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5G: the future of content delivery

5G is a technology standard for the new-generation mobile networks that is rapidly spreading all over the world. This technology can transfer data much quicker than the 4G technology. It is designed to make the mobile Internet even faster and even more accessible.

In this article, we’ll explain how 5G is going to change the content delivery process and which role the CDN is going to play in the new era.

5G: a brief overview of the new standard’s features

5G (5th Generation) is the technology standard for the 5th-generation mobile networks. Its development started back in 2008, and in 2018 the world’s first commercial 5G network was launched in the United States.

Advantages of the new generation technology standard over 4G:

  • The peak data rate is 20 Gbps, which is 20 times faster than it is with 4G.
  • The spectrum efficiency is 3 times higher than with 4G.
  • User mobility (i.e., the speed at which a connected user can move within the area covered by the network without losing handover between the base stations) is 500 km/h, which makes it possible to use 5G in high-speed trains (whereas the 4G standard can’t be used there).
  • The latency makes up less than 1 ms, which is 10 times less than with 4G.
  • The network energy efficiency is 100 times better than with 4G.
  • The area traffic capacity is 10 Mbps/m2, which is 100 times more than with 4G.

5G: the future of content delivery
Advantages of 5G over 4G. Source: Emerging Trends in 5G/IMT-2020, 2016, ITU
 

Moreover, unlike other standards, 5G offers the network slicing opportunity. This implies dividing one physical mobile network into several logical ones. This feature allows you to divide the general network space into segments featuring certain properties.

These properties will depend on the needs of the client using this particular network segment. For example, companies that automate their processes and connect their devices using 5G will have higher area traffic capacity, network stability, and data transfer speed. In case of residential use, fewer 5G network capacities will be enough.

3GPP, a consortium that develops mobile telephony specifications, has allocated two frequency ranges for 5G:

  • FR1—600–6,000 MHz;
  • FR2—24–100 GHz.

If 5G is launched at high frequencies, a large number of transmitters are required because such frequencies do not work effectively over long distances. This is why provision of sufficient coverage for the new mobile network standard still causes some difficulties.

How 5G solves modern society’s problems and needs

Rapid growth of mobile internet

The amount of mobile traffic is growing every day. People are starting to use the Internet on their mobile devices more and more often.

According to DataReportal, the mobile Internet is used by 5.29 billion people, which makes up 67.1% of the total population of the Earth. Over the past year, the number of mobile users has grown by 97 million.

5G: the future of content delivery
Mobile device usage statistics according to DataReportal

Cisco forecasts that by the year 2023:

  • the average broadband Internet access speed will have reached 110 Mbps;
  • the number of mobile device users will have reached 5.7 billion, making up 71% of the world’s population;
  • the number of mobile devices will have increased to 13.1 billion, with 1.4 billion of them supporting 5G.

Now, the Internet is already focused on smartphones and tablets. The mobile era requires a very high quality of mobile connection.

5G meets these requirements. This technological standard can provide sufficient data transfer speed, user mobility, and high area traffic capacity.

Strict requirements to content load speed and quality

Users want to receive high-quality content without delays.

The slow work of a web resource affects behavioral factors in a negative way, which is confirmed by numerous studies.

For example, Google experts found that if page load time on mobile devices increases by 10 seconds, the bounce rate grows by 123%.

Video is the type of content where the latency rate is of vital importance. At present, this content type is the leader.

According to Marketing Dive, over 70% of mobile traffic in 2020 came from video watching. And this figure is growing every year.

The number of both VOD and Live videos is increasing. Live broadcasts are now available on all popular social networks and platforms including YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, etc. Users watch them very often. The online streaming market is expected to have reached $247 billion by 2027.

It’s not only the number of videos viewed but also their size that is increasing. A 4K video is 3–5 times heavier than an HD video. The viewers have already got accustomed to watching high-quality video content. This trend is proven by a current increase in the number of devices supporting 4K and 8K standards.

So, viewers want to watch more videos and online broadcasts in high quality without delays and buffering. This means that in the near future we will have to deliver more video content using the mobile Internet, whereas the videos will tend to become heavier.

4G does not have enough capacity to transfer large files at high speeds. 5G will do it just fine.

