5G (5th generation mobile networks or 5th generation wireless systems) denotes the proposed next major phase of mobile telecommunications standards beyond the current 4G/IMT-Advanced standards. 5G planning includes Internet connection speeds faster than current 4G, and other improvements.
The Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance defines the following requirements for 5G networks:
- Data rates of tens of megabits per second should be supported for tens of thousands of users
- 1 gigabit per second to be offered simultaneously to many workers on the same office floor
- Several hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections to be supported for massive sensor deployments
- Spectral efficiency should be significantly enhanced compared to 4G
- Coverage should be improved
- Signalling efficiency should be enhanced
The Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance feels that 5G should be rolled out by 2020 to meet business and consumer demands. In addition to providing simply faster speeds, they predict that 5G networks also will need to meet new use cases, such as the Internet of Things (network equipment in buildings or vehicles for web access) as well as broadcast-like services and lifeline communication in times of natural disaster.
Although updated standards that define capabilities beyond those defined in the current 4G standards are under consideration, those new capabilities have been grouped under the current ITU-T 4G standards.
Most telecom vendors expect 5G to offer the following performances:
- Data rates up to 10 Gbit/s over the air.
- Latency in the order of 1ms
- Enable Internet of Things (IoT) devices to run on battery for up to ten years.
5G will provide better speeds and coverage than the current 4G. 5G operates with a 5Ghz signal and is set to offer speeds of up to 1 Gb/s for tens of connections or tens of Mb/s for tens of thousands of connections. Huawei, a major player in the Chinese mobile market, believes 5G will provide speeds 100x faster than 4G LTE offers. 5G also increases network expandability up to hundreds of thousands of connections.
The signal technology of 5G has also been improved for greater coverage as well as spectral and signaling efficiency. These improvements stand to further enable changes like pervasive computing and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Although 5G is not scheduled for launch until 2020, some manufacturers are already incorporating elements of the coming standard's specifications into their products.
Everybody loves speedy internet, so it’s no surprise that every major telecom in the world is working to make it even faster. Smartphones, watches, homes, and cars are increasingly requiring stable internet connections. In order to pipe in enough bandwidth for that precious wireless feed, we’re going to need an entirely new form of wireless signal—that’s where 5G comes in.
Similar to 4G and 3G before it, 5G is a wireless connection built specifically to keep up with the proliferation of devices that need a mobile internet connection. It’s not just your phone and your computer anymore, either. Home appliances, door locks, security cameras, cars, wearables, dog collars, and so many other inert devices are beginning to connect to the web. Gartner predicts that 20.8 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020. By comparison, there are currently an estimated 6.4 billion connected devices in the world. That’s a lot more devices asking for a quick connection.
To make 5G and the future of wireless internet a little easier understand, we decided to break down exactly what it is and how it will make your life better in the very near future.
What exactly is 5G?
The “G” in 5G stands for “generation.” Wireless phone technology technically started with 1G, and in the early 1990s, and it expanded to 2G when companies first started enabling people to send text messages between two cellular devices.
Eventually the world moved on to 3G, which gave people the ability to make phone calls, send text messages, and browse the internet. 4G enhanced many of the capabilities that were made possible with the third generation of wireless. People could browse the web, send text messages, and make phone calls—and they could even download and upload large video files without any issues.
Then companies added LTE, short for “long term evolution,” to 4G connectivity. LTE became the fastest and most consistent variety of 4G compared to competing technologies like WiMax. The difference between WiMax and LTE is similar to the difference between Blu-Ray and HD DVDs: Both technologies achieved similar outcomes, but it was important to create a standard for everyone to use. LTE did just that, and it made 4G technology even faster.
5G will build on the foundation created by 4G LTE. It’s going to allow people send texts, make calls, and browse the web as always—and it will dramatically increase the speed at which data is transferred across the network. 5G will make it easier for people to download and upload Ultra HD and 3D video. It will also make room for the thousands of internet-connected devices entering our everyday world. Just imagine upgrading your data connection from a garden hose to a fire hose. The difference will be noticeable.
But is 5G really that much faster than 4G?
In short: Yes. Speeds will be significantly faster. Currently, 4G LTE transfer speeds top out at about one gigabit per second. That means it takes about an hour to download a short HD movie in perfect conditions. The problem is, people rarely experience 4G’s maximum download speed speed because the signal can be disrupted by so many different things: buildings, microwaves, other wifi signals. The list goes on and on.
5G will increase download speeds up to 10 gigabits per second. That means a full HD movie can be downloaded in a matter of seconds. It will also reduce latency significantly (giving people faster load times). In short, it will give wireless broadband the capacity it needs to power thousands of connected devices that will reach our homes and workplaces.
How does it work?
There are already huge consortiums of major global telecoms working to create worldwide standards around 5G. Although most of those standards haven’t been solidified, experts expect it to be backwards compatible (with 4G and 3G) in addition to having some interoperability across the world.
In their most basic form, cell phones are basically two-way radios. When you call someone, your phone converts your voice into an electrical signal. It transmits that electrical signal to the nearest cell tower using radio wave. The cell tower bounces the radio wave through a network of cell towers and eventually to your friend’s phone. The same thing is happening when you send other forms of data (like photos and video) across the network.
Typically when a new mobile wireless technology comes along (like 5G), it’s assigned a higher radio frequency. For instance, 4G occupied the frequency bands up to 20 MHz. In the case of 5G, it will likely sit on the frequency band up to 6GHz. The reason new wireless technologies occupy higher frequencies is because they typically aren’t in use and move information at a much faster speed. The problem is that higher frequency signals don’t travel as far as lower frequencies, so multiple input and output antennas (MIMOs) will probably be used to boost signals anywhere 5G is offered.
When will 5G be available?
It’s already available in some test locations around the United States. This week at Mobile World Congress, Verizon announced that it’s begun limited trials of 5G in Texas, Oregon, and New Jersey. Not to be left out, AT&T announced that it will begin testing 5G technology in its own labs before hosting fixed trials.
Although both Verizon and AT&T, the nation’s two biggest internet service providers, are already testing 5G, don’t expect to see it anytime soon. Most experts predict that 5G won’t be widely available until 2020.
But it will be well worth the wait. If there’s anything that everyone can agree on, it’s that speedy internet is a necessity in this day and age. And the importance of a quick connection is only going to increase. If we’re going to realize a vision of the future with billions of connected devices, then blazing fast internet is going to become a basic necessity—and 5G will help us get there.