5G, or Fifth-Generation Cellular Wireless, is the next major wireless internet upgrade. Offering greater speed, reach, and responsiveness, 5G is nothing short of a technological revolution. While this all sounds exciting, there are several questions I have regarding this new technology, such as; what exactly is it, what are the benefits, when will it be introduced, and most importantly, what can we do with it?
First, for a little background, the ‘G’ in 5G indicates the generation of wireless technology. Most generations are defined by their data transmission speeds; however, each generation is also created per a break in encoding methods (thus making the current generation incompatible with the previous). Here is a short breakdown of past generations of wireless technology.
1G- Analog cellular
2G- 1st Gen of digital cellular (GSM, CDMA, TDMA)
3G- Boosted speeds from 200kpbs to multiple megabits per second (HSPA, UMTS, EVDO)
4G- Boosted speeds to hundreds of megabits to even gigabit-levels (LTE, WiMAX)
What exactly is 5G?
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s begin with my first question; what exactly is 5G? Similar to previous generations, 5G networks will utilize a system of cell sites that separate territories into sectors and transmit encoded data via radio waves. 5G will implement OFDM encoding which is comparable to the encryption that 4G LTE uses, however, will be designed for lower latencies and optimal flexibility. By using advanced antennas and broader bandwidths, 5G’s capacity will be boosted by 4X more than with current systems.
What are the benefits?
With each new generation of wireless technology, networks become more reliable and faster. 5G is not making baby steps into the future, but instead drastic leaps. 4G held our hands in the smartphone era, providing us with the Internet capabilities needed to, for example, stream high-def video on our phones. 5G, on the other hand, has much more to offer.
Data transfer speeds are projected to be 10X higher than 4G. What does this mean for the not so tech-savvy individual? Take downloading a high-def movie for example. With 4G, it might take around 10 minutes, however, with 5G, that large file would take less than a second (crazy, I know).
Delays, also called lag, are often not noticeable by many, however, do in fact exist. The short lag in time from when data is sent to when it is actually received is also often called latency. For gamers, we all know lag well. That split of a second time between seeing an enemy and responding is everything. With 5G, even high-speed VR video can be used without glitches or delay, opening up a world of possibilities.
The IoT (Internet of Things), defined as the growing number of internet-connected devices in the world, needs to have an advanced and capable wireless technology to connect them all. Cellular towers enabled with 5G technology will be able to connect more devices/people than with 4G, thus making this massive world seem smaller by allowing us to talk with each other and our beloved gadgets.
When will it be introduced?
All major cellular companies and internet providers have been frantically attempting to be the fastest to offer 5G to their customers. AT&T has indicated that it will be the first company to provide mobile 5G in 19 cities this year; Atlanta, Dallas, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, and Charlotte are just a few of these locations. AT&T will be starting with a single 5G device, a mobile internet hotspot. AT&T will begin launching 5G-enabled smartphones next year, using 38GHz for the initial launch.
Verizon has seemed to have won the race for 5G home internet, as it is now available in certain areas. The company’s mobile 5G network will be introduced in 2019, with its first 5G-possible phone becoming the Moto Z3. Verizon will be primarily using 28GHz.
Starting in 2019, T-Mobile will be building a 5G network nationwide on 600MHz and 28GHz bands; they are predicting full national coverage by 2020. Due to the company’s low-band network, 5G will be but a small increase to 4G than with other companies, however, will still be quite the upgrade.
What can we do with it?
Finally, the most critical question, what will 5G enable us to do? With the significant increase in speed, responsiveness, and reach, the full capabilities of technologies such as drones, self-driving cars, VR, and the Internet itself will be unleashed. By eliminating lag, things such as VR remote surgeries can be accomplished; having even a brief second of lag during a VR operation performed by a doctor remotely can be quite devastating.
Furthermore, with VR, senses and sounds can be sent instantly, enabling real-time feelings; to ultimately get the full VR experience, actions and reactions need to happen as fast as they do in real life. 5G will also increase the connectivity and reliability of networks. For business, signing an SLA (Service-Level Agreement) that guarantees 100% internet connectivity can and will be the norm. 5G will make large video files, downloadable instantly. Streaming can be done without lag, and even video games will have the power that previous generations only dreamed of.
While 5G still has some time to go before it is available for all, I for one am exhilarated by the possibilities of the technology.
Moore, Mike. Tech Radar. “What is 5G? Everything you need to know”. 26 Oct 2018. Retrieved from https://www.techradar.com/news/what-is-5g-everything-you-need-to-know.
Segan, Sascha. PC Mag. “What is 5G?”. 2 Oct 2018. Retrieved from https://www.pcmag.com/article/345387/what-is-5g.