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What is 5G?

5G is the 5th generation wireless technology used in cellular networks. Wireless Technology evolved from analog 1G to digital 2G, 3G, 4G, 4G LTE, and the new 5G to deliver faster, reliable and low-latency data over the cellular network. In April 2019, 5G technology was first deployed in South Korea, and shortly after the United States and China followed. 5G technology "theoretically" delivers 100 times faster than 4G up to 10 Gbps, but the reality is not quite there yet. Considering 4G introduced in 2010 and LTE in 2013 took nearly a decade to be where we are today, 5G will take as many years to deliver the speed it deserves and the coverage everyone is anticipating. With YouTube, Netflix and other on-demand videos including video calls being transmitted over the mobile networks, 5G will deliver the performance needed by those high-demand network services.

What are 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G and 4G LTE?

Wireless technology began with 1st generation (1G) in 1980s with "analog" radio signals. The very first commercial 1G network was introduced in Japan by NTT in 1979. The rest of the world adopt the 1G technology throughout the 1980s. 1G was only able to deliver voice calls at up to 2.4Kbps.

2G was commercially launched in Finland on the GSM standard in 1991. With 2G, digital radio signals were used and digital messaging (SMS, Picture Messages, and MMS) was possible on mobile networks. 2G was capable of delivering messages at 64Kbps. Other 2G standards include CDMA and TDMA.

3G was launched in mid-2001 based on the IMT-2000 standard. Initial 3G was offering 144Kbps transmission rate, but later upgraded to 3.5G or 3.75G and delivered up to 2Mbps. 3G enabled voice, mobile Internet, and mobile TV applications to be offered on mobile wireless networks.

4G was launched in 2010 based on IMT Advanced Standard such as WiMAX and LTE. Pre-4G LTE was introduced in 2009 and later adopted into 4G LTE in 2013. 4G offers 100Mbps while 4G LTE offered up to 1Gbps transmission rates. 4G technology allowed mobile web, VoIP, mobile HDTV, and Video calls.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of 5G?

Three major benefits of 5G over its predecessors are (1) higher bandwidth up to 10Gbps, (2) lower latency (1 millisecond as compared to 50ms in 4G), and (3) an ability to connect to more devices simultaneously (1M connections in .38 square miles as compared to 2K connections in 4G).

As 5G is developed for data applications, 5G cannot establish voice calls by itself as of today. To make a voice call, 4G technology is used to establish a connection and upon making a connection the call is handed off to 5G. This requires 4G to coexist with 5G to deliver the service end-users require. With evolvement in standards, 5G will eventually offer "standalone" service but it may take several years for that to happen.

5G operates in Low (< 2Ghz), Medium (2-10GHz), and High (20-100GHz) frequency bands, and delivers various speeds in different bands. Lower frequency bands deliver slower speed (near 4G speed) but go further. Medium and High Bands deliver faster speed but at the cost of shorter distance. High Bands are a new spectrum used in the cellular network and will deliver very fast speed but a very short distance.

With negligible 1ms latency, 5G will evolve into a new mobile ecosystem and expand into other applications such as automobile, healthcare, and logistics.

How fast is 5G and where will it be used?

The theoretical limit of 5G speed is 10Gbps, but we're no way near that speed. Although 5G is nationwide in major US Cities, most cities use low-band 5G while a few cities use mid-band 5G. The current 5G speed is not too much better than 4G LTE in most cities, but speed will improve as more high-band frequencies are used in the future. To test your current 5G speed, you may use Speedcheck on your 5G enabled mobile phone.

To utilize 5G wireless technology, you'll need a 5G smartphone. There may be other 5G devices developed in the future to utilize the technology, but it will be a few years before we can see them. The currently available 5G smartphones include Apple's iPhone 12 models, Samsung's Galaxy S20, and Galaxy Note 20 models to name a few. Various 5G smartphones support various bands, so some research is needed to pick the desired model for the wireless carrier you use. Your mileage will vary depending on the smartphone you choose, and the carrier you use.

When carriers such as T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon begin delivering the 5G speed it deserves, the mobile Internet will likely compete with DSL, Cable Modem, and Satellite providers. In early 2000, we saw VoIP and Mobile phones replaced home phones, and mobile Internet will likely replace home Internet if price and capacity meet the demand. The gaming and healthcare industries will be other beneficiaries of 5G where VR enabled headsets will be used in mobile gaming and mobile rehab.

Other areas of 5G applications include self-driving cars, Internet of Things (IoT) and AI robotics. The new generation of 5G applications requires almost no latency which can only be accomplished by 5G communication. For example, self-driving cars and robots must be able to respond to various roads and hazardous conditions almost instantaneously.

Conclusion

The 5th generation of wireless technology is being actively deployed and will continue to deploy next decade. The current deployments use low and medium-band radio frequencies and deliver speed far less than the optimum performance. However, as more cell towers are built to utilize the high-band frequencies, we'll begin to see speeds we've never seen before. The new wireless technology will bring a new set of applications in the automobile, robotics, and healthcare industries to the next level, and it will also replace the traditional wired applications with a robust 5G wireless technology.

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