5G Technology Explained

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But what is 5G technology? What kinds of speeds can you expect once all the necessary infrastructure has been installed? And what differences will this new technology make to both individual consumers and businesses?

In this article, we’ll answer these questions for you. You’ll be a 5G expert before you know it.

What is 5G?

Firstly, what actually is 5G?

5G stands for “fifth generation” and is an advancement on 4G technology. Building upon the current 4G network, 5G promises to deliver a whole host of speed-boosting, productivity-enhancing benefits, which we’ll talk more about below.

5G’s faster connection speeds will be made possible by improved radio technology, many more base stations or antenna sites than current networks, and increased allocations of spectrum. Where today’s antennae service a relatively large area – known as a cell – 5G towers will service a much smaller cell1https://www.communications.gov.au/documents/5g-enabling-future-economy, and so greater numbers of cells will be required to provide reliable coverage.

A closer look at 5G technology

According to the Next Generation Mobile Network’s 5G white paper2https://www.ngmn.org/5g-white-paper/5g-white-paper.html, new 5G connections must be focused on “user experience, system performance, enhanced services, business models and management and operation.”

Further to that, the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association has set out criteria that all 5G connections should meet3https://www.gsma.com/futurenetworks/5g/road-to-5g-introduction-and-migration-whitepaper/. These are as follows:

  • Just one-millisecond end-to-end round-trip delays
  • One to 10 Gbps connections to endpoints
  • 10 to 100 times the possible number of connected devices
  • 1,000 times the bandwidth per unit or cell area
  • The perception of 99.999% availability
  • The perception of 100% coverage
  • Up to ten years of battery life for low-power, machine devices (i.e. not individual consumer smartphones and mobile devices)
  • 90% reduction in network energy usage

How fast will 5G be?

It’s difficult to accurately estimate what speeds 5G technology will offer in the real world. Theoretically, we can expect speeds up to 10 Gbps – but, as a consumer, you are unlikely to receive this kind of speed in the short term.

Across the globe, telecommunication companies have been putting 5G to the test. One test designed to simulate real-world network conditions in San Francisco, USA and Frankfurt, Germany found the following results4https://www.qualcomm.com/news/onq/2018/03/07/predicting-real-world-5g-performance:

 San FranciscoFrankfurt
Media download speed1.4Gbps490Mbps
Improvement on 4G+2,000%+900%

As you can see from the above table, the San Francisco test was performed using mmWave technology, whereas the Frankfurt test was performed using 3.5GHz technology. Here’s a quick explanation of these.

3.5GHz is almost the same as the underlying spectrum that supports current phone networks. In contrast, mmWave bands, which start at 26 GHz, are incredibly high frequency. mmWave bands can offer much faster speeds than mid-band frequencies. The catch is, their range is much smaller. Australian telecommunication companies are planning a 5G network that makes use of both of these spectrums1.

In Telstra’s Gold Coast 5G trials5https://www.telstra.com.au/aboutus/media/media-releases/Telstra-turns-on-5G-on-the-Gold-Coast, a 5G network was created using mmWave bands. They achieved speeds of up to 3Gbps – or around 3,000Mbps. For some perspective, that’s about 30 times faster than the maximum speed of an NBN connection.

Advantages of 5G technology

There’s no doubt about it – 5G technology is the next big evolution in mobile technology6https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-31/5g-technology-is-here-but-no-one-is-ready/9602620. With that evolution comes a whole host of exciting benefits and advantages for both the individual consumer, and big businesses.

Let’s take a look at the advantages of 5G technology for both of these groups.

5G technology for the individual consumer

As an individual with a 5G connection, you can enjoy faster speeds, lower latency, and a significant increase in the number of connections7https://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/5g-and-mobile-network-developments. Let’s take a look at these in more detail.

1. Faster connection speeds

First and foremost, less waiting around for your streaming services to buffer, your web browser to load, or your photos to upload. You can enjoy seriously speedy connection speeds with the modern 5G network.

Of course, the speeds you experience will be different to those experienced by your neighbour down the road or by your friend across the country. It’ll depend a lot on how your network has been configured, the number of individual devices connected to your network, and the device you are using at that moment.

In general, you can expect speeds in excess of 100Mbps. In other words, expect the fastest NBN speed as a minimum.

2. Lower latency

Latency is the time it takes for information to travel from your phone to the internet and back again. Currently, latency for the 4G network is around 60 milliseconds. 5G could offer latency as low as one millisecond.

While you may not notice this in your day-to-day usage, for certain consumer technologies, these improvements could prove vital. For example, with decreased latency could be the difference between a self-driving car crashing and darting safely out of the way.

3. The capacity for additional connected devices

The use of smartphones has skyrocketed. It’s rare to catch a train or wait at the bus stop without picking up your phone to check your social media, your emails, or watch a video. 5G technology will cater to this incredible growth.

5G technology for business

According to a recent report by the Bureau of Communications and Arts Research8https://www.communications.gov.au/departmental-news/impacts-5g-productivity-and-economic-growth, 5G is likely to have a significant positive impact on the Australian economy due to related productivity growth. In fact, the report estimated an added $2,000 in gross domestic product per capita after one decade following the 5G network rollout.

These benefits will be especially evident in industries where telecommunications is vital to business operations, such as the IT, media and communications, education, arts and entertainment, wholesale and retail sectors.

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