5G is the fifth-generation mobile network designed to deliver reliable connectivity to mobile users and connected devices over high-band spectrum at speeds between 10 and 20 Gbps. 5G speeds are exponentially faster than 4G speeds and fixed-line broadband.
5G networks are 3GPP-based cellular systems and an evolution from 4G. Uniquely, 5G can operate across low-, mid-, and high-band spectrums. Earlier generations used low-band spectrum only.
Individual carriers, like Verizon, Vodafone, and KDDI, are currently building their 5G networks. Many carriers have acquired more than one band of spectrum (i.e. low-band, and high-band) for better coverage with high-speed capabilities.
In theory, 5G delivers an average speed of 10 Gbps, which is more than 100 times faster than current 4G technology. Actual average 5G download speeds are currently being measured between 1.4 and 14 times faster than 4G.
We can expect increased speeds as carriers advance their 5G network buildout. Initial 5G service runs on 5G non-standalone (NSA), which rides on the existing 4G network, limiting speeds. 5G standalone (SA) is expected to attain the targeted speeds, as the rest of the network build (transport, core, for example) is completed. Available speeds will also depend on the band used for connecting.
Commercial 5G networks have been deployed in 61 countries worldwide, representing an 80 percent increase since January 2020. Countries with faster 5G speeds for downloads than the United States currently include Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan, Canada, Kuwait, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. 5G speeds are generally faster in countries like Saudi Arabia and South Korea because of the wider use of midband spectrum by their 5G carriers.
5G download speed is the rate at which data is transmitted from the network to a device. These files may include music, videos, and email. 5G has the potential for download speeds between 10 and 20 Gbps, or 100 times faster than 4G.
5G upload speed is the rate at which data is transmitted from your device up to the network and your targeted endpoint (cloud storage, for example, or another device). Upload speeds are generally much slower than download speeds. However, 5G upload speeds can be up to 30 percent faster than 4G.
mmWave is high-band spectrum, and it represents a largely unused portion of the radio frequency spectrum. Also known as millimeter wave or millimeter band, mmWave has wavelengths between 24 GHz and 100 GHz.
Millimeter wave bands offer the fastest data rates, but their coverage distance is limited. Buildings, trees, and other large objects can also block these bands. mmWave technology can be deployed along with lower-band radio to provide a balanced service of speed and coverage.
It's expected that mmWave will help support massive Internet of Things (IoT) applications in the future.
5G is capable of ultra-low latency rates that are less than 10 milliseconds, which means 5G latency is lower than 4G latency by a factor of 60 to 120.
Most practical low-latency capabilities require a geo-distributed network architecture that positions 5G core functions and services closer to end users. This is accomplished through a distributed, cloud-native 5G core and edge computing.
In some countries where 5G is available, 5G speeds for downloads are faster than those offered by Wi-Fi. That's because 5G operates on spectrum licensed to individual carriers and carries a relatively strong signal. Wi-Fi operates on unlicensed spectrum that is free for all, but it has a relatively weak signal and uses shared spectrum.
Because of its faster speeds and low latency, 5G also has a greater capacity to support real-time applications such as virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, and most IoT-connected devices.
5G networks can reduce congestion on mobile networks due to their faster speeds and lower latency. This improvement is reflected in technology improvements across the entire network (for example, IP/Optical transport, edge, core, automation). Also, a 5G radio can support more end devices than a 4G radio.
For locations that are not wired for broadband internet or covered by Wi-Fi, such as rural areas, 5G offers a solution for connecting to high-quality and high-speed internet service.
5G uses less physical infrastructure than other mobile networks; coverage can quickly be brought to any location by plugging in a 5G router. However, a carrier's ability to expand mobile coverage in any area using 5G will depend on how it deploys the technology.
5G can provide the bandwidth, low latency, and even power management to assist IoT devices to perform better and longer. Also, carriers will be able to offer private networks and/or a similar service through network slicing. Both private networks and network slicing can allow businesses to get different levels of connectivity from their service provider to accommodate multiple use cases for the IoT.
Examples of services enabled through a network slice include:
Companies wanting to take full advantage of 5G speeds and other benefits will need industrial IoT networking devices capable of evolving to the 5G connectivity spectrum to cover diverse use cases. An example of such a device is a modular, industrial router that can support both cellular and low-power connectivity and extend secure, reliable enterprise networking from the factory floor to remote outdoor sites.
Scale will be another challenge for companies to address with 5G and the IoT. Managing thousands or even millions of connected devices will require automation tools for zero-touch deployment, and centralized control to simplify network management.
5G speeds and other benefits, like low latency, make 5G technology well suited to support IoT-connected devices and applications. Here are just two examples of potential IoT use cases for 5G:
Technology tools like wearables have become important aspects of high-quality medical care, and 5G is likely to play an ever-increasing role in optimizing the performance of these devices and others. Investing in 5G can help healthcare teams work more efficiently and optimize operations for better information sharing.
Today's cities have thousands of cameras deployed using fiber and 4G LTE connections, and 5G will only enhance their capabilities. The low latency of 5G has implications for video-as-a-sensor technology, which can be used for crowd monitoring, asset utilization, parking space monitoring, traffic analysis, and pedestrian safety.
Also, how first responders use video can be improved with 5G speeds. With 5G, video can turn into a real-time tactical feed, enabling someone at a central location to coordinate with officers in real time, improving situational awareness for everyone. Drones can also share that information when launched from a tactical vehicle.
5G speeds and other benefits of 5G technology can't be fully utilized to deliver new services and support IoT use cases like those described above without the support of a service-centric network.
A service-centric network provides the flexibility and control to build differentiated services, rapidly deliver them to customers, and manage them end to end across both wireless and wireline domains. The key steps to evolving toward this type of network are:
Next-generation services will take advantage of the improved bandwidth and density of 5G technology and, of course, ultra-fast 5G speeds. These services are enabled by the ability to create custom virtual networks tuned to the needs of the services running across them.
With a service-centric network, organizations can tailor traffic handling end to end on a per-flow basis and deliver many types of differentiated services over the same infrastructure. And they can do it efficiently through end-to-end automation.