What Is 5G? All You Need to Know About It
Updated · May 10, 2022
I think you’ll agree with me when I say:
However, now it must give way.
Something better's coming to town — and it goes by the name of 5G.
What is 5G exactly?
Well, it is the fifth-generation cellular technology. And it beats 4G hands down on the three most important parameters — speed, latency, and reliability.
5G can open up a whole new world of possibilities — like smart cities, more efficient autonomous cars, better home automation, flawless 4K live streaming, and much more.
Now you might be wondering:
Gee, that sounds exciting! So when is 5G coming?
Well, the thing is:
5G Is Already Out!
According to 5G statistics, there were already 63.6 million 5G connections in the world in Q1 2020.
Here's how this happened:
April 11, 2019, was Verizon’s 5G release date in two cities — Chicago and Minneapolis. As of now, you can enjoy Verizon 5G with Motorola Z3 with the 5G Moto Mad and Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G.
By the end of this year, Verizon plans to spread its 5G network to 19 other cities, including Atlanta, Dallas, and Washington, DC.
Sprint followed up by launching its 5G network in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and Kansas City on May 30. You will need LG’s new V50 ThinQ to enjoy Sprint’s 5G.
Another global provider, AT&T has turned on its 5G network in several cities across the US. However, the company is currently not offering any 5G phones. The only way you can enjoy its 5G is by using a 5G Netgear Nighthawk mobile hotspot.
Hmmm, that’s great, but what about the rest of the world?
Other countries where 5G has been released include Switzerland, the UK, China, and South Korea.
Swisscom became the first European carrier to offer 5G. It flagged off the launch at an April 10 ceremony in Zurich.
Next, UK consumers got their first taste of 5G on May 30, 2019, with EE’s 5G launch in six cities across the country.
In China, Shanghai became the first city to get 5G, all thanks to state-run telecom carrier China Mobile.
Interestingly, South Korean carriers, including KT Corp and SK Telecom, flipped the 5G switch on the same day as Verizon — April 11, 2019.
Why Do We Need 5G?
When 4G came on the scene, everyone was excited — and understandably so.
It recorded a speed of around 1 GB in test environments, which is quite fast indeed.
Sadly, we never got those speeds.
If you’re getting even half the max speed, consider yourself lucky.
The average 4G download speed during the fastest hour in the top 4G countries — like South Korea and Switzerland — hovers around a measly 55Mbps. (That’s 20 times less than the promised speed!)
This begs the question:
Why are we not getting the best of 4G?
Part of the reason is congestion.
Millions upon millions of devices use the 4G band (2-6GHz) — and thousands are added every day. An extremely high number of devices per meter means less speed.
What’s the solution, then?
Expanding the spectrum can help solve the issue — and this is exactly what 5G can do.
It uses so far unused radio millimeter bands in the range of 30GHz to 300GHz.
What’s more, 5G frequency can handle up to 10 times more simultaneous connections than 4G — making it a great option for crowded cities.
And the best part is:
5G internet speed will be around 10Gbps — that’s almost 2,000 times the best average 4G speed in the fastest 4G countries! To put this into perspective, with 5G you’ll be able to download a full HD movie in just a few seconds.
But that’s not all.
5G has one more ace up its sleeve:
It reduces latency significantly.
Latency measures the amount of time it takes for a data packet to get from one point to another. Naturally then, the lower the latency, the better the overall connectivity will be. The implications are aplenty and we discuss them fin greater detail further down.
Current 4G networks have a latency of up to 50 milliseconds on an average connection, meaning the data isn’t transmitted in real-time. In contrast, on 5G the response time could drop to just 1 millisecond — a delay so small that human beings can’t even perceive it.
In other words, you’ll be able to watch a 4K video almost right away!
How Does 5G Work?
5G uses millimeter waves, which can transmit heaps of data at very high speeds.
However, these waves have two drawbacks:
Firstly, they can cover only short distances.
Secondly, they can’t penetrate through buildings and trees.
That said, the good news is telecom companies can easily tackle this problem by using multiple smaller cells.
The keywords here are multiple and smaller.
The height of the antenna a particular band requires depends on its wavelength — and the formula for calculating this is:
Height of antenna = (1/4) X wavelength
Millimeter waves have a very short wavelength, so 5G requires much smaller base stations than 4G. Also, since these waves travel only a short distance, we need multiple cells to transfer the signal over long distances.
This also means 5G will mainly be an urban service meant for densely populated areas — at least to start with.
The cost per connection in rural areas is many times higher than in big cities. In fact, according to a report, companies may have to spend as much as $4,000-$6,000 to build fiber to each door!
7 Ways 5G Will Change Our Lives
5G offers much more than just speed. It will transform the way we live, work, receive healthcare, and seek entertainment.
Here are 7 big changes that 5G will bring over the course of the next few years.
1. Autonomous Cars
Even though autonomous test cars have been on the road for some time now, concerns about their safety remain pretty strong — and perhaps rightly so.
According to a report, driverless cars crash more often than conventional vehicles.
Given such findings, it’s no surprise many people ask:
Will such cars ever be road-ready?
Well, the answer is yes.
However, this will only happen when 5G networks become the norm.
4G is good enough to book a ride — but it lacks the capabilities that can lend cars the human-like reflexes to ensure improved safety.
This begs the question:
What does 5G have that 4G doesn’t?
The answer is low latency.
In the case of a self-driving car, latency denotes the amount of time the vehicle takes to inform a cloud-based server about any danger after recognizing it. If the data doesn’t get transmitted in real-time, the reaction times will be higher — which means a greater risk of accidents.
