The 5G revolution: shaping the future of connectivity

The future of the digital world is 5G. So how will this technology shape the applications and services of tomorrow?

The 5G revolution: shaping the future of connectivity

The future of the digital world is 5G. So how will this technology shape the applications and services of tomorrow?

Maria Cuevas
Maria CuevasMobility Research Theme Principal, BT

Picture a world where users revel in a seamless digital experience, regardless of the multitude of devices and applications vying for bandwidth.

5G: forging ahead

Right now, 5G is forging its way across the world; rapidly evolving from proof of concept to fully operational use cases. But just because 5G’s here, doesn’t mean we’re saying goodbye to 4G. Or that 5G is going to replace wi-fi. While 5G offers sophisticated and flexible services that are super reliable with ultra-low latency and greater capacity, wi-fi is less expensive, easier to deploy and more widely supported.

Essentially, there’s room for multiple types of access in the world, with 5G working with wi-fi, 4G or satellite technology in the future. Here are just some of the exciting projects that 5G could bring to life.

Embracing holographic communication

Holography is nothing new, but until the advent of 5G the potential of holographic communications has been restricted to the realms of science fiction and research labs. This is because delivering a hologram to wearable devices is just one part of holographic communications. 

Uploading content from the capture device is another important piece of the puzzle, as well as the processing power needed to create a hologram from different camera views. 

That’s where volumetric video comes in. A volumetric video rig captures a person or scene from multiple angles in ultra-high resolution. The resulting real-time 3D video can be viewed from any angle, so it sets up the potential for life-like holograms and even the dream of a fully immersive experience. 

While video compression is being worked on, combining multiple inputs and accesses like this needs huge bandwidth capacity. It also needs super low latency to create a great user experience. That’s why 5G could be pivotal in making holographic communications a reality.

Venturing into the metaverse

The metaverse is an all-encompassing virtual world where people can move through various realities with a single identity. In the same way, you might walk down the street and enter different shops, the metaverse is the street, while the various shops are different virtual worlds like Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox.

At the moment, you only get to visit digital and virtual worlds when you go to them via the internet. It’s a shared space where people are represented by digital avatars. But the idea with the metaverse is that it’ll be all around you and part of our day-to-day lives. It’ll evolve to be somewhere that people can enter virtually - via virtual reality - or interact with sections of it in their physical environment, thanks to augmented and mixed reality. 

Imagine being stuck inside on a rainy day. The metaverse could enable you to virtually visit a museum without leaving the house. You could pass an ancient artefact, restore it to its former glory, and even download a virtual souvenir to put in your virtual home.

It’s a bold vision of the future with user experience at the heart of it. Alternate digital worlds where people can collaborate, socialise, play, and work. Early initiations will be focused on virtual reality use cases, but the aim is to enable augmented mobile experiences. The volume of content in the metaverse is what creates more demand on bandwidth and what 5G will need to cater for.

Awakening the senses

Imagine waking up to the smell of your favourite coffee brewing away rather than the monotonous ringing of your alarm. The Internet of Senses (IoS) could make that possible.

While audio and visual virtual reality has progressed rapidly, the senses of smell and touch have been slower to take off. But much of the technology that will make the IoS possible already exists – Artificial Intelligence (AI), augmented and virtual reality, and automation. 

For example, haptic gloves are bringing virtual touch to life with more life-like force feedback, while clever use of ultrasonics is giving users virtual spatial awareness – the ability to feel the presence of objects around them. These experiences usher in a new era of immersion, one that 5G is poised to empower.

Enhancing computer vision

In the realm of Artificial Intelligence (AI), computer vision stands as a critical innovation. While AI aids computers in thinking, computer vision equips them to see, observe, and comprehend. It allows computers to extract meaningful data from digital images, videos, and visual inputs, enabling them to take informed actions and offer recommendations.

Consider a motorway CCTV camera with computer vision wouldn’t just record what was happening on the road, it could also identify car registration numbers and recommend actions based on these.

Systems need to be trained to do this using cameras, data, and algorithms on the edge or in the cloud. Offloading all that video footage requires a lot of upload capacity, so significant bandwidth and low latency are vital. That’s why, once again, 5G becomes the platform needed to enable this to become more than localised pockets of activity.

Prioritising privacy and security

While 5G opens the door to exciting future possibilities, privacy and security must be at the forefront of our considerations. As we innovate, especially regarding data, we emphasise safeguarding against potential misuse in the future. Our unique position allows us to shape the future of connectivity, leveraging our 5G investment and superior network capabilities.

Looking beyond 5G: the future of connectivity

And what about 6G? There’s no doubt it will be here eventually, but we’re not sitting around waiting for that. We’re continually investing in our networks to improve them. That way, when 6G comes along, it’ll be just another step in our connectivity evolution.

To find out how we can help support your move to next generation connectivity, please get in touch.