In recent years, tech advancements have made fifth-generation cellular networks (i.e., 5G) possible. 5G will be much faster than existing 4G connections and is expected to facilitate the seamless operation of VR tech, self-driving cars, drones, industrial robots and more.
Basically, 5G is the newest generation of mobile broadband that will augment and eventually replace current 4G LTE connections. Let’s take a look at some of the inner workings of this next-gen mobile broadband connections.
The 5G spectrum
Unlike 4G LTE, 5G functions on three different spectrum bands – high-band, mid-band and low-band spectrums, delivering the best of their combined ability. Low-band spectrum, sometimes called sub-1GHz spectrum, is used by U.S. carriers for LTE.
Although it offers great penetration and coverage area, its top speed is around 100Mbps. Mid-band spectrum provides lower latency and faster coverage than low-bands. However, it doesn’t penetrate through buildings as well as low-band.
On the plus side, the mid-band spectrum has peak speeds of up to 1 Gbps. Often referred to as mmWave, high-band spectrum has low latency and delivers peak speeds of up to 10Gbps. However, it has poor building penetration and low coverage area.
To help you better understand this technology, let’s take a look at some things to know about 5G.
5G brings a much higher capacity to the table and supports more data connections than other network configurations. When there are too many users trying to use a network, data connections may slow down or stop working.
That’s because 4G networks become easily overloaded when supporting a relatively large number of devices. On the other hand, 5G supports low-latency connections and has a much higher capacity. According to the International Telecommunications Union’s standards, they are capable of supporting up to a million devices per square kilometer.
5G is incredibly fast
Although it sounds obvious, most people aren’t aware of how much faster 5G is compared to current 4G speeds. OpenSignals puts the average download speeds of the fastest 4G LTE network in the U.S. at 19.42 Mbps.
The Snapdragon X50, Qualcomm’s first 5G modem, supports speeds of up to 5 Gbps – over 257 times the speed of its 4G counterpart. And this is only the first generation of 5G modems.
5G isn’t cheap
Due to the extra speed and higher capacity of 5G, consumers will have to pay higher for data connections. Historically, data costs have always risen with increased network speeds and this would likely be the case with 5G, although most carriers haven’t spoken on specific pricing.
Sprint’s CEO alluded that the cost of unlimited data plans on 5G may increase by as much as $30.
The advent of 5G will have a remarkable effect on the use and deployment of IoT devices. Although IoT sensors currently communicate with each other, they quickly deplete LTE data capacity and use up a lot of other resources. With the increased speed and low latency of 5G connections, IoT usage will see an uptick.
This will be the result of improved communications and efficiency of smart devices (think mMTC). Since a huge number of mMTC (Massive Machine-Type Communications) devices can be connected to a single base station, they will require lesser resources.
As such, it will be more efficient than current smart devices on the market.
5G’s URLLC (ultra-reliable low latency communications) component has the ability to revolutionize the health care industry. The URLLC component opens up a world of possibilities and will bring about improvements in remote surgery, precision surgery, remote recovery and physical therapy via AR, and telemedicine.
With mMTC, hospitals and care providers can build massive sensor networks to monitor patients. Insurers can keep tabs on their subscribers to determine the best treatment procedures, while physicians can track patient compliance by prescribing smart pills.
Public Safety and Infrastructure
With the advent and widespread adoption of 5G, cities will begin to operate more efficiently. Sensors can notify the public works department immediately street lights go out or flooding occurs, utility companies can easily track consumption rates remotely, and surveillance cameras can be installed inexpensively throughout municipalities.
Despite the frenzy around 5G, there’s still a lot to be done before 5G becomes as pervasive as 4G. Though there has been a lot of positive progress in 2019, 5G may not be accessible to consumers until 2020.
And even then, it is expected to come with its fair share of pain points such as reduced battery life for devices and inconsistent coverage.
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