What Is 5G, and How Fast Will It Be?

You could not escape the hype of 5G at CES 2018 The same goes for 2019. Everyone, from Samsung to Intel, to mobile operators and smartphone manufacturers, wants you to know how incredible 5G is. Samsung calls it "fiber-wireless," a high-speed, high-speed, low latency Internet solution. The 5G is supposed to be faster than a typical home cable Internet connection … and it is also wireless.

What is 5G?

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5G is the industry standard that will replace the widespread standard 4G LTE standard, just as 4G has supplanted 3G. The 5G represents only the fifth generation, it is the fifth generation of this standard.

This standard is designed to be much faster than current 4G LTE technology. But it's not just about speeding up Internet connections for smartphones. It's about activating the wireless internet faster everywhere for everything from connected cars at smarthome devices and Internet of things (IoT).

In the future, your smartphone and all other devices with cellular connectivity will use 5G technology instead of the 4G LTE technology that they probably use today.

How fast will 5G be?

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Technology companies promise a lot from 5G. While 4G exceeds 100 megabits per second (Mbps), the 5G exceeds 10 gigabits per second (Gbps). This means that the 5G is a hundred times faster than the current 4G technology, at its theoretical maximum speed anyway.

For example, the Consumer Technology Association pointed out that at this speed you could download a two-hour movie in just 3.6 seconds in 5G, versus 6 minutes in 4G or 26 hours in 3G.

It's not just the flow, either. 5G promises to significantly reduce latencywhich means faster loading times and improved responsiveness when you use virtually anything on the Internet. More precisely, the specification promises a maximum latency of 4 ms in 5G against 20 ms in 4G LTE today.

At these speeds, 5G outperforms home cable Internet connections and is more comparable to fiber. Fixed internet companies such as Comcast, Cox and others may face serious competition, especially when they are the only option to quickly access home Internet in a given area. Wireless operators can offer an alternative without having to put physical cables in every home.

Presenters wanted us to think of 5G as allowing ultra-fast, virtually unlimited Internet access everywhere and on all devices. Of course, in the real world, ISPs impose data caps. For example, even if your mobile operator gave you a data cap of 100 GB (which is much larger than most current plans), you could do it in one minute and 20 seconds at the maximum theoretical speed of 100 Gbps. It is unclear exactly what the carriers will impose and how much it will affect the use.

How does 5G work?

The 5G takes advantage of many technologies to try to reach these fast speeds. There is not just one innovation at stake. IEEE Spectrum Magazine explains in detail a lot of technical details, but here is a brief summary.

The new standard will use a brand new 4G radio spectrum band. 5G will take advantage of "millimeter waves", broadcast at frequencies between 30 and 300 GHz compared to bands below 6 GHz used previously. These were previously only used for communication between satellites and radar systems. But millimeter waves can not easily pass through buildings or other solid objects, so 5G will take advantage of "small cells," smaller, miniature stations that can be placed approximately every 250 meters in areas dense urban areas. These would provide much better coverage in such places.

These base stations also use "massive MIMO". MIMO stands for "multi-input multiple-output". You could even have a wireless home router with MIMO technologythat is, it has several antennas that it can use to communicate with several different wireless devices at the same time, instead of switching quickly between them. Massive MIMO will use dozens of antennas on a single base station. They will also benefit from beam formation to better direct these signals, directing the wireless signal in a beam pointing towards the device and reducing interference to other devices.

The 5G base stations will also work in full duplex, which means that they can transmit and receive at the same time, on the same frequency. Today, they have to switch between modes of transmission and listening, which slows things down. It's just a preview of the embedded technology to make 5G so fast.

When will it be available?

In the USA, Verizon will begin rolling out a non-standard version of 5G in the second half of 2018, using it as home Internet access in five cities. Mobile phones that support 5G will not be able to connect, but it will not be for phones, anyway – just to provide fast, wireless home Internet service.

AT & T promises to start deploying 5G for phones by the end of 2018, but the actual and widespread deployment of 5G will probably not begin until 2019. T Mobile promised to start deployment in 2019, with "national coverage" in 2020. Sprint has announced that it will begin deploying 5G by the end of 2019. With such programs, 5G technology will probably not be widespread until 2020 at the earliest.

Qualcomm, which manufactures the chips used in many Android phones, has promised 5G phones for 2019. And yes, you will need a new phone and other cellular devices supporting the 5G, just like the Mobile phone operators need to replace their hardware to be able to 5G.

You'll hear a lot about 5G in the next few years when the deployment rolls out, but the media slot is already starting. Take the maximum theoretical speeds with a grain of salt and get ready to wait a few years before getting extensive coverage, but be enthusiastic: wireless internet is about to get much faster.

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