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5G

Next-generation wireless technology with higher data transfer rates, low latency, and able to support more devices.
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5G is the next-generation wireless standard that follows 4G LTE. It boasts very high-speed data transfer rates, much lower latency than 4G LTE, and the ability to handle significantly higher densities of devices per cell site. In short, it is the best technology for the massive amount of data that will be generated by sensors in cars, IoT devices, and a growing list of next-generation electronics.

Driving this technology is a new radio interface, which will enable mobile network operators to achieve higher efficiencies with similar allocated spectrum. New network hierarchies will facilitate 5G-sliced networks, allowing multiple traffic types to be allocated dynamically according to specific traffic needs.

5G comes in two flavors. One utilizes the sub-6 GHz band, which offers modest improvements over 4G LTE. The other utilizes spectrum above 24 GHz, ultimately heading to millimeter-wave technology. As a general rule, as the frequency goes up, so does the speed and the ability to carry more data more quickly. On the other hand, as the frequency increases, the distance that signals can travel goes down. The result is that many more repeaters and base stations will be required. That’s good news for the semiconductor industry, but it also means that rollouts are likely to take longer than previous wireless technologies because the amount of infrastructure required to make it all work will increase significantly.

5G, viewed from any angle, is a disruptive technology by itself. But when it is paired with other disruptive technologies, particularly autonomous driving, the number of unknowns increases significantly.

The Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN) and other organizations devised a representation that mapped use cases onto the three points of a triangle—one corner represents enhanced mobile broadband, one represents Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), and the third Massive Machine Type Communications. Each of these needs a very different type of network to service their needs.

Unlike previous generations of technology, 5G adoption likely will be a mix of technologies that will evolve over a long period of time. So while the rollout of was relatively quick, 5G handsets and base station coverage outside of cities could take decades. In fact, it’s not clear if this technology will ever be universal.

5G is unlikely to ever completely replace 4G LTE, just as a smart phone today rolls from 4G LTE to 3G and 2G as reception decreases. Backward compatibility is an essential ingredient in all of these standards. 5G signals are very high frequency. The technology can scale to 300 GHz, versus 2.6 GHz for LTE. While that allows signals to carry significantly more data—basically scaling bandwidth to increase data density—the higher frequency also makes the signals more susceptible to interference from objects such as trees, buildings, and people. Even your own body can block millimeter-wave signals.


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