5G technology is set to revolutionise the way we live, if you believe the hype from mobile experts that is.
It is expected to be 50 to 100 times faster than current 4G networks and estimates are that within seven years, more than a billion people will have access to a 5G network. It is currently in its final testing stage,
As much as a third of this access by 2025 will be in China – but plans to roll it out in Britain are also advanced.
Mobile operator O2 has been taking steps to pave the way for the rollout of 5G here. Last month, it announced it will launch a trial at the O2 Arena in Greenwich, London shortly.
Future savings: O2 has given a list of ways 5G could help the economy in the future
The move to 5G will mean faster speeds and connectivity, including between city infrastructure, such as buildings, transport and utilities, as well as day to day devices from fridges to clothes rails, unlike the rollout of 2G in the early 1990s, 3G in the 2000s and 4G in the 2010s.
Before the new technology becomes a reality, two key transitions need to take place.
Mobile operators have to upgrade their networks with 5G gear and phone manufacturers need to make handsets with built-in 5G radios ready to hook up to networks. This will take time and money.
Margot James, minister for digital and the creative industries, said: ‘We want the UK to be a world leader in 5G, and this O2 report highlights the huge potential we have to get ahead and reap the benefits of this exciting new technology.
‘We’re already investing £25million in new testbeds across the UK that will pave the way for our 5G future and our work with industry will be vital to help us achieve our ambitions.’
The new report from O2 suggests that 5G will generate total collective productivity savings of £6billion for the economy of British cities.
This seems like a huge sum and we can’t know for sure how it will play out.
Here are the ways O2 predicts it will help save the economy money:
Households could save up to £450 a year
Around £145 would potentially be shaved off household energy bills through the introduction of 5G-enabled smart grids that drive dynamic pricing, enable better distribution and allow people to choose where they buy energy, according to O2.
WHAT’S THE ‘G’ MEAN?
‘G’ = the generation of wireless technology. Each generation offers faster internet access than the previous generation.
However, it is incompatible with the previous generation – it means phones and carried have to upgrade to use it.
Households’ council tax bills could be £66 less, if councils pass on the saving created through smart refuse collection.
Households could also save an additional £236 by reducing food waste.
This would be thanks to the introduction of smart fridges, which will send ‘shelfies’ of their contents to consumers’ smartphones, helping them avoid buying un-needed food.
Car owners may save an additional £1,600 in annual fuel costs, when an extra 1.3million electric cars are brought onto the roads by 2025 as a result of 5G-proofed energy grids that can withstand mass charging of electric cars.
Local councils to share £2.8bn in efficiency savings
O2 estimates an £890million reduction in social care costs for those living alone like the elderly, facilitated by 5G telehealth and monitoring.
This will allow families and councils to consider alternatives to private residential care or employing carers.
The introduction of commercial and residential smart refuse collection, could save councils £1.8billion annually.
Energy savings of £91million could also be made. This would be facilitated by the adoption of smart LED street lighting, which can be dimmed or brightened remotely as needed – like Telefónica’s projects in Malaga and Santander.
Tele-health: The rollout of 5G could help a rise in health video conferencing instead of GP visits
Relieving pressure on the NHS
Replacing just five per cent of GP appointments with tele-health video conferencing would reduce physical GP visits by 9.4million per year, O2 says.
This should be made possible thanks to the responsiveness and speed of 5G, which will power improvements in tele-health imaging and data collection.
Waiting times for GP appointments could fall, as 1.1million hours of GP time is freed up, creating productivity gains of £1.3billion through less employee absence during the working day.
Meanwhile, 5G could enable the widespread adoption of wearable monitoring devices.
This may help reduce 30-day NHS hospital re-admissions by 30 per cent through aftercare monitoring, potentially saving cities a collective £463million per year and decreasing overall bed occupancy rates by six per cent.
Traffic times to be reduced 10%
5G sensors on railway lines would help drive improvements in predictive maintenance.
O2 says this could mean reclaiming an estimated £440million in lost productivity for the UK economy and regaining the average rail commuter 2.6 hours a year.
Meanwhile, 5G-enabled road management systems, able to respond seamlessly to traffic volumes, will reduce the time spent stuck in traffic by 10 per cent for the UK’s 5.6million vehicle commuters.
Commuters will also be better connected to street-level data via mobile journey planning apps linked to connected street furniture such as lamp posts and bus stops, helping them better plan journeys and avoid congested routes.
O2: The mobile operator is keen to highlight the cost savings – but the above are just estimates
‘O2: Greater collaboration needed’
The savings mentioned in each example seem high – but it is an interesting snapshot of how potential savings from the new technology could happen.
O2 says there needs to be greater collaboration between industry, government, local councils, landlords and developers to ensure Britain can reap the benefits of 5G and maintain its digital leadership.
Mark Evans, O2 chief executive, said: ‘Of all the ingredients that keep our economy and society moving, arguably top of the list is mobile.
‘Our report demonstrates how 5G technology, when it arrives, will provide unprecedented benefits for consumers, councils and cities alike.
‘The enhanced connectivity on offer will make a real difference to people’s lives and pockets.
‘However none of these benefits are assured. We need a high level of collaboration to press ahead with the rollout and to hardwire 5G into the fabric of our cities.’
Georg Polzer, founder and chairman of Teralytics, a firm that uses anonymous data from mobile networks to analyse the way people move in urban environments, says the arrival of 5G technology will allow cities to finally become truly ‘smart’.
He said: ‘The speed and reliability of 5G will enable the kind of connectivity that will allow for data from mobile devices, as well as a host of connected devices to be transmitted, analysed and the insights applied with unprecedented accuracy faster.
‘We have partnered with mobile network operators to unlock the most inclusive data around – the signals transmitted by the ubiquitous mobile devices – to provide cities with insight into mobility needs of their citizens.
‘The impact can be life-changing. For example, if a train is disrupted, we can identify when, where and how many people are affected and transmit these insights directly to transport operators to quickly make adjustments to the schedules.
‘The data can also be shared with alternative mobility providers, such as ride-sharing companies, to ensure that they are prepared to take pressure off the areas of disruption.
‘The exponentially better connectivity of 5G means the ever greater inclusivity of our data will allow cities to develop sustainable solutions to their infrastructure challenges faster.’