Building connectivity: How 5G will change the way we live and work

The next generation of mobile data is on the horizon and with it, the potential to revolutionise our everyday lives

As a society, we are on the verge of a further tech revolution. A defining moment in the history of connectivity, business and everyday life that has the potential to be as momentous as the rise of manufacturing. It's the rise of 5G.

Since the launch of 2G in 1991, mobile data speeds have accelerated faster than many could have predicted, and today, more than 187 million emails are sent, 480,000 tweets are posted, and 266,000 hours of Netflix is watched every second. Demand for data is growing by 60% a year. That's the equivalent of building O2's entire mobile network again, from scratch, in 18 months.

But while 4G is about connecting us to the people and things we love, 5G takes this a step further. Instead of being a replacement for 4G, it promises to create a truly connected society, one in which everything from your toothbrush to your bin, your car and entire motorways "talk" to each other and share data to make our lives as frictionless as possible. Where 4G is ten times faster than its predecessor, 5G is set to double that again, promising home broadband speeds on the go. It's not all about speed, though. 5G is more secure and more stable than what's come before.

In its Path to 5G post, O2 explains how 5G will tackle some of society's biggest issues from improving our health and social care, reducing traffic, cutting train delays and overcrowding, to helping combat fuel poverty and powering the rise of electric vehicles.

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"5G represents an important chapter in the story of the evolution of mobile technology," explains Derek McManus, Chief Operating Officer of O2. "It's about building connectivity into the fabric of our society, creating an integrated infrastructure that will connect buildings, transport and utilities. It provides a substantial opportunity to develop and improve the way our energy, transport, healthcare and retail sectors operate."

"5G represents an important chapter in the story of the evolution of mobile technology," explains Derek McManus, Chief Operating Officer of O2. "It's about building connectivity into the fabric of our society, creating an integrated infrastructure that will connect buildings, transport and utilities. It provides a substantial opportunity to develop and improve the way our energy, transport, healthcare and retail sectors operate."

In particular, a world supported by such a ubiquitous, hyper-fast network connection, is a world in which business owners can think bigger, and workers can be more agile, flexible and productive.

The huge bandwidth and low latency of 5G will mean such remote working and conference calls will never be hit with buffering issues, either. You will be able to meet and collaborate with colleagues in the cloud as if you were in the same room. And when you get to work, 5G-enabled sensors and cameras will automatically adjust the lighting and temperature of an office to make the working environment more comfortable, and save businesses vast sums on energy costs.

O2 and 5G

Beyond the office, the benefits to business and the wider economy extend to smart roads and smart energy grids. 5G-enabled sensors built along the UK's roads and motorways can more accurately monitor and manage traffic flow, promising to reduce traffic congestion by 10%. O2's The value of 5G for cities and communities report estimates this will save businesses 880 million a year in lost productivity, help the average commuter reclaim 3.2 hours a year and cut CO2 emissions by 370,000 metric tonnes. A recent trial of such technology, by Transport for London, reduced delays by 20%. 5G-enabled billboards on highways will also be able to provide real-time traffic, parking and road condition information to commuters.

Plus, as cars become better connected, the data they and their drivers' phones collect via vast 5G networks can be shared anonymously with transport planners and councils to help them further develop infrastructure. The insight helps to prioritise which parts of the transport network needed to be improved first. In addition to cutting congestion, this helped encourage people to use local businesses.

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The report conducted by O2 continues that in a 5G society, every household will be 450 better off a year. On average, 145 will be shaved off their energy bills thanks to super-smart grids that charge devices at the cheapest, optimum time. These advanced grids will help power smart street lighting and will come into their own if estimates about 1.3 million extra electric cars joining the roads prove to be true. Having a 5G-proofed grid that can withstand mass electric car charging will cut emissions further and save each owner 1,600 in annual fuel costs. Thanks to 5G, council bills will be 66 cheaper, too, as a result of connected bins that are only collected when they are full, and smart fridges will help people cut food waste by 236 a year. This is because they will either automatically order items before they run out, or show shoppers what's on their shelves to avoid doubling up.

Societally, 5G also has the potential to save lives. Being able to monitor the elderly or vulnerable using 5G-enabled sensors and devices will not only empower these people, it will save local councils 2.8 billion in reduced social care costs. Moreover, 5G will help doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals deliver better care to patients. Waiting times for GP appointments will fall, as 5G enables GPs to offer more reliable telehealth services helping them to reclaim 1.1 million hours a year. This will have a knock-on effect to productivity through reduced workplace absence, it will relieve pressure on the NHS, and adds up to a total of 6 billion in savings, in both time and cost, for cities.

Unfortunately, such a revolution won't happen overnight. "5G works a bit like a patchwork quilt. It needs a high level of collaboration to hardwire the technology into our cities' infrastructure," explains Telefonica's CEO Mark Evans. "The danger is we treat it as an afterthought, when in fact it needs to be planned in now." This is why O2 is continuing to invest heavily in 4G to lay the groundwork, both technologically and societally, for the rise of smart cities. By the end of 2018, O2 will have invested in enhanced 4G connectivity in more than 330 rural communities, from Drumoak to Lizard to get 250,000 more people online. It follows the installation of a permanent 4G mobile mast last year in remote hamlet, Staylittle, in Powys, Wales, marking the first time the previously cut-off community could get online. According to the report, O2's rollout is expected to create an extra 57.7 million a year as rural businesses take advantage of new opportunities.

By working with other network operators, government, manufacturers and local councils, O2 is helping pave the way towards a brighter future. A more connected future. One in which technology unlocks creativity and opportunity and brings benefits at every level to business, cities, and most importantly, people.

Discover how O2's technology is helping businesses empower their workforce.

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