to enable them to process data and make decisions in real-time. 5G will also likely transform the current state of the cloud and bring ‘edge computing’ to the forefront – the process of having the physical infrastructure processing the data closer to the source, or at the ‘edge’ of the network enabling faster data-processing.

With an estimated 20 billion devices connected by 2020, and some of those critically demanding a reliable low latency connection, such as autonomous cars, 5G will force providers to build data processing infrastructure closer to the source. For the promise of a self-driving car to become a reality, it will have to meet the required safety measures – most obviously, that it can make the decision to stop the vehicle almost instantaneously if required to do so. This would require real-time data processing and sending this data into the cloud and waiting for it to be analysed and returned just simply isn’t quick enough. 5G could trigger huge investment into edge computing solutions. In fact, it’s widely speculated that internet providers will build micro-data centres into or nearby their 5G towers.

The jury is still out on exactly how 5G will affect cloud computing. A lot of 5G’s potential requires technology that hasn’t been built or implemented, so the way it will affect our lives and our current technology, such as the cloud, is still largely up for debate. Some theorise 5G’s almost non-existent latency and faster mobile network speeds will decrease the need for cloud technology and take over many of its responsibilities. Others argue 5G’s extensive, high speed connectivity will introduce many people to cloud-based applications and see cloud usage become more available, efficient and widely used. One major hiccup in cloud computing is that without availability, it is effectively rendered useless. 5G has the power to change that – enhancing cloud-based applications, offering improved performance and features and a wider variety of functions.

It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the traditional cloud as we currently know it could eventually be reduced to storage and long-running computing models that don’t require real-time processing. More likely, however, is that cloud providers will evolve and align themselves and their technology to work with the 5G and edge computing markets. One thing is for certain though, 5G has arrived, and over the next decade it will transform, disrupt and ultimately revolutionise the technological world.

Thank you for reading this blog post. For more insights and cloud-related content, check out the Secura blog.

Image credit: mix3r/dmit/ice_aisberg/elenabsl/

Matthew Reeve

Content Executive

Matthew is Secura's content specialist, producing gripping, emotionally complex, edge of your seat, cloud hosting articles and videos.

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