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What Is 5G Technology: Everything you need to know in an Ultimate Guide

what is 5g technology

Starting in 2021, many people have been experiencing the new, 5G connections. The infrastructure is already spread nationwide and 5G is soon going to be compatible with most mobile devices.

As with the previous change from the 3G to 4G, going from 4G to 5G represents a big leap in technology. Data speed should be higher and latency even lower.

5G is a new technology and people have a lot of questions regarding it. Does it make such a big change for 4G LTE phone or tablet users? Is it really needed, and what exactly does 5G mean?

Keep reading this article to learn more about 5G. In this text, you are going to find information about download speeds and the business context of this technological change.

You are also going to learn the history of the Gs and how it gets to 5G. The article also covers information about the benefits of 5G for businesses and individual users.

Read More: How To Disable 5G On Samsung Phones

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What Is 5G, and What Came Before?

5G is the newest and the fifth generation of wireless network deployments following 3GPP. This mobile network has already been launched in various cities in the USA and also around the world. The idea is to create the way for the new era of connectivity. Now, let’s have a look at how everything got here.

The first wireless mobile connection was introduced in 1979. It was a 1G and utilized the 800MHz spectrum. This generation of networks appeared in the United States in 1973. Instead of being located on the mountaintops, cellular towers appeared on the streets of cities.

2G, the second generation, was launched in 1991. In comparison to the previous generation, the spectrum had 1.9GHz more. Thanks to this connection, people could send text messages but also share images and videos through mobiles (MMS).

The third generation added the 2.1GHz spectrum. 3G changed the way people thought about mobile phones. It allowed much higher bandwidth. Mobile phones got an additional antenna that allowed the multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) technologies to increase the level of mobile capacity. Virtually, the 3G devices could achieve speeds of around 40Mbps.

It might be surprising, but the fourth Generation has already been around for 12 years. It was first launched in 2009. Devices worked on 5.2GHz frequencies and 700MHz.

The main difference that users of 3G could notice after swapping to 4G was a significant increase in speed. Let’s compare the speeds. The third generation’s theoretical speed was around 40Mbps. The fourth generation increased this number to 400Mbps. Thanks to that, the capabilities of mobile devices were much greater.

The specification of the fifth generation of wireless cellular technology (5G) is much better than any of the aforementioned. It can operate within the following spectra: 600MHz, 2.5GHz, 28GHz, and 39GHz.

The cell towers that operate with 5G are smaller than 4G ones. That means that using them requires less energy to operate. However, to make a reliable and fast 5G connection, there is a need to place more small cells across the place. According to some experts, applying 5G technology that allows speeds of 4Gbps can make many amazing things possible: it can improve sign monitoring, the way people operate automobiles, improve the city infrastructure, but also boost telemedicine, allowing remote surgeries.

In theory, the speed of the 5G connection can even reach 20Gbps. This speed is still in the planning phase. The real-world deployments have achieved a speed of 2Gbps, which is already a huge achievement.

Smooth handovers are crucial to create the required density of cell sites.

How Is 5G Different From 4G?

In the last article, I talked about 4g vs. 5g. While many people might think that 4G LTE is enough, 5G offers various upgrades that can allow enjoying a 10-time faster connection. Thanks to the speed, the latency is much lower. Additionally, 5G gives an ability to connect many different devices at the same time.

Similarly to 4G, 5G starts by adding antennae in mobile phones and other smart devices. Thanks to them, a device can send and receive RF from small cells and cell towers. When a tower or small cell receives the signals, it can transmit them across the network to a phone, website, or another device.

The main difference is that 5G is ultra-fast and responsive. That means you can enjoy much better capabilities and previously unknown connectivity.

Does it still sound a bit confusing for you? Let’s have a look into some mobile network basics that are going to clarify things.

Any mobile network is created by two primary elements: the core network and the radio access network (RAN). The latter is composed of various facilities, for example, macro cells, masts, towers, small cells, or even dedicated home systems. All of them allow the mobile users and their devices to connect with the core network.

The main role in the 5G network is played by small cells. They help to facilitate short connection ranges. The fifth-generation operates on the new millimeter wave (mmWave) frequencies. Thanks to small cells, mobile users can enjoy a faster and continuous connection. It can be especially comfortable for some applications that shouldn’t have any latency.

The macro-cells used in the 5G network use new technologies, such as MIMO antennae or beam steering. The latter uses various antennae to send and receive data to many users at the same time.

What does it mean? More mobile users can connect to the network simultaneously, without risking the quality of the connection and keeping the high throughput.

The massive MIMO antennae on which 5G relies are already available for 4G LTE. However, they are organic to 5G. The MIMO allows an excellent data experience for all the users, as it optimizes the number of data layers.

Another important term connected to 5G technology is core network. In the core network, mobile exchange and data network managing happens. The core network is responsible for data and internet connection. While the core network served previous connections as well, in the case of 5G, the network is redesigned to suit and integrate better with the cloud-based services. It also allows having various servers across the network.

