Excitement about 5G, the fifth generation of mobile network technology, has been building steadily. The long process of rolling out 5G networks is already underway and we should see some limited availability this year.
Nobody can escape the 5G hype. Everyone from Samsung, Intel to cellular carriers and smartphone companies wants you to know how amazing 5G will be. Samsung called it “wireless fiber”, promising super-fast potential internet everywhere. 5G is supposed to be faster than a typical home cable internet connection today.
5G networks are the next ‘fifth generation’ of mobile internet connectivity, offering fast speed and more reliable connection on smartphones and on other devices. Combining cutting-edge network technology and the very latest research, 5G offers a connection that is multitudes faster than current connections, with average download speeds of around 1GBps expected soon to be the norm.
The network will help power a huge rise in Internet of Things (IoT) technology, providing the infrastructure needed to carry a huge amount of data allowing for a smarter and more connected world.
Tech companies are promising a lot from 5G. While 4G scores out at a theoretical 100 megabits per second (Mbps), 5G tops out at 10 gigabits per second (Gbps). Which means, 5G is a hundred times faster than the current 4G technology at its theoretical maximum speed.
5G promises to significantly reduce latency, which means fast loading and improved responsiveness when doing anything on the internet. Specifically, the specification promises a maximum latency of 4ms on 5G versus 20ms on 4G LTE today.
Presenters wanted people to think of 5G as enabling super-fast and practically unlimited internet everywhere in all devices. In the real world, internet service providers impose data. For example, even if your wireless carrier gave you a 100 GB data cap which is much larger than most plans today you can blow through that in a minute and 20 seconds at the maximum theoretical speed of 10 Gbps. It’s unclear what caps carriers will ultimately impose and how much that will affect usage.
The new 5G standard will use a whole new band of radio spectrum from 4G. It will take advantage of ‘millimeter waves’, broadcast at frequencies between 30 and 300 GHz versus the bands below 6 GHz that were used in the past. These were previously only used for communication between satellites and radar systems. But millimeter waves can’t easily travel through buildings or other solid objects, so 5G will also take advantage of ‘small cells’ which are basically smaller miniature based stations that can be placed about every 250 meters throughout dense urban areas like the network towers. These would provide much better coverage in many different locations.
5G base stations will also run at full duplex, which means they can transmit and receive at the same time, on the same frequency. Today, they have to switch between transmitting and listening modes, slowing things down. That’s just a snapshot of some of the technology being incorporated to make 5G so fast.
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