What is 5G

The fifth generation of mobile data, 5G promises to offer truly transformational opportunities for healthcare and associated businesses.

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Mobile network technology is continually evolving. We’ve moved from 1G to 2G and 3G to 4G, each faster than the previous version, enabling those using the network to do more things with Internet of Things (IoT).

5G is not a replacement for 4G, it will work alongside 4G networks and devices such as phones will use both. 5G is being built in the busiest parts of the busiest cities in the UK but the UK Government through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) is investing in testbed trials across the UK. West Mercia Rural 5G Project is one of these testbed looking at how rural healthcare can be transformed by deploying 5G in a rural environment.

While undoubtedly faster than its predecessor – typically around 200Mbps and up to 1GBbps, compared to download speeds of up to 60Mbps for 4G – 5G also brings with it greater capacity and lower latency, allowing for the simultaneous connection of thousands of 5G enabled devices, and the rapid, secure transfer of huge amounts of data.

SecurityAdvanced cyphering and integrity protection
Capacity1 Million device connections per KMsq
Performance1mS latency and fibre equivalent Gbps speeds
EfficiencyUp to 90% reduction in network energy use
VirtualisedUtilises standard IT servers and hardware. Specialist hardware is only needed for radio transmission units
Network SlicingShare secure isolated network slices based on common hardware
AgileDynamically create services on demand according to your business needs

With a wide variety of connected devices gathering and sharing information in real time, 5G can provide a variety of possibilities.

From reducing road and traffic travel through remote monitoring, early warning monitoring of patient conditions reducing more critical medical issues, remote delivery of medicines, tackling mental health and loneliness – with 5G, the opportunities are infinite.

Should I be satisfied with Wi-Fi – why do I need 5G?

Wi-Fi and 5G offer complementary functionalities and to the end-user can appear to achieve similar results. Although a lower initial cost to deploy, Wi-Fi is an open network with lower bandwidth capabilities. It will continue to be the predominant technology for businesses, service providers and homes but can often slow businesses down.

5G’s capabilities mean that it can easily capture much larger volumes of data, share large files, allow IoT devices to communicate with each other and produce results much quicker than a Wi-Fi network. With WiFi, users are normally asked to connect to one ‘box’ and are handed over when moving to another area which can interrupt connectivity. 5G is continuously connected with a seamless handover between radio access points.

Whereas a Wi-Fi network is usually managed on an unlicensed spectrum, 5G networks are typically managed by operators and use a dedicated licensed spectrum or private network with built in security. Because of this, Wi-Fi networks are more prone to interference due to the number of devices that use the frequency and can be accessed by almost anyone.

What can be done with 5G?

5G opens the door to a world of possibilities. Working with development partners, WMR5G is currently undertaking a range of live use cases to demonstrate what can be done with 5G to transform how healthcare is provide to rural communities.

The use cases that WMR5G are running will help clinicians and healthcare service providers see how 5G technology can augment their current interactions with rural patients and service providers. It is envisaged that 5G will reduce anxiety and stress of patients by reducing unnecessary travel to unfamiliar locations and people, as well as reducing the travel time of clinicians and other service providers and therefore freeing up time for more patient interactions. By not having to visit clinical locations it can be seen that there is less opportunity for patients using remote monitoring to come into contact with other sick patients.