What could 5G internet mean for the field service industry?

5G internet could be upon us within 6 years, at least according to Boris Johnson, who has said that he wants the technology in London by 2020. It’s certainly an exciting prospect for both businesses and consumers and I thought it would be interesting to briefly look at what this could mean for the field service industry. 

Whether or not 5G internet by 2020 is a realistic prospect remains to be seen. But when 5G does arrive, it will bring breakneck speeds far above those currently available; it could, in fact, be up to 250 times faster than 4G.

5G speeds – what is possible?

While a definitive answer cannot be given, speeds in excess of 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) should certainly be achievable. That means a 1GB file would take just eight seconds to download*. Theoretically, though, speeds of up to 10Gbps could be possible with 5G.

It’s worth noting that gigabits and gigabytes are not the same thing; one gigabit (Gb) is equal to 0.125 gigabytes (GB). The same goes for megabits and megabytes!

As it stands, Samsung has already said it has successfully sent and received data at 1Gbps, while Ericsson has said it could deliver speeds of 5Gbps. A speed of 5Gbps, by the way, would allow a 1GB file to be downloaded in just 1.6 seconds.

The potential speed of 5G is even more impressive when compared with current speeds – see the table below for a comparison (based on widely available UK speeds).bFigures are given in megabits per second (Mbps); note that there are 1000 megabits in a gigabit.

It is worth pointing out a few things about this speed comparison:

  • 4G – There are various iterations of 4G, the most advanced of which is LTE. This actually offers a theoretical top speed of 300Mbps. But it is not possible to achieve such speeds currently, and whether or not it ever will be (on 4G) remains to be seen.
  • Broadband – In the UK there are a few broadband providers (such as Gigler and Hyperoptic offering speeds of up to 1Gbps. However, as their services are not widely available at the moment, the top broadband speed is shown as 152Mbps as this the maximum most people can currently get.
  • 5G – as mentioned previously, 5G could theoretically bring speeds of up to 10Gbps, or 10,000Mbps. In reality, however, speeds are initially more likely to be closer to 1Gbps.

What does this mean for field service?

Clearly, faster internet speeds will mean even more can be done. Both field staff and office-based staff will be able to communicate and send information to each other more quickly. In addition, field-based staff will be able to access documents stored in the cloud (such as product manuals) in no time at all, plus things like video conferencing would be lag-free. So if an engineer is struggling to fix a particular issue, they should be able to access the resources to solve it extremely quickly.

Data could become even more useful, too. It will be possible to transfer and process large amounts of data extremely quickly, so organisations that do collect a lot of data should find it easier to make use of. As machine-to-machine technology and the Internet of Things become more prevalent in field service, the amount of data captured in the field will also increase. 5G networks will ensure there is the capacity to process this data in real-time.

As a result, organisations making use of machine-to-machine technology could get faster updates about issues, allowing them to resolve issues more quickly too. In turn, this will see them able to deliver a better service to customers.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves

While 5G sounds exciting, let’s remember that it is still a few years away. No specifications or standards have yet been formalised, and even when 5G is introduced it will take some time to become widely available. In the meantime, we can expect to see 4G coverage improve, which will certainly be welcome as in many areas, especially rural ones, it is not yet possible to receive a 4G signal (even 3G is not always available).

If you really can’t wait for the introduction of 5G, your best bet will be to move to South Korea. The government there is spending $1.5bn on developing the world’s first 5G network and hopes to introduce a trial of the technology in 2017.

In the meantime, you should make sure your organisation takes advantage of existing mobile technology, including mobile field service software. Talk to us today to find out how you can transform your field service operations with Oneserve.