We spend an enormous amount of time on our mobile phones. Recent report figures from WeAreSocial, Hootsuite and Business Insider found that globally there are 3.4 billion mobile internet users and that each person on average spends at least an hour on their mobile device every day.

With smartphones becoming an integral part of our lives, the question is, what are we doing with all the time we are spending on them? By far the largest portion of time, on average almost 2 hours a day, is being spent on social networking sites. Unsurprisingly, YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram are consuming vast amounts of our time feeding our insatiable appetite to share pictures, videos, and status updates with our community. All this social sharing, downloading and uploading means large amounts of data are being created and shared which our 4G networks are currently managing, however, with the introduction of a multitude of IoT devices requiring high download and upload speeds and low latency 4G networks bandwidth will become bottlenecked to cope with the increased demand.

4G, or 4th generation as the name suggests, is the 4th iteration of mobile networks that allow us to access the internet when not connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot. 4G can be considered an umbrella term as it also encompasses both Long Term Evolution (LTE) and Long Term Evolution Advanced (LTE-A), these evolutions created in pursuit of achieving ‘true’ 4G speeds can be marketed as such due to the dramatic improvements they achieved over 3G. LTE-A allows for better carrier aggregation and Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO), effectively this means being able to send and receive more than one data signal on the same channel at the same time – this improved method of transferring data makes it easier to download content online or watch videos on mobile devices.

These advancements have been sufficient so far, in allowing mobile internet users to browse the web and stream videos with relatively few interruptions such as buffering, but with increasing data demands being placed on mobile networks it’s time for the next evolution, step forward 5G.

What is 5G and how will I benefit?

5G isn’t currently available to the public in the UK but soon will be. The infrastructure is currently being put in place and 5G is expected to roll out across the UK and the rest of the world by 2020, although it’s speculated this will only be in major cities such as London, Brighton, Portsmouth and Swansea.

While there is a lack of information around actual speeds for users, a number of networks including O2, Vodafone and EE have been conducting tests with extremely promising results. Some of the key benefits of upgrading to a 5G network are:

Increased speeds and capacity: While audiences streaming video content on mobile devices continue to rise, demonstrated by a 233% increase in mobile video views between 2013 and 2016, the user experience is less than ideal due to issues such as buffering. This is partly due to 4G’s low download speed of 12-15Mbit/s and the lack of bandwidth 4G is capable of handling. With 5G, speeds in excess of 1Gb/s (potentially up to 10Gb/s), are possible and its increased capacity means downloading and uploading 4K and 3D video will be far easier.

Lower Latency: The time between clicking a link on a website and the new webpage loading is an example of latency, the lower this is the better. With current 4G response times, the delay between a request being made and the action being performed, is around 50 milliseconds which is far from ideal. 5G will usher in response times as low as 1 millisecond giving you a broadband-like experience on your mobile.

Improved user experience: With much faster download and upload speeds and lower latency the overall mobile user experience will vastly improve. Currently there is a noticeable difference between your experience when connected to Wi-Fi and a mobile network, 5G will change this giving a near-consistent experience across both.

The dawn of the Internet of Things (IoT)

5G will only help to accelerate the growth of IoT. It’s forecasted that by 2020, the same year that 5G officially rolls out, there will be 30.7 billion IoT devices installed. Phones, TV’s and household appliances will all be communicating together but the implementation of 5G will take this to the next level.

Driverless cars will be able to use the massively increased bandwidth to safely navigate you from your house to your favourite shopping centre and find a vacant parking space. Not only this but virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will be able to take advantage of the improved mobile network to immerse you in digital worlds. AR could be used to superimpose your SatNav onto the windscreen making your current TomTom a little obsolete.

With this huge influx of data and the expectation of instant results what affect will this have on data centres?

5G’s impact on data centres

Much of the data that will be created and distributed across the 5th generation mobile networks will live in the cloud, making data centres even more important. Here are 2 elements that this will impact.

1. Low latency data centres are hugely important for great 5G connectivity

There’s no point in 5G offering low latency but the request then being slowed down by a data centre that isn’t located close to users or cell towers. Latency has always been an important aspect for data centres and the new mobile network will make this an even more important factor. Many of our colocation services are based in London or other major international hubs, offering incredibly low latency, ideal for the introduction of 5G.

2. Reliability and redundancy are vital

Downtime due to any cause can be incredibly damaging to business. The expectation that information should be constantly and instantaneously at our fingertips will only be solidified further by 5G, users will want instant access whenever and wherever. Tier 3 and 4 data centres that don’t already will need to provide as close to 100% redundancy for all mission critical tasks as possible.

5G will offer huge potential for the development of new technologies such as edge computing. With the introduction of increased bandwidth, as high as 10Gb/s, applications such as AR and VR can be supported via 5G. However, processing this vast amount of data in real-time is incredibly demanding and can cause lag. To help alleviate this, edge computing would theoretically send the data to local macro towers and small cells to be computed nearer to the user and sent back as close to real-time as possible, significantly reducing latency.

To answer the question ‘how will 5G affect data centres?’, Many are already set up for the new wave of mobile networks, those that aren’t need to focus on hardware refreshes or upgrades to ensure incredibly low latency and an abundance of bandwidth to manage the high volume of 5G data and edge computing requirements such as A.I processing in the cloud.