Branches that are going to benefit from 5G most:

  • Media and social networks. In 2021, TikTok became the world’s most visited online resource. The content of this social network mainly focuses on videos that are mostly watched on mobile devices. Other similar services also promote their video content on smartphones and tablets, meaning that they can’t do without 5G.
  • Telemedicine. In recent years, the use of telemedicine has grown by 80%. The 5G technology will make it possible to deliver video content in higher quality to any device, thus improving virtual interaction with patients. Moreover, the high performance of the new technological standard will make it easier to implement new technologies, such as artificial intelligence or XR, in telemedicine.
  • AR and VR. According to IDC, the global market for these technologies has already reached $4.43 billion and will have reached $36.11 billion by 2025. These technologies are used not only in gaming: companies engaged in manufacturing, medicine, and other branches have already started using them as well. The factors that are especially important for augmented reality and virtual reality include low latency and high area traffic capacity. And 5G provides such opportunities.

M2M technologies development

M2M (machine-to-machine interaction) is another branch that is developing rapidly now and will largely depend on next-generation networks. It is predicted that the M2M market will have reached $23.79 billion by 2025. Its total annual growth rate will equal 28.37%.

Machine-to-machine interaction requires a fast and stable connection between many smart devices, meaning that 5G is indispensable for M2M. Only the new 5G standard is sure to provide low latency, high area traffic capacity, stability, and support for a large number of devices in a limited space.

How widespread is 5G over the world now?

Commercial 5G networks are already operating in Europe, the USA, South Korea, China, Kazakhstan, and Scandinavian countries.

Smartphone manufacturers have already started producing devices supporting the 5G technology. The new standard is supported by iPhone 12 (and later versions), Google Pixel 5, Samsung Galaxy S21, new Huawei, Xiaomi, and Motorola smartphones as well as the smartphones produced by other manufacturers.

According to Ericsson experts, about 660 million devices were already connected to 5G at the end of 2021. It is not that much if we consider the total number of connected users but this value is growing. For example, in 2020, about 220 million connections were mentioned in the Ericsson’s report, which makes up one third of the number in 2021.

Of course, the existing 5G coverage is not enough. The networks haven’t been launched in all countries yet, and this standard is still working in the test mode in many cities.

However, the average 5G data transfer speed is expected to have reached 575 Mbps by 2023, which is several times faster than it is with 4G. We won’t have to wait for long until the 5G era starts.

CDN role in the 5G era

5G is responsible for a significant speed-up at the “last mile” of the content delivery process. This technological standard helps reduce content delivery time at the final network section, i.e., at the stage when the content goes directly to user devices.

But for this acceleration to work properly, the data first need to be transferred from the source server to a point that is closest to the users. This means that the backbone network should also transfer data fast. In this case, you can’t do without a CDN (Content Delivery Network).

The operation principle of any CDN consists in caching the files coming from the source server on the servers that are closest to the user, which makes it possible to return the data using the shortest route. The content delivery network shortens the distance between the user and the server, thus reducing the way that requests and responses need to make and speeding up the web resource operation.

5G: the future of content delivery
Content delivery with and without CDN

By balancing traffic between the nodes, the CDN distributes the network load evenly, which allows your resources to cope even with unexpected traffic increases.

All modern trends and forecasts relating to the new opportunities offered by 5G indicate that the amount of content (especially that of video content) is going to grow, and that site load speed requirements are going to increase.

Using a CDN will be necessary for fast VOD and Live video content delivery because it implies transferring video file chunks with minimal delays.

AR and VR technologies require increased area traffic capacity because it allows you to load the necessary assets (in the real-time mode as well). To ensure that such services work properly, you need not only a fast connection at the “last mile” stage but also a global system for delivering content from the source to the 5G transmitters.

New trends set very high requirements for network reliability and area traffic capacity. An advanced CDN should be able to easily cope with the increasing workloads.

Summary

  1. 5G is a technology standard for the 5th-generation mobile networks. It is a new standard that features a performance rate that is several times higher than that of 4G.
  2. 5G is needed to meet the growing requirements for mobile connection. The new standard will allow you to deliver more and heavier high-quality videos, develop AR and VR technologies, and introduce innovations to M2M.
  3. Now 5G is already working in Europe, Scandinavia, the USA, China, Canada, South Korea and other countries. About 660 million devices featured a 5G connection at the end of 2021.
  4. The new standard will speed up the delivery of your content at the “last mile.” But high-speed data delivery in the backbone network still remains necessary. In this case, you can’t do without a CDN.
  5. In the 5G era, the requirements to area traffic capacity and network fault tolerance will be much higher. The amount of heavy content delivered via CDN is going to grow, and the CDN should be able to cope with such loads easily.

At G-Core Labs, we keep an eye on content delivery trends and are constantly upgrading our CDN with new technologies. We are working hard to integrate our services with 5G providers and modifying our infrastructure in order to prepare it for the 5G era.

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