The term “5G” frequently appears in the news as many communications companies have started setting it up in major cities. What is 5G, and what makes it so controversial? 5G is the latest generation of cellular network technology. Essentially, a higher number next to the G means the user will be able to do anything they’d typically do with a cell signal — phone calls, surfing the web, streaming videos — only faster.
5G is an investment for the next decade, and in previous mobile transitions, we've seen most of the big changes happening years after the first announcement. The first 4G phones in the US appeared in 2010, but the 4G applications that changed our world didn't appear until later.
Snapchat came in 2012, and Uber became widespread in 2013. Video calls over LTE networks also became big in the US around 2013. Because the 5G transition is so complicated, and because we've been having a pandemic for two years, this time the shift may take even longer. Scientists in Finland who helped develop 5G technology say that it may be 2027 before we see the robotics, smart objects, and augmented reality proposed
As 5G continues to replace 4G networks, it's crucial to know the 5G pros and cons if you're considering implementing the network in your business.
5G networks use a system of cell sites that divide their territory into sectors and send encoded data through radio waves. Each cell site must be connected to a network backbone, whether through a wired or wireless backhaul connection. 5G changes the way data is encoded and offers many more options to carriers in terms of airwaves to use.
5G networks use a type of encoding called OFDM, which is similar to the encoding that 4G LTE uses. The new system opens up "high-band," short-range airwaves that didn't work with 4G technology but 5G can run on any frequency, leading to three very different kinds of 5G experiences—low, middle, and high.
All wireless communications carry information through the air via radio frequencies or spectrums. 5G is no different, though it operates on higher radio frequencies called millimeter waves. The millimeter waves are less muddled with other wireless communication signals, enabling 5G networks to transmit data significantly faster.
5G will also use multiple antennae and smaller transmitters on buildings and various street features, like park benches, to increase capacity and signals. Doing so will allow the network to support more devices than 4G.
5G even has a feature called network slicing, which allows users to create subnetworks to specialize the connection for specific tasks. Network slicing reduces the risk of overloading a network so users can benefit from the high speeds. For example, a hospital may slice its 5G network by departments or floors to further maximize its capabilities.
Every few years, a new generation of cellular networks becomes available, bringing with it a slew of improvements to the speed at which we communicate. Unfortunately, there are also some growing pains as cell carriers and network distributors adapt to the new technology. As with previous generations of cellular networks and technology, there are advantages and disadvantages to the 5G network.
One of the most significant advantages of 5G network technology is blazing-fast speed. According to one study, 5G will save users about 23 hours every month in social media, gaming, music and movie downloads and streaming. This speed is possible because the increased bandwidth allows more network dedication to each smart device.
Latency is the interval between the moment when a device sends data to a receiver and the moment when the receiver can use the information. For example, you can measure the delay between a user clicking a link and the site loading in latency. 5G latency will be significantly less than that of 4G, allowing users to connect to each other and the internet in real-time.
A wireless network's bandwidth is essentially its user capacity. 5G networks can support and connect a significantly higher number of devices at once. This space for more devices also allows the network to provide faster speeds.
Higher speeds and increased bandwidth will likely open new technological doors for many industries. 5G is ideal for connecting smart devices beyond phones, like drones, AI technology and improved sensors in machinery. For example, driverless cars can become a reality, and storage clouds can become more powerful for securely storing sensitive data like medical records.
Of course, there's no such thing as the perfect technology.
As companies roll out 5G, it will not immediately be available everywhere. Big cities will see it first, if they haven't already, and rural areas may have to wait several years for full coverage. New technologies also will likely experience hiccups, which could further limit the coverage.
Unfortunately, trees and tall buildings obstruct the high-frequency radio waves that carry 5G connection, thus decreasing the network's broadcast distance. Ultimately, this means more cellular towers will be necessary to achieve the extensive coverage we expect with 5G networks. It's possible to place small transmitters on buildings to increase coverage, though this could take a while to implement.
As with any emerging technology, 5G networks will face new cybersecurity risks. The software used to manage the network might be more vulnerable to hackers. Additionally, with more devices connected, there are more opportunities for cybercriminals to attack.
It will likely take several years to achieve effective 5G coverage across all urban and rural areas. While the possibility of putting smaller transmitters on buildings and other city spaces could provide coverage for cities sooner, the relative lack of tall buildings in rural areas means it will take significantly longer for their residents to receive coverage. To compensate, companies must construct new cell towers to reach all rural areas of the world.
The most notable distinction between these two generations of cellular networks has to do with speed and capacity. While 4G was innovative when it launched in 2010, technology continues to advance and requires more efficiency, giving 5G advantages over 4G. 5G networks' speed and bandwidth capabilities set it apart from 4G. For example, while 4G connections have a standard latency of around 20 to 30 milliseconds, 5G networks can reach below 10 milliseconds of latency.
5G has the potential to be 100 times faster than 4G, with a top theoretical speed of around 20 Gbps and current, real-world speeds from 50 Mbps to 3 Gbps. The so-called low-band 5G is somewhat faster than 4G with a performance of around 50-250 Mbps. The fastest version of 5G, called high-band 5G, is the version that reaches 3 Gbps.
Additionally, there is a difference between 4G and 5G network architecture. 4G networks rely on large cell towers to provide coverage for users. 5G networks aim to use smaller, widely dispersed cell transmitters to provide a reliable connection to more users. While 5G will try to make up for the areas where 4G was lacking, it will likely take some time to work out all the kinks.
Our fiber department splices cables that are currently used in 4G networks.
Someday, they'll be splicing fibers to be used in 5G connections.
5G is already beginning to impact technology in some industries and applications like smart homes. As the 5G network evolves, it will play a critical role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Though these possibilities are still at least four or five years away, 5G will allow for effective augmented and virtual reality in the medical industry, smart factories and eventually smart cities and agriculture.
5G technology could help production operations in the manufacturing industry become more flexible and efficient while enhancing safety. This would enable manufacturers to build “smart factories” that rely on automation, augmented reality, and IoT. With 5G powering large amounts of IoT devices and sensors around the factory, artificial intelligence can be integrated more deeply with operations.
Overall, 5G's impact on society could provide value to citizens' well-being, enhanced infrastructure, innovation and sustainable manufacturing. While it could take several years to fully implement, and will almost surely have some downfalls, 5G will continue to impact future technology and technological innovation for years to come.
Like 3G and 4G before it, 5G will soon come to shape the way we interact with each other.
As you build a 5G network within your community, office or business, ensure you're getting quality products when you choose Multilink. A reliable network requires effective equipment. As a leader in the telecommunications industry, we have the products and expertise to get you started. From adapter panels to fiber assemblies, our specialists can help you find what you need or create a custom build for your unique situation. Contact us today to find out how we can help implement 5G in your company.Back to Multilog