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5G is finally here – This is what you need to know

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

The 5th generation of mobile networks, 5G is the evolution of the 4G networks of today. It has been created to meet and surpass the massive growth of data and connectivity of IoT, changing today’s reality and paving the way for tomorrow.



Fifth-generation wireless (5G) is the latest iteration of cellular technology, engineered to greatly increase the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks. With 5G, data transmitted over wireless broadband connections can travel at multigigabite speeds, with potential peak speeds as high as 20 gigabits per second (Gbps) by some estimates. These speeds exceed wireline network speeds and offer latency of 1 millisecond (ms) or lower, which is useful for applications that require real-time feedback. 5G will enable a sharp increase in the amount of data transmitted over wireless systems due to more available bandwidth and advanced antenna technology.

5G networks and services will be deployed in stages over the next several years to accommodate the increasing reliance on mobile and internet-enabled devices. Overall, 5G is expected to generate a variety of new applications, uses and business cases as the technology is rolled out.


How does 5G work?

Wireless networks are composed of cell sites divided into sectors that send data through radio waves. Fourth-generation (4G) Long-Term Evolution (LTE) wireless technology hi provides the foundation for 5G. Unlike 4G, which requires large, high-power cell towers to radiate signals over longer distances, 5G wireless signals are transmitted through large numbers of small cell stations located in places like light poles or building roofs. The use of multiple small cells is necessary because the millimeter wave (MM wave) spectrum-- the band of spectrum between 30 and 300 gigahertz (Ghz) that 5G relies on to generate high speeds -- can only travel over short distances and is subject to interference from weather and physical obstacles, like buildings or trees.


Previous generations of wireless technology have used lower-frequency bands of spectrum. To offset the challenges relating to distance and interference with MM waves, the wireless industry is also considering the use of a lower-frequency spectrum for 5G networks so network operators could use spectrum they already own to build out their new networks. Lower-frequency spectrum reaches greater distances but has lower speed and capacity than MM wave


5G WIRELESS FEATURES


The lower frequency wireless spectrum is made up of low- and midband frequencies. Low-band frequencies operate at around 600 to 700 megahertz (MHz), while midband frequencies operate at around 2.5 to 3.5 GHz. This is compared to high-band MM wave signals, which operate at approximately 24 to 39 GHz.

MM wave signals can be easily blocked by objects such as trees, walls and buildings -- meaning that, much of the time, MM waves can only cover about a city block within direct line of sight of a cell site or node. Different approaches have been tackled regarding how to get around this issue. A brute-force approach involves using multiple nodes around each block of a populated area so that a 5G-enabled device can use an Air interface -- switching from node to node while maintaining MM wave speeds.

Another approach -- the more feasible one -- for creating a national 5G network is to use a combination of high-, medium- and low-band frequencies. MM wave may be used in densely populated areas, while low- and midband nodes may be used in less dense areas. The low-band frequencies can travel longer and through different objects. One low-band 5G node can stay connected to a 5G-enabled device for up to hundreds of square miles. This means that an implementation of all three bands will give blanketed coverage while providing the fastest speeds in the most highly trafficked areas.


How fast is 5G?

5G download speeds can currently reach upwards of 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps) or even up to 2.1 Gbps. To visualize this, a user could start a YouTube video in 1080p quality on a 5G device without it buffering. Downloading an app or an episode of a Netflix show, which may currently take up to a few minutes, can be completed in just a few seconds. Wirelessly streaming video in 4K also becomes much more viable. If on MM wave, these examples would currently need to be within an unobstructed city block away from a 5G node; if not, the download speed would drop back down to 4G.


5G TECHNOLOGY WILL CREATE MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES LIKE MACHINE LEARNING AND BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY. WITH 5G, THE FUTURE IS NOW HERE.
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