Telstra, in partnership with Ericsson, has been testing one of the world’s first 5G radio test beds in Melbourne. It’s the very latest in wireless technology, and is expected to greatly enhance the speed, reliability, and latency of mobile networks when it’s deployed post 2020.

But what will this mean in the real world? Here are five ways 5G will change your life.

1) Video in ways we haven’t yet imagined

By the time 5G is deployed, network traffic is expected to grow more than five times the amount it is today and approximately 80% of that will be video. There are a couple of reasons for that:

  • Video streaming standards and quality are rapidly changing. Today’s SD and HD movies require data rate of ~[3-5] Mbps. Tomorrow we expect to see 4K with High Dynamic Range, which will push data rates to 20 Mbps per movie. And live events will stream multiple views simultaneously to a device. This is a huge demand only 5G can fill.
  • Sending video to and from each other and machines is set to explode. New forms of social media and the use of wireless connected cameras to upload all forms of video security and surveillance (even from drones scanning for sharks) will drive video traffic even further.

Already our testing of 5G showed speeds of greater than 20Gbps. That’s the equivalent of streaming around 4,000 different HD movies all at the same time in today’s formats. We can see now how 5G will be capable of maintaining the quality and resolution of the future demands of video with much less buffering.

2) The world and the things in it get smarter

The Internet of Things (IoT) means technology will make almost anything and everything a whole lot more connected and as a result a lot smarter. Think of a world where you know where your pets and belongings are at any time. Where the entire transport system is tracked, managed and synchronised to the real time movement of passengers. Or crops and livestock are managed down to their individual locations, which are all linked and tracked to local weather patterns, soil moisture and nutrients.

According to the Ericsson Mobility Report 2016, mobile network connected IoT devices are expected to explode in adoption and use worldwide going from 400 million in 2015 to 1.5 billion in 2021. Not just that, it’s expected each household alone will have more than 100 connected devices.

These applications are emerging today however it’s 5G that will take the scale of IoT devices to new levels with lower latency (delay time), low power (making devices much more budget friendly with long battery life), and the ability to move data on a massive scale.

3) Drones and disaster recovery

Telstra is already using drones to inspect mobile base stations quickly and safely after a disaster and restore services faster.

But imagine a world where drones deliver parcels, look for lost bushwalkers, rescue swimmers in danger, support emergency services, and deliver high quality live video for news and surveillance?

Such a world will require the tracking and management of huge swarms of drones in a safe and efficient manner (all in compliance with the aviation rules of the day), and all able to reliably connect back to the ground via a 5G network.

This can only become possible at this scale through the improved latency (delay time), beam forming (less interference), and the bandwidths that 5G can deliver.

4) Driverless planes, trains and automobiles

Well why not. Driverless automobiles are definitely the way of the future and 5G will make this even more likely through the super low signal latency and higher speeds. 5G will enable the technology that allows cars to talk, or interact with the roads, traffic signs and the other cars around them. Realising that the car in front of you has braked suddenly, and if there’s a traffic jam up ahead, are pretty important things for a driverless car to know.

While the thought of driverless cars might be frightening for some, having autonomous vehicles on 5G interact with other cars, smart roads and smart traffic lights is actually expected to improve safety and traffic flow.

And it’s not just brand new cars that may be driverless. Some manufacturers are working on retrofitting technology to existing vehicles, which could make driverless cars much more affordable.

5) Seamless living in virtual, augmented or actual reality

While virtual reality and augmented reality are here today and mainly used for gaming, 5G means more and more real world applications will become available. Less delay time and the increase in bandwidth will allow VR and AR to be fully mobile and available everywhere.

Imagine being immersed in a sport and being able to see a player’s stats and even pulse rate overlayed in real time, as if you were actually there? Or training firefighters and other dangerous occupations in a realistic but safe environment? Then take it a step further and imagine a doctor working on a patient over distance with 3D images or organs and vital stats overlayed on the patient?

That’s much more likely in a 5G world.