What is 5G? Everything You Need to Know – Definition
5G is the term used to describe the next-generation of mobile networks beyond LTE mobile networks. At least four major phone carriers in the US — AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint — have solid plans to introduce their mobile 5G networks in 2019. AT&T has even started trials with 5G mobile hotspots in 12 cities. Verizon is advertising a 5G home network (however, Verizon’s offering does not align with what standard bodies are defining as 5G).
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has released several reports on the standards for the 5G network that it refers to as the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT)-2020 network.
The 3GPP is a mobile industry standards body that created its own standards for 5G New Radio specifications, published in December 2017. Both mobile operators and vendors participate in the 3GPP specification process.
5G standardization roadmap for 3GPP and ITU. Source: ITU
According to ITU guidelines, 5G network speeds should have a peak data rate of 20 Gb/s for the downlink and 10 Gb/s for the uplink. Latency in a 5G network could get as low as 4 milliseconds in a mobile scenario and can be as low as 1 millisecond in Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication scenarios. Not only will people be connected to each other but so will machines, automobiles, city infrastructure, public safety and more.
5G networks are also designed to have always-on capabilities and aim to be energy efficient by minimizing how much power a modem uses based on the amount of traffic going through it.
The 5G Race
Some operators are attempting to be very aggressive with their deployments and push the standards process forward. In the U.S. Verizon formed a 5G Tech Forum in 2015 in partnership with other vendors like Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, and Apple. The group’s goal was to collaborate on early 5G specifications and then contribute those to the 3GPP. Verