Get ready for 5G: How newest mobile tech will drive the ‘internet of things’

Today's expression: Roll out
Explore more: Lesson #167
June 27, 2019:

The newest generation of mobile technology--called 5G--will transform the mobile internet as much as 4G did. The fast speed, high capacity, and low latency will make a lot of new things possible, including augmented reality and self-driving vehicles. Plus, learn what it means to "roll something out"

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You remember 3G; you’re probably listening to this on a 4G phone; but are you ready for 5G?

Welcome back to Plain English! This is Jeff; JR is the producer; and you are part of the best audience in the world! This is episode 167, so you can find the full episode transcript at PlainEnglish.com/167.

On today’s episode: What will 5G mean for you, and for the world? It’s the next generation of wireless technology, and it’s more than just fast. It could open up a whole world of connected devices. We have a phrasal verb to share with you in the second half of the program. Today’s phrasal verb is to roll out. And of course JR has a song of the week for us at the end of the episode.

I heard that some of you have already accessed the free IELTS course available at PlainEnglish.com/IELTS . Congratulations to those of you who have done that—it’s an important step in getting ready for that exam. If the IELTS exam is in your future, check out the course from IELTS Advantage by visiting PlainEnglish.com/IELTS.


5G will enable ‘Internet of Things’

3G made the internet accessible on our phones; 4G made it faster, allowing us to consume and share video. What will 5G bring? Think back to your online life before 4G came out, and now think about your online life now. It’s quite a difference, right? We weren’t watching a lot of video; pages took a long time to load; emails took forever to send. We’re pretty lucky here in the US because we have 4G coverage in most places we go. But sometimes I’m traveling and I get stuck with 3G and I feel like I’ve been transported back decades. In fact, I think I only got my first 4G connection about six years ago, maybe seven.

The pace of change is accelerating. That’s kind of a popular phrase in business these days. The pace of change is accelerating, so things are only going to be changing faster in the future—and that’s set to play out with the introduction of 5G.

5G, or fifth-generation, mobile technology will be able to deliver wider network coverage, faster speeds, and, importantly, more stable internet connections. It will also be able to accommodate much more volume on the same spectrum. So what does that mean? It means that we’ll be able to do a lot of things with these new connections that we can’t do now because 4G is too slow or unreliable. For example: self-driving cars or self-driving trucks need to react in split-seconds to changes on the roads. With people’s safety at stake, you can’t have even a second-long delay or unexpected outages, which are both common with 4G. Don’t get me wrong: this is not the only thing standing in the way of self-driving cars. But self-driving cars and trucks need lightning-fast connections to respond to conditions on the road.

The other big change is going to be the Internet of Things. This is essentially connecting dumb devices—like your refrigerator—to the internet, streaming lots of data. Think about a farm. A farmer would love to know the soil conditions in all the rows of corn or soybeans or whatever. We don’t have that now because the coverage isn’t wide enough, and the networks—the pipes that carry the data—aren’t wide enough to handle sensors pumping data 24/7 into the system. But a 5G network would be able to accommodate thousands of tiny devices, measuring and transmitting soil conditions in real-time to help the farmer. You can imagine that hospitals can provide better service to patients. If more medical devices were transmitting data to a central network, doctors would be able to analyze patients’ health faster than if they had to walk around, room by room, taking measurements and reading unconnected devices. Manufacturing, too, can be made more efficient.

Another example of the internet of things is in smart cities. A city, for example, would be able to connect sensors to things like lampposts to tell them when a light is out, when a fire hydrant is running, when a gun is fired, where there are traffic backups, all that stuff that cities have to track. Cities will be able to respond faster, waste less money, and deliver better services to their citizens if they can connect sensors to a network that can handle all this data and all these devices.

Virtual reality and augmented reality both stand to gain from 5G. Virtual reality is like, you put these bulky headsets on and you can walk around and you only see what’s in the goggles ahead of you. Augmented reality is more like glasses or views that add to what’s going on around you. Pokemon Go, for example, is augmented reality. It’s the real world, but people see these cartoon characters superimposed on the world around them, via their phones. It’s mostly games right now, but it has a lot of potential to help in surgery, flying airplanes, navigation, repairing complex machinery. 5G is going to help all this because of its speed, reliability, and low latency. Latency would be the time it takes to respond to something.

I’ll give you an example of augmented reality with navigation, which is probably most applicable to our lives. Let’s say you’re lost, or you just want to know what’s around you. You can point your phone’s video camera down the street, and Google Maps can tell you what you’re looking at, what every building is. Now this wouldn’t work if a lot of people were streaming a live video of their location to Google; it would overload the system. But 5G is powerful enough to accommodate a lot of data through the pipes. So now you can imagine a permanent video camera on the front of your car just constantly streaming its view, and you can—whenever you want—have the car tell you what you’re looking at, either on a screen or superimposed right on top of the windshield.

I told you: the pace of change is accelerating. But it’s exciting. So 5G is being rolled out in certain places in the US, UK, and South Korea right now. A new report said that almost half the world’s population will have access to 5G devices as soon as 2024.


I want to say hi to a couple of listeners today. First up, Juan Manuel from Tlaxcala, México. He says he listens in the mornings on the way to work and always gets good conversation topics from the program. So big hello to Juan Manuel. Also Vinicius from Brazil saw that we were mentioned in a few blogs in Portuguese. I knew about one of the articles, in Exame, but he also saw us mentioned in a blog at FluentU and on a Brazilian web site called Minds Idiomas. Anyway, Vinicius, thanks for sharing those blogs posts with me.

Finally, Miguel from Bogotá is a drummer in a band—he sent me a clip of his band playing and it looked like a lot of fun. He’s making a list of all the most useful expressions that he heard on Plain English and using them to study for IELTS. And, by the way, he is using the resources at IELTS Advantage. He really likes the videos that Chris and the team have put together and he finds it an easy way to study.

It really is—it’s way better than buying a book; it’s better than just text-based resources. Chris’s videos are very powerful and they should be the first step for any of you who are studying for, even if you’re just considering taking the IELTS Exam. You can access that free course by going to PlainEnglish.com/IELTS.

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Expression: Roll out