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What is 5G? Everything You Need To Know

The mobile industry is ready to go through a big transition in the coming years. We are on the verge of experiencing something spectacular. While most of us are happy with our current data speeds, it won’t be the case a few years from now. With the advent of  IoT devices and exponentially increasing user base, the mobile industry needs a robust plan to be able to cater to our needs in the future.  Their solution to this problem is the next generation of the mobile communications systems, a.k.a. 5G.


What is 5G?


In the simplest of its contexts, 5G refers to the 5th Generation of the cellular technology. Starting in the 1980s with 1G, our cellular networks went through multiple evolution stages to become what we see and use today. Whenever there was a significant upgrade in the cellular technology, carriers marked the upgrade with a different generation. When ‘2G’ or the ‘second generation’ of cellular technology was launched, it marked the adoption of the digital system over the pre-existing analog system. It also added mobile data in the form of GPRS and EDGE.


However, after 2G, the lines marking the different generations became a little bit blurry, but still, every successive generation meant higher data speed, better connectivity, and better call quality. 5G technology is supposed to take the cellular world by storm. It is going to mark as big a jump from our current 4G-LTE technology as 2G did from 1G.


5G vs 4G: How is 5G Better?


Compared to third generation mobile networking, 4G enabled previously impossible quality video streaming and calling on the go, meaning live TV is now routinely watched on the daily commute. More video streaming, however, has increased congestion in the network.


“4G is reaching the technical limits of how much data it can quickly transfer across blocks of spectrum,” explains Chris Mills head of industry analysis, at Tutela. “A major difference between 5G and 4G is this congestion will be eliminated.” This mean no more five bars of networking signal at rush hour but an inability to access a web browser.


But arguably, 5G’s biggest differentiator to 4G will be as a gateway for the Internet-of-Things-connected-world-at-scale. Later iterations of 5G networking are expected to be revolutionary for data-driven industries, smart cities and infrastructure management because it will be possible to have many more devices working, reliably, securely and uninterrupted in the same area. Overall, due to the new technologies, spectrum and frequencies it uses, 5G has several benefits over 4G; higher speeds, less latency, capacity for a larger number of connected devices, less interference and better efficiency.


1. Speed


5G will bring a huge speed boost to our data connectivity. The theoretical max speed of 5G will be around 100 Gbps while the minimum speed will be around 10 Gbps. Comparing that to the theoretical speed of current 4G-LTE technology which tops out at 1Gbps, we can assume that the data speed will be at least 10X higher than 4G-LTE.


2. Latency


Latency refers to the delay occurring between a user’s input and the execution of his command. In terms of data transfer it can be understood as the time it takes a packet of data to travel from one point to another. For a network to work optimally, its latency should be as close to zero as possible. Currently, 4G-LTE has a latency of 40ms-60ms. 5G technology is supposed to provide 5X lesser latency at a range of 1ms-10ms.


3. Capacity


Since the 5G will be utilizing a part of the spectrum with high frequencies, its data carrying capacity will be exponentially higher. Add that to the fact that high-band spectrum is still unused, we are looking at a huge improvement in the data carrying capacity. The spectrum utilized by 4G-LTE technology is already crowded and carriers are fighting over limited remaining bandwidth. The biggest benefit of higher capacity will be seen by the video streaming industry. Since the packets will theoretically be able to carry more data, 4k and even 8k streaming will be easily possible.


4. Targeted Delivery of Data


The higher frequency of the spectrum will allow 5G to use “beam forming”. A technique in which data is sent to required recipients in the form of concentrated beams. This will allow the 5G compatible antennas to direct higher data throughput to places where it is required the most. The current technology uses isometric antennas which send data equally in every direction regardless of the usage condition. The user-guided data channel will result in better utilisation of the data. Suppose you are streaming a 4k video while your friend is reading articles on the web. 5G will be smart enough to send higher data throughput to you than your friend.


When is 5G coming?


One drawback of using high-frequency spectrum is that high-frequency signals attenuate fast and can cover only a small distance. While today a large tower can send signals which cover several miles, the 5G waves can cover a distance of only 200 meters. They are also not good at penetrating solid structures like walls and buildings. This means instead of a single tower which is big, thousands of small cells need to be installed throughout the city to cover a similar area. Thus, a robust infrastructure needs to be in place before 5G can be rolled out. Carriers are optimistic and planning to carry out the trial of 5G in the coming Olympics Games in the year 2020. The launch of 5G to the mass market in the USA is supposed to roll out in the year 2022-23.

Also, when it comes to the 5G supported devices, we can expect them to be unveiled when 5G networks are ready for prime time.

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