5G networks are the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, offering faster speeds and more reliable connections than ever before. It is predicted to offer connections that are many times faster than currently available, with average download speeds of around 1GBps expected to soon be the norm. To put some perspective to that, it can take around 10 minutes to download a HD movie on 4G, you should be able to swap the minutes for seconds with 5G. With development well underway, 5G networks are expected to launch across the world by 2020, working alongside existing 3G and 4G technology to provide speedier connections that stay online anytime and anywhere. In the UK, 5G is expected to see a widespread roll-out by 2020. Indeed, all of the major UK mobile networks have revealed their 5G testing plans which are taking place in numerous locations at this moment. It’s expected that we will see the launch of 5G enabled devices soon to coincide with the infrastructure.
Besides much faster speeds, the technology will also offer much lower latency i.e. it will reduce delay or lag and provide greater capacity for networks to cope with many high-demand applications such as IoT devices and virtual reality. These are some of the benefits which could see some major changes to deployment of technology in education. For instance, latency is a problem for VR/AR applications and reducing that to under 10 milliseconds will greatly improve the user experience, making it a more useful tool for teachers in the classroom. The use of video as a teaching tool is more commonplace in schools today, so downloads should be much easier.
Expanding the use of IoT devices in schools through 5G is also being heralded as a positive step for teachers in the classroom. According to a report from Jisc and Vodaphone₁ “The future learning model will be an international, immediate, virtual, and interactive environment which enables learners to learn and interact in much different ways than we do today. The new model will be learner-centric, skill-centric, on-demand and personalised. It will improve student development in the areas of critical-thinking and collaborative learning. In order to reach this model embracing mobile technology seems indispensable. Applications such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) will play a big role in quality education and understanding-based learning. By combining Tactile Internet with VR and AR the learning experience will go far beyond today’s one, bringing new definition to Tele-teaching, Tele-mentoring, virtual university, virtual classroom, virtual team-working, etc. New mobile technology and connected devices will give students the opportunity to learn with minimal intervention from teachers and mostly through exploration, discovery and peer coaching.”
The report maintains that IoT applications will help reduce the administrative burden placed on teachers and enable more personalised education for students.
However, just like most new technologies, 5G infrastructure will be costly to implement and school networks will need to be able to cope with the increased opportunities that it will present. Funding is always an issue so schools and universities may have to wait a little longer to realise the benefits.