5G is Coming — Why It’s Important to Seniors & Family Caregivers

There has been a lot of talk lately about 5G mobile networks, touting faster speeds and higher capacities, and it was one of the hottest topics at CES® 2018.

5G technology will be important to seniors, especially those living independently.

That means it will be important to family caregivers of those seniors.

What’s that, you say your senior loved ones don’t have access to high speed internet or it isn’t practical to them?

5G might be even more important, then, to you — and them.

Without getting into the technical detail or jargon (well, maybe a little of the jargon) associated with the technology, let’s take a look at 5G and what it will mean.

Next Evolution in Mobile Networks

First, why 5G? That part’s straightforward because “5G” means the 5th generation of mobile communications technology.

Keep in mind that the next generation network is likely to have differences between providers, just as now exist with the current 3G and 4G networks, but they will have key characteristics in common.

As we heard it described, 5G won’t be just a small improvement over the current 4G, but a revolutionary improvement in capability, with data rates 20 times those of today.

Another evolutionary improvement is in what is called latency, the delay that occurs in network data transmissions. While 4G has a latency of approximately 10 milliseconds, the latency of 5G networks will be less than 1 millisecond.

How fast is a millisecond? If you are driving 60 miles per hour, in one millisecond you will travel one inch.

We’ll discuss why latency is important to seniors and family caregivers later in this article.

Another area of real improvement is the security of 5G networks over the current 4G. The importance of added security is clear.

Why 5G is Needed

If you’re think your current mobile service is fast enough that there is no need for the capabilities of 5G, you’re not alone, as we have read about and heard a number of people saying the same thing.

5G’s additional speed, though, means the network will be able to move a lot more data. That means more capability to handle all of the connected devices that will be in our homes in coming years, devices which will be important (as we often discuss at Senior Care Corner®) to the ability of our senior loved ones to live independently longer — which also makes those devices important to us as family caregivers.

These are some of the many current and future applications that will benefit from the capabilities of 5G.

  • Home health devices and telehealth “visits” by healthcare providers
  • Video communications between seniors and family, friends, and others in the community
  • Smarthome devices, including those providing safety, security, convenience, and comfort
  • Self-driving cars
  • Streaming entertainment

What about those seniors who live where they can’t get a signal on mobile devices or broadband internet is unavailable or impractical for them? 5G is expected to make it easier to address those situations as well, by making it less expensive to get high speed communications into more areas than today.

Importance of Low Latency

Low latency is often discussed as one of the most important gains in the evolution from 4G to 5G, but some clarification is needed to understand why milliseconds make a difference. I have heard two great examples that highlight the importance.

If your senior loved one riding in — or driving next to — a self-driving car that encounters an unfamiliar situation, any delay in communications can result in an dangerous incident. Wouldn’t you feel more confident in that situation knowing your senior’s car — or the one beside them — is instantaneously getting the information it needs?

Picture your senior loved one on an operating table. They live in a community that doesn’t have the specialist they need but that specialist is operating remotely using a robotic arm in the operating room. Any delay in the surgeon’s directions being followed by robot or visual feedback getting to the surgeon would be unacceptable to you, wouldn’t it?

Those life-or-death examples are just two of many reasons low latency is one of the important aspects of 5G to seniors, caregivers, and everyone.

When We’ll See 5G

Soon, but full implementation and realization of the benefits will likely take several years.

Pilot implementations of 5G are growing in numbers, with the number of communications companies involved growing.

Larger scale implementation of the network equipment will start after those pilots are completed. As with other new generations of mobile networks, the evolution won’t be cheap and will likely take time — and the network is only one side of the equation.

We will also need devices compatible with 5G in order to connect to new networks. The first 5G smartphones are expected to be released in 2019, so we will have to upgrade our own devices to get the 5G benefits.

Fortunately, we won’t have to replace all our existing smarthome equipment and computers for the 5G networks, as it should only take a compatible router to connect our devices.

The bottom line is that 5G is coming and is expected to provide big benefits for independent-living seniors and their family caregivers.

Stay tuned to Senior Care Corner for updates to be ready for the technology and its benefits.