What 5G means for developers

The 5G revolution will certainly arrive soon, and how to handle the powerful possibilities it brings must be considered by everyone in the industry.

In the mobile world, speed is king, and the 5G network rollout has the potential to bring the biggest advances in mobile technology for many years to come. New 5G networks in 2019 will provide huge increases in connectivity; while 3G and 4G networks brought speeds up to an average of 20 Mbps – fast enough to comfortably stream media and smaller programs on the go – 5G promises speeds of over 10 Gbps.

One of the main reasons for this is that 5G will operate on an entirely new network – not just an upgrade of existing systems. This completely shifts the landscape of what’s possible with a mobile device and promises to radically change the way developers approach mobile technology.

Low low latency

It’s not just the speed of connectivity that will be improved either; latency, the small but not insignificant delay between data being sent and received, also promises to be hugely reduced to almost imperceptible levels. This will have a compound knock-on effect for any real-time applications and opens doors to possibilities that previously would have required ultra-high-speed hard-wired connections.

The most obvious advance these changes will bring is in media streaming. Ultra-high definition video and crystal-clear video communications will quickly become standard and Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality applications will benefit hugely as well from the low latency offered by the network.

Off device processing

The significance of high-speed low-latency communications goes far beyond media playback, however. One of the main areas 5G should enhance mobile technology is with off-device processing. Because the high speed and rapid communications allow near real-time feedback at the same time as huge data transfers, a lot of the work that mobile devices currently do can be offloaded to more powerful computers capable of handling huge numbers of users at once.

Whether it’s gaming, communications, mapping or any other processor-intensive application, it may well be that it’s quicker and easier to handle the processing away from the device and simply send results – without anyone noticing the difference. It may be that many users find their device becoming more of a remote screen with tactile control than something capable of significant computation on its own; no doubt developers who unlock the myriad possibilities of 5G development will quickly find themselves leading the market.

Not a smooth rollout

Of course, much of this assumes a world in which 5G is rolled out smoothly and consistently everywhere at the same time – and that’s not likely to happen. Already in the UK, political issues have delayed the rollout, with security concerns about network providers proving to be a common issue.

This poses a tricky question for innovative mobile development companies – whether to build multiple versions for different types of devices or to limit their audience until the technology is widespread.

How operating systems and manufacturers handle this imbalance will also be significant – it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some restrict store access to products which only work on certain devices – so judging how best to develop and release 5G-capable applications is an important consideration. The 5G revolution will certainly arrive soon, and how to handle the powerful possibilities it brings must be considered by everyone in the industry.