Some of the most important advanced features of 5G are network slicing and network function virtualization. Both of them are managed in the core and can be used by various apps and services.

What Is Network Slicing?

Thanks to network slicing, particular types of network traffic can be “sliced” or carved out. Because of that, they match different uses. When it comes to network traffic, it can be adjusted to customer needs and use cases. It can be applied to enterprises, public safety, the internet of things, or consumers.

You can think about mobile traffic as a pie. Thanks to network slicing, this pie can be divided into slices. One slice can be dedicated to public safety software such as high-quality augmented reality (AR) that allows quick response. Another slice can be dedicated to a consumer-centric application, for example, social media, video streaming, nonreal time data. Then another slice can be about M2M for IoT services that need extended coverage.

One of the cost-dividing scenarios might look like this: a video streaming platform pays carriers for a “slice”. Thanks to this, the quality of service and the quality of experience increase. Because of that, the platform can pass the additional costs to the subscriber in form of a new model of subscription: more expensive yet delivering much better quality.

What Is Network Function Virtualization (NFV)?

The NFV allows some network functions to operate on commercial off-the-shelf technology. Previously, those functions were hardware-driven. The network can function as a firewall. Before it relied on dedicated hardware. Now, it can work within a virtual machine.

The NFV is one of the most important elements of the 5G core, as it allows to increase the speed, efficiency, and agility that can support countless new business applications.

What Spectrum Is Used for 5G?

A frequency channel that carries data between the antennae and mobile device is called the spectrum. The fifth generation required leveraging two main spectrums. They are mmWave and Sub-6.

The latter represents the low spectrum. It uses frequencies under 6GHz. This spectrum doesn’t have as high a speed as the mmWave, but it is important because of the coverage advantages. It can support high throughput.

The mmWave wasn’t used widely before. Because of that, it has more bandwidth, which makes it well-suited to support ultrafast speeds and higher capacity, within a shorter range.

Does 5G and 4G Work Together?

Thanks to the network architecture and the initial standard of the fifth-generation network, 4G and 5G can work together. If you have a mobile device, such as a phone, tablet, etc. that connects to the 5G network, it also connects to the 4G network. The latter allows providing the control signaling. The 5G connection makes the data connection fast and attaches it to the 4G signal that already exists.

If you are in the area where 5G coverage is insufficient, your data is going to be carried by the 4G network. This way, the network ensures continuous connection. The ultimate goal is to complement the 4G network with 5G.

Speed but What Else? About Other Benefits of 5G

Speed is pretty easy to quantify. There is no doubt that it is one of the best features of 5G, but there is more to it. Yet, with low latency and ultra-reliability, it is a bit harder to illustrate.

Imagine a Wi-Fi connection. It operates with some latency. That means it has a time that takes to exchange data. This time is usually measured in milliseconds (ms).

In the case of 5G, the latency is often mistaken with bandwidth. What is the difference? Imagine a highway: bandwidth is how big or wide is the road. The latency is how rough is the terrain you’re driving over.

In comparison to 4G, 5G latency is much lower, as it was reduced by 5,000%. In the case of 4G, it’s limited to 50ms. The fifth-generation network, once fully developed, can achieve 1ms. If you want to reach for an even bigger comparison, 3G offered 100-500 ms.

All of this means that while using the 5G network, we can ‘see’ or rather not see, a latency that lasts less than 10 milliseconds. Virtually that gives a possibility for real-time interaction, even between devices that are very far away.

The near total lack of latency means that application vehicle-to-vehicle, autonomous driving, and much more are going to be possible.

Another huge advantage of this connection is how many devices it can support simultaneously. The 5G can serve about 1 million devices connected in a square kilometer. That might seem more than needed. However, in big, dense cities, almost everyone has a phone, smartwatch, tablet, etc. Additionally, there are CCTV, C-V2X connections, and smart-city devices. All of that adds up to an incredible amount.

What Are Some Key Use Cases for 5G?

If you’re still wondering what 5G is needed for, here are some examples. It can be a wonderful change for hospitality, healthcare, smart cities, and much more.

Autonomous Vehicles

For years, people have desired to have autonomous vehicles. While some things are very automated, there is still a long way to go when it comes to fully safe, self-driven vehicles. Yet, 5G can speed up the process. Thanks to it, the latency is close to zero. That means that vehicles are going to receive real-time updates that help them to identify danger that cannot be noticed by one’s sight. Thanks to this, vehicles can respond immediately, increasing user safety.

Productivity

Productivity is an important factor for most businesses. Thanks to 5G technology, brands are going to be able to create VR meetings, implement AI tools, use cloud-based apps, and much more. All of this can lead to accelerated workflow.

Without mentioning advanced technologies, 5G is very important at the moment. As many employees work remotely or on hybrid schedules, they have to have reliable mobile devices. They need to get information in real-time and be sure they can rely on the connection that they have.

Facilities

All companies that have headquarters and important large buildings can significantly benefit from the fifth-generation network. The change can be especially noticeable in places that facilitate large numbers of devices and spots where a lot of data is transferred.

That means that places such as hospitals could benefit from 5G, increasing their workflow and helping people to work better. Some facilities already practice remote medicine and download large files from the lab.

When AR/VR Turns into Business Reality

If your business uses a lot of VR headsets or AR cameras, the new generation network can take it to the next level. Thanks to 5G, you can use numerous AR and VR devices at the same time. Faster speed, lower latency, and great connectivity allow you to benefit from entertainment, education, and training that can be provided thanks to AR and VR technologies.

Retail Revolution

5G can take retail to the next level. With 5G technologies, you can reward your loyal clients with personalized offers. They are going to be created based on the previous purchases. Those offers can appear on their devices at the moment they approach a particular product.

The fifth-generation network opens many new doors for retailers that can create unique offers and increase customer experience by maintaining and building an engagement on a level like never before.

Is 5G Already Here?

Yes, some places already have a 5G coverage. Brands such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon have been rolling out 5G in the USA for some time already.

In January 2021, 5G was available in more than 50 metropolitan areas. The good news is that 5G coverage is appearing in more and more places each day and is going to continue for these years and beyond.

Already in November 2020, Verizon covered 57 cities nationwide with 5G services. Additionally, they added this technology to 34 professional football stadiums and some indoor arenas.

At the same time, T-Mobile confirmed that more than 270 million people can already use 5G technology. The Sub-6 Coverage reached more than 410 cities.

AT&T had 5G services in mmWave and Sub-6 bands. Already in July 2020, the 5G mmWave services covered 36 cities, and Sub-6 was available at a minimum of 58 places.

Who Invented 5G?

5G was not invented by one person or company. Several mobile companies contributed to making the fifth-generation network. One of the main roles was played by the company Qualcomm. They invented the many foundational technologies that led the industry to create the 5G solution.

Statistics About the Global Growth Caused by 5G

5G is not only a comfortable solution that can be used by individual users. It can also create many working places and boost various economic sectors around the globe.

Some researchers say that the full impact of 5G on the economy is going to take place by 2035. They estimate that 5G can enable up to $13.1 trillion worth of goods and services. That means that 5G is going to have a much greater impact on the global economy than any other network ever before.

Thanks to the developments that 5G requires, it expands far more than just mobile networking. It can engage the automotive industry, healthcare, and more.

Additionally, the supporting 5G chain can generate up to 22.8 million new jobs, including OEMs, content creators, developers, or even consumers. With 5G there are going to be more new applications and software that emerge, and which are also going to require a new workforce.

Do I Need a New Phone or Other Device If I Want to Use 5G?

Yes, if you don’t have it yet, you are going to need a smartphone that supports 5G. There are already a few mobiles that were designed specially to support the 5G connection. There are also multiple carriers across the globe that support this wireless network.

As 5G networking is more widespread, you can expect more and more devices that support this connection.

Does 5G Change My Home Internet Service?

The fifth-generation network can make your internet faster. However, similarly to a mobile device, you are going to need a wireless modem that supports 5G.

Your Internet Service Provider can contact you and offer a 5G infrastructure. This way you can enjoy great performance and high speed at your home.

How Does an Average Consumer Use 5G?

According to statistics, in 2022, an average consumer is going to use 11GB of data per month, just on their mobile device. This rapid growth is caused by the boom in videos. Mobile devices are often treated as a source of entertainment and information.

4G changed how people see their mobiles and also how they consume information. Video streaming, ride-sharing, social media, and food delivery are just a few of the countless ways that people started using their mobile phones.

With the help of 5G, the mobile ecosystem expands even more. Thanks to the speed and almost no latency, 5G can give an incredible user experience. You can enjoy extreme reality, new applications, instant access to the cloud, more interactive content, and much, much more.

Additionally, 5G can bring information to the user in no time. With this new network generation, you don’t have to run a google search. Let’s have a look at an example: If you are searching for a restaurant around you, you can just scan your surroundings. Then, you are going to get all information regarding nearby restaurants on your screen.

5G also allows more collaborative interactions between people. They can share and edit photos or videos in real-time. There is no reason for a separate story because everyone can contribute to the common storyboard.

Conclusions

There is no doubt that 5G technology is a real revolution. Not only in the mobile phone industry but also in various other sectors that it is going to affect. Only with time can we see how it is going to influence the global economy and the social interactions that we know today.

Marom

Marom is a senior writer at WIRED specialising on information security, digital privacy, and hacking. A former technology correspondent for Slate, she was also a staff writer for Future Tense, a publication and project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and ASU. Additionally her work has appeared in Gizmodo, Fast Company, IEEE Spectrum, and Popular Mechanics. She is a New Yorker who calls the city home.
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