This is where 5G comes to the fore. With a latency of a mere one second, it can help driverless cars take right decisions speedily.
2. Internet of Things
Internet of things (IoT) connects devices over the internet to facilitate a machine to machine interaction or a human to machine interaction.
For this concept to work seamlessly, we require, among other things, a network that has the following three qualities:
- Super-fast speeds
- Low latency
- An ability to connect a large number of devices simultaneously without affecting performance
5G ticks all these boxes.
It is 10 times faster than 4G, has a latency of just 1ms, and can support up to one million devices per two square kilometers.
In short, 5G can help us to do things that we thought were impossible. It will help us build truly connected homes, make smart roads, and create smart cities.
3. VR and AR
VR involves blocking the outside environment completely and transporting the user into a fully simulated reality.
Immersion is key to the VR experience — and a slow and unreliable connection can play spoilsport. This is where 5G — with its considerably faster speeds, better consistency, and lower latency — will prove to be a game-changer.
AR, in contrast to VR, involves overlaying digital elements into our daily environments. Think Pokemon Go — a highly-popular game in which tiny monsters appear in real-world locations, like your local park. Just like VR technology, AR needs faster networks with better consistency and lower latency.
In short, it needs 5G.
This latest cellular network technology can help further blur the lines between real and artificial experience — and enhance the user experience. For instance, rather than only appearing, Pokemon might soon move and interact with the player’s real-world environment in real-time.
4. Remote Surgery
5g wireless networks will not only reduce latency but also improve image quality and definition. These factors can revolutionize the medical field by allowing doctors to take important decisions — even guide an operation — from far away.
Think all this is only wishful thinking?
It has already happened.
In March 2019, Chinese doctors performed the first-ever 5G remote surgery on a patient located 3,000 km away.
5. Live Streaming on Mobile
4G ushered in the era of live streaming mobile videos, but it has certain annoying limitations.
For instance, at times it struggles to deliver seamless high-resolution videos on the go. This can be a huge bummer in the case of live broadcasts.
Imagine you’re watching the Super Bowl on your mobile and the live streaming freezes at the most defining moment of the game!
So what’s the solution?
With multi-gigabit speeds with extremely low latency, it can take live broadcasts to a whole new level.
Surprised? Don’t be.
5G has already been tested — and it passed with flying colors. Last year, Fox Sports successfully leveraged the 5G technology to broadcast 4K videos of the 2018 US Open.
6. Artificial Intelligence
5G will improve context awareness in AI-enabled devices, making them smarter and more useful.
Thanks to higher 5G bandwidth and ultra-low latency, voice assistants will be able to access information more quickly and reliably.
Specifically, voice-enabled devices will use more on-device intelligence and reduce their dependency on cloud computing.
Also, voice assistants powered by 5G will be able to rectify their mistakes quickly and complete tasks with greater efficiency.
7. Cloud Gaming on the Go
Whatever kind of gaming gear you use at home, once you step out, you can only play smartphone games.
However, the thing is:
Smartphone games aren’t even half as much fun as console-based games. That said, all is not lost. Once 5G becomes mainstream, you’ll be able to get console-like performance on your mobile.
Sure, 5G is speedy and more reliable — but does it also raise the stakes on security and privacy?
Let’s find out.
Risk of Unauthorized Access
As 5G becomes popular, more and more IoT devices will come into existence.
From an innovation standpoint, this is all good.
However, from a cybersecurity standpoint, a larger number of connected devices means hackers will have more avenues to attack.
So what’s the way out?
One effective way to combat this risk is by using stronger methods of authentication, like biometric identification.
Risk of Data Theft
5G will create new use cases and boost current ones like autonomous driving, remote patient monitoring, and remote surgery.
However, all these advancements will demand stronger security because greater amounts of sensitive data will get transmitted over the cellular network.
This is where end-to-end data protection can prove useful by ensuring sensitive data remains out of the reach of cybercriminals.
Risk of DDoS Attacks
As I said earlier, 5G will boost IoT networks.
However, the problem with IoT networks is they typically have limited security mechanisms in place. This makes them an easy target for hackers, who often use IoT devices to launch DDoS attacks.
A DDoS is a type of cyber attack in which cybercriminals bring down a site or network by bombarding it with requests sent from multiple compromised systems.
As a matter of fact, IoT devices are already causing an increase in such attacks.
For instance, unsecured IoT devices led to a 91% increase in DDoS attacks in 2017.
So what’s the way forward?
One way of mitigating the risk is by using Blockchain technology to secure IoT networks. It will ensure each participant is authorized and authenticated and accountable for their actions.
5G is coming — and it will shake up more than a few things. It has already been released in certain countries. In 2020, most major countries had 5G.
Thanks to its remarkably better speed, bandwidth, and latency, 5G will take connectivity to a whole new level.
Internet of Things, Autonomous Cars, Augmented and Virtual Reality, and Remote surgeries will all soon become mainstream.
Many other possibilities will also open up.
In short, 5G will literally transform the way we live, work, and socialize.
And with that, we’ve come to the end of our exploration of what is 5G. See you next time.
What is 5G network?
Will 5G work on 4G phones?
What is 5g wifi?
How fast is 5G LTE?
What does 5G mean?
Is 5G a thing yet?
Does 5G matter?
Bobby Chernev, editor at TechJury.net. A historian and political scientist by training, he is passionate about quality research and writing in different fields. He's also a general sports fan, a devotee of cask ale, and an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction.
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