How 5G can revolutionise digital signage and business

You think 4G is fast? Think again. The fifth generation of mobile networking promises to be a real game changer for all businesses and, in particular, those delivering high-quality content through digital signage.

5G is due to officially start rolling out in the UK in 2020, but while it’s unlikely to be widespread until 2022 there’s a chance some networks – we’re looking at you EE – will aim to beat the 2020 rollout date. With this in mind, read on for your pocket-sized essential guide to 5G and what it could mean for you and your business.

The basics

As you’d expect, 5G is set to be quicker than 4G, but it’s the size of the jump that’s eye-catching. Current 4G speeds are 100Mbps or 300Mbps for 4G+, but 5G will offer anything between one and 10Gbps (that’s 10 to 100 times the speed of 4G), with EE already demonstrating consistent download speeds of 2.8Gbps in trials.

The extra speed is accompanied by significantly lower latency – the delay between requesting something and the transfer starting. The promise is latency of just 1ms compared to 45ms for 4G and 120ms for 3G. The net result is that 5G will feel snappier, giving a similar response to a wired network.

5G is able to deliver greater speeds because it will transmit over higher frequency bands, but the trade-off will be that range will be greatly reduced. 5G networks have been designed to work around this problem and will consist of smaller multiple input and output (MIMO) antennae dotted around in greater densities than the large-scale masts currently employed by older mobile technologies.

This relay-style network should correct some of the problems encountered with 4G – specifically the inconsistent performance and range of transmitters based on location, climate and even age. 5G has also been designed to support being “sliced” into virtual networks to serve different audiences. This flexibility – coupled with its high-end performance – may see 5G start to disrupt other forms of networking, such as offering an alternative to fixed wireless networks such as traditional broadband connections, fibre-optic or otherwise.

Real-world benefits

The triple benefits of greater speed, latency and capacity open up a host of real-world benefits, including new possibilities for all businesses – expect to see rapid development in virtual and augmented realities, with scope for innovating across multiple sectors, from the Internet of Things to self-driving cars and even 3D holographic video imaging and possible video overlaying that could find ways into future digital signage applications.

Digital signage will also benefit from existing features being given a shot in the arm. 5G’s speed makes it possible to download – never mind stream – entire HD movies in seconds, with 4K content also benefiting as a result. The greater speed reduces the need to compress video with the trade-off in quality that entails, which will allow signage to pull and display higher quality content without having to host it locally.

In addition, the ability to stream and transmit high-quality video makes it easier to keep signage updated in real time, perhaps even leveraging cloud-based applications rather than fixed servers to dynamically – and seamlessly – update content in real time. Throw in support for mixed reality and your future digital signage may be able to offer an immersive, interactive experience on top of traditional messaging.

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