5G technology & the future
5G is the latest generation of mobile networks and it’s a huge step up from what we had available before. The jump from 3G to 4G networks was pretty huge, 4G to 5G is many times greater and is almost difficult to comprehend.
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What is 5G?
5G is an entirely new kind of network designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together, be it smart devices, vehicles, even industrial machinery. 5G will coexist with existing 4G networks until coverage is expanded significantly, but it would eventually evolve into a stand alone network that operates independently.
The appeal of 5G mostly boils down to speed and insanely fast response times referred to as latency. Latency is the time it takes for devices to respond to each other over any wireless network. 3G networks have response time of around 100 milliseconds. 4G hovers around 30 milliseconds – while 5G networks predict latency figures as low as one millisecond- which is quicker than human visual processing. This virtually instantaneous communication will open up a new world of possibilities for anything with an established network connection. Gamers will also benefit greatly from the 5G broadband. The combination of high-speed connections and minimal lag is the perfect recipe for virtual reality and augmented reality applications.
How does 5G work?
5G signals operate over previously untouched radio frequencies. Part of the network operates in a band known as sub six which is the spectrum between 600 megahertz and 6 gigahertz (GHz) which is a spectrum that 4G LTE also shares. However only 5G can go above and beyond these frequencies into higher bandwidths which is what makes it so much better. 5G can and will utilise a higher band of radio frequencies from 24 GHz to as high as 86 GHz . Resulting in far higher data rates and performance but with the trade-off of reduced range. These new 5G radio waves can carry way more data to and from devices, they just cannot carry the increase load quite as far. This means that providers must install many small cellular towers near each other to deliver the network. These towers hold cell sites that are about the same size as a pizza box. They can be easily fixed at building roofs or light bulbs, but each one must be physically installed which is why the roll out of white bread 5G is going to take quite some time. When these cell sites are in place, they will be able to beam signals to specific locations where they are needed most. This is far better than how conventional radio towers deliver signal which is distributed anywhere and everywhere regardless of site-specific demand.
5G operates on three different spectrum bands between 600 megahertz and 86 GHz while these numbers might just sound like useless statistics they’ll end up having a noticeable effect on your everyday use especially in the early days of 5G. The three spectrum bands that your 5G network will operate on are:
- Low band network which is the most common band used by carriers in the US for 4G LTE. Low band spectrum offers the widest coverage and best wall penetration but it doesn’t offer any great shakes in the speed department. 5G running on the low band network will only run around 20% faster than current 4G with peak data speeds topping out at around 100 megabytes per second.
- High band spectrum which offers the highest performance for 5G. High band spectrum could offer peak speeds of up to 10 Gigabyte per second and has almost non existent latency, but its coverage area is narrow and penetration is poor. In order to utilise this network to its full potential users will have to access plenty of cells that are all relatively close by.
- Mid band spectrum which offers a balance of both speed and coverage. Mid band provides faster speeds and lower latency than low bound with peak speeds of up to 1GB per second. On paper this doesn’t compete with high bad in terms of power, but in real world use and for most applications it will be more than enough. The coverage and penetration of mid band will also make it a very reliable and consistent connection.
It’s all about speed
As I’m sure you’ve already grasped the most prominent advantage of 5G over previous networks is the speed. The predicted 5G speeds of up to 10 GB per second mean a 100 times increase in performance compared to existing 4G networks. Users of high band 5G will be able to do things like download movies in under 10 seconds as opposed to several minutes, and seamlessly watch 8K HD streams whilst out and about. Examples such as these are great for visualising the power of 5G, but it’s important to remember that the speed help to unlock the full capabilities of other emerging technologies. This includes self-driving cars, drones, virtual reality, augmented reality and of course the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things – also known as massive machine to machine communications is the collective connection of billions of devices without any human intervention. This widespread connectivity has the potential to revolutionise how we do pretty much everything. The Internet of Things exists right now consisting of around 25 billion devices, but this is set to triple by the year 2025 and then continue accruing thereafter.