Imagine yourself stuck on the back seat of a bus on a hot spring day, squeezed in between a cranky baby and a sleepy passenger. Not long ago, you would have counted down the seconds to your stop, but now you can put in your headphones and do a video call with granny or stream your favourite ShowMax series. Just watch out for that sweaty arm!
How is this even possible? No, no, not the heat – the superfast internet on the go. 4G connectivity arrived on the scene and made a whole new interconnected world possible. While 1G allowed us to talk to each other from almost anywhere on the planet, 2G let us send messages, 3G saw the rise of broadband data and internet, and 4G/LTE made everything fast enough to keep up with our appetite for fresh content.
To put it into context, mobile internet speeds increased by up to 500 times compared to 3G. This gave the evolution of smartphones and tablets a major boost. From Cape Town to the Kruger, 4G is now common throughout South Africa, but things are about to change again with 5G.
Apart from speed, the big difference between 4G and 5G is latency. Latency refers to the delay between sending and receiving information. On 4G, latency is around 100-200 milliseconds, which is just a bit slower than human reaction time. 5G, on the other hand, gives ping pong players a run for their money with latency of 1 millisecond. It will bring about a revolution in the way technology plays a role in real-time interactions. Think of thousands of self-driving cars travelling at high speeds, or a surgeon in his air-conditioned office performing advanced surgery on a patient in another part of the world.
For the time being, it will also not be a simple switch from 4G to 5G. Similar to how users move between 4G and 3G, so too will 5G and 4G complement each other in a network’s ability to bring fast connectivity to its users. Unfortunately, if your current phone is not 5G compatible, you will not be able to benefit from this superfast service when you connect via mobile. The good news, however, is that you will start to see a major improvement in WiFi networks. Furthermore, the arrival of 5G will not mean the death of 4G/LTE. In fact, 4G will continue to improve over time.