5G is tipped to become the biggest game changer in a long time. We pull back the curtain in an attempt to decode the hype.
5G is the fifth generation of wireless technology and boasts unprecedented speed, low latency, and high capacity. And oh, with a realized maximum download speed of 414.2 Mbps, 5G can be 14.3 times faster than 4G.
But where it makes the biggest splash is its ability to bring emerging tech to the masses. Every piece of technology in existence today can stand to benefit from 5G — from IoT sensors to standalone XR headsets.
Since 5G can transmit massive streams of data seemingly effortlessly — automated vehicles, smart cities, on-demand energy grids, 5G phones, wearable devices of every sort, and much more will go from concept to reality, faster than ever.
The 5 Generations of Wireless
Car phones, pagers, flip phones…It had to start somewhere. Here’s a quick recap of stages 1-5 for you to understand just how astonishing a journey this has been.
1st Generation (the OG)
Basic analog cellular phone calling
2nd Generation (2G)
Digital cellular, including CDMA, GSM, and TDMA. These protocols had speeds of around 200 kilobits per second (kbps).
3rd Generation (3G):
EVDO, HSPA, and UMTS increased speed to a few megabits per second (mbps).
4th Generation (4G)
WiMAX and LTE, currently in use. These have been steadily getting faster, commonly transmitting hundreds of mbps and even once in a while reaching 1 gigabit per second. But 4G cannot truly support the intricate web of connected devices.
Offering wireless speeds up to 10 or even 20 gigabits per second, 5G matches the fastest fiber-optic networks — opening up scope for 5G home internet. We ride.
5G Technology Works Smarter
Without diving too deep, it’s important to understand that channels carrying 5G signals have greater bandwidth. This allows for substantially larger amounts of data to be passed along, but it also requires more sophisticated antennas and larger airwave blocks than what is currently in place.
4G could work around the clock, plus overtime, without taking days off, and still wouldn’t be able to deliver.
5G networks work smarter, because they have to. Coordinating more small cells of varying sizes and shapes isn’t a one-dimensional task. And it only comes to life if it’s relatively seamless — thanks to the breathtaking millimeter wave.
What is the millimeter wave?
4G LTE — the racehorse mobile network of today — uses spectrum bands that range from 2 GHz to 8 Ghz in frequency.
But 5G turns up the heat with a leap into unprecedented territory: 24 GHz to 100 GHz.
When the demand for larger bandwidth and higher wireless data rates shot up astronomically after the smartphone became the norm, cellular companies looked to bands with other frequencies to support this demand.
The 24 GHz to 100 Ghz range was found to be ideal. The reason? Short millimeter-long wavelengths that can support bandwidths until 2 GHz without breaking a sweat.
The problem with mmWaves
Although blazingly quick, mmWaves have one obstacle which is, well, obstacles.
Trees, people, and even rain can be an obstacle for these high-speed short-distance waves. Which is why carriers have to now flip the game. They need to stop installing huge network towers and need to deploy huge numbers of small access points in the city.
But 5G is the clear winner when compared to fiber optic installation. Instead of needing labor-intensive installations at every location, 5G service emerges wirelessly from local cell sites.
Eventually, 5G broadband services will be available anywhere there’s a phone signal. 5G base stations will be spread throughout cities at about 250 feet from each other, but they will be smaller and much less power-hungry than today’s 4G base stations. Easier and much cheaper to install, the high bands of 5G can handle radically greater numbers of two-way conversations.
Every device that supports 5G will rely on 4G signals, initially, even though the two cellular technologies are not actually compatible.
While the 5G wireless network is being built out, new cell sites will continue to be set up in the mid bands of 4G, but will also be 5G-ready. So when the 5G network legitimately starts carrying real time traffic, switches get thrown and the changeover to 5G is instantaneous.
Wireless Companies & Hardware Manufacturers
New technology with hardware available to make it work? That’s like an amazing meal that’s actually good for you. Ask anyone in XR, this is the promised land. Virtual reality can’t become a mainstay until standalone headsets break their own barriers.
The wireless carriers are pushing hard on partnerships to make hardware, in their race to 5G.
A Range of Beneficiaries
It’s all about leveraging 5G’s three big advantages:
Capacity for Connectivity
Lower Latency (Current 4G systems have a latency of 30 to 40 milliseconds). 5G systems reduce this time to 1 to 5 ms, and under ideal conditions they can even yield a stunning latency of under 1 ms)
Countless Innovation Labs have led the charge in defining practical use cases where 5G can make the biggest splash. A few of these ideas are:
Fixed wireless internet access: Since mmWaves allow for gigabits of data rates, 5G can completely replace a number of technologies with hybrid fiber and wireless networks
Outdoor small cells: Small 5G cells installed outdoors to create high capacity access points in public area
Mission-critical control apps: Technologies like autonomous vehicles, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, and drone comms are highly dependent on latency. 5G is the perfect complement to them with a projected latency of less than 1 millisecond!
Small indoor cells: Shopping malls, offices, and other indoor areas can be outfitted with small 5G cells that can deliver download speeds of up to 20 Gbps! Entire cloud-based businesses can start living on 5G.
Waiting at the Gate
Every IOT and mobile app developer. Every manufacturer of self-driving cars and robotic equipment. Every XR trailblazer. They’re all standing on the platform, waiting for the 5G train.
Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Russia, Poland, Finland, and Singapore have all made one move or another toward 5G.
While 5G’s immediate benefits for individual consumers are many and apparent, the innumerable benefits they will bring society will be visible in the long run. Especially with the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution expected soon — 5G will be the most crucial cog in the entire play.
And the best part is 5G opens up possibilities of doing things we haven’t even thought of yet. Perhaps only the birth of the smartphone can compare in sheer magnitude with 5G — and even that, possibly, may pale in comparison.
With lots of possibilities for use cases across remote surgeries, autonomous cars, medical diagnoses, thermostats, production supervision — 5G literally makes an oyster of your world.
If you have an idea in the works, maybe 5G can help make it exponentially better. Feel free to give us a shout and bounce your ideas off our team. Together, we may just hit upon that one special something.