5G 101: What is 5G?

5G 101: What is 5G?

Troy Cogburn

Chief Technology Evangelist

February 24, 2022

4 Minutes

For the hyper-connected world we live in, to work effectively, the underlying infrastructure needs to be fast, reliable, scalable, and have lower latency, i.e., the delay between the sending and receiving information. 5G, or the fifth generation of broadband mobile networks, is designed to provide all of these and be the fastest wireless technology to date. 5G was developed to facilitate the fast speeds consumers expect when downloading and streaming digital content. Average download speeds for 4G is 36.4Mbps (megabits per second); for 5G, download speeds more than triple to between 100-200Mbps (depending on the network). In other words, 5G is super-fast, and downloading the equivalent of an entire movie should take only a few seconds.

a graphic representing 5G connectivity

The 5G connectivity fabric

Internet connectivity was a savior of friends, family, and businesses when the Covid-19 pandemic happened. Online video conferences allow businesses to have meetings and families to see each other from a distance. Keeping in touch with people and continuing business as normal as possible depends on fast, reliable connectivity. While 4G and Wi-Fi provided this, we all remember the Zoom freeze moments.

As the world connects across remote devices, next-level connectivity promises increased speed and reliability, enabling work-from-anywhere, IoT, self-driving cars, and more. 5G has been described as creating a ‘connectivity fabric’ or ‘network fabric’ providing the connectivity needed to weave together edge network-connected devices into a hyper-connected digital textile. To do this effectively, the 5G network must be smart. The network can then use local integrated network management rules to optimize resources as demand arises. It’s the intelligence, not just lower latency and speed, that sets 5G apart from the previous versions.

What does the 5G landscape look like?

Drivers such as smart cities, Industry 4.0, and digital transformation projects are behind the push for fast, efficient, and reliable broadband. Without speed, lower latency, and high reliability, systems such as those that are dependent on connectivity will struggle to find adoption and acceptance. 5G networks are very different from the infrastructure of 4G: 5G networks comprise a highly distributed network of small base stations placed across cities. This new infrastructure makes 5G networks more efficient and provides the infrastructure to deliver higher speeds.

Further, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg told the United Nations General Assembly that “5G has the potential to reduce up to 90% of our current power consumption”. This is a vital step in achieving climate change goals and cutting costs and emissions from Industry 4.0.

5G is also said to be accelerating the use of and capabilities of edge computing and AI.

Where in the world is 5G available?

According to SpeedTest Intelligence data, as of Q3 2021, the USA has the highest 5G availability. Coming in at second and third for most available 5G networks are The Netherlands and South Korea. In terms of speed, South Korea has the fastest 5G.

What are example 5G use cases?

Smart cities:

Connected cities need fast broadband. Smart cities are the ideal use case to showcase 5G capability. One such smart city is Alba Lulia in Romania. Working with Orange, and other wireless technology companies, a project called SliceNet, will develop a framework for 5G network slicing alongside an app that will optimize the consumption of these slices.

Autonomous vehicles:

Autonomous cars will speed ahead using 5G. Autonomous vehicles depend on reliable, fast connectivity to connect with sensors to maintain safety. The BMX iNext concept car is one of the first to include integrated 5G.

Next-gen 5G drones:

connecting drones across the 5G network is in the pipeline with help from Vodafone and Ericsson. The two companies work together to test 5G corridors for connected drones. The corridors allow operators to fly drones from the control center to the destination safely.

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