What is 5G (for Consumers)?

Definition

5G is the fifth generation of wireless communication technologies and standards that is used by devices such as your smartphone to allow you to stream/download content from the Internet up to 100 times faster than 4G LTE.

Overview

There’s a new and emerging demand for 5G among consumers to improve everything from travel and media entertainment (think just-in-time Netflix download speeds at the airport) to home security and automation (think persistent connections regardless of an IoT device’s brand or operating system).

If we compare 5G to 4G, there are many differences. But one of the most noticeable differences is data transfer speed. At its maximum potential, 4G can reach a speed of 100 Mbps while 5G offers a theoretical maximum of 10 Gbps (equivalent to 10,000 Mbps). In short, 5G would be a hundred times faster than the technology we have been using so far.

Another relevant difference is that 5G will have network latency reductions. This means that the sum of the delay times in a network will decrease, thereby decreasing the time it takes to form a connection with the source that you’re requesting data from (e.g. Netflix servers) and receive a response (e.g. the desired video file). Specifically, 5G will have a maximum latency of 4 ms—a fifth of 4G’s latency of 20 ms. (You can learn more about network latency here.)

Although 5G technology is getting closer to becoming available for use by consumers, some tests, adjustments, and improvements are still needed to make it part of our daily lives. The connected devices that we use, and plan to use, must also be 5G-ready, meaning that they must have the hardware necessary to receive the new 5G signals.

It’s expected that 5G will be fully implemented and operational throughout the United States in the next few years.

5G compared to 4G

The following table shows the main technical differences between 4G and 5G technologies:

Technology 4G 5G
Core network Internet Internet
Bandwidth 200 Mbps Greater than 1Gbps
Maximum speed 100 Mbps 10 Gbps
Latency 20-30 miliseconds Less than 10 miliseconds
Power Consumption High battery consumption 10% more durable battery
Mobile coverage Limited coverage Coverage reaches every corner

5G and edge computing

Faster data transfer and reduced latency are vital for everything related to data. Currently, real-time processing and responses are being pursued by companies like Netflix that distribute data over the Internet as a business model.

Outside of entertainment, real-time processing and responses are necessary for IoT devices that keep cities and homes safe and organized. In order to achieve a real-time state, core Internet infrastructure beyond 5G also needs updated. More specially, it needs moved closer to the 5G stations and end users (i.e. consumers).

The practice of moving data storage and computer processing closer to the end user is known as edge computing. This is an infrastructural evolution of cloud computing that, combined with 5G, will allow consumer devices to receive entertainment, news, alerts, and other information/data in real-time.

In short, moving computer servers closer to 5G stations and further away from “the cloud” will create an environment where real-time processes can occur over the Internet.

Examples of 5G

Public safety: 5G technology will significantly improve services related to public safety in cities that adopt IoT. The real-time analysis of video recordings from public places, along with biometric software, can quickly identify dangerous situations and automatically alert the authorities in cases of car accidents or terrorist attacks.

Unlike the CCTV systems used today, 5G-trained equipment can be updated over the air and data management platforms will interconnect various services. The connected 5G equipment can also be implemented with mobile network coverage (eliminating the need for fixed wiring) and will be extended to mobile devices such as drones and robots.

Gaming: Those who love video games will celebrate when 5G arrives. Virtual reality headsets, sound systems, and other gaming experience accessories will benefit from the connectivity of 5G. The game’s characters and worlds in which they live will feel even more real due to zero lag and more consistent graphics.

Key Takeaways

  • 5G will be a hundred times faster than 4G and cut network latency by 500%.
  • The combination of 5G and edge computing provides speed and efficiency at the moment of data transmission.
  • Although 5G will take a few more years to be fully implemented, there has been an enormous breakthrough so far and this technology will soon be a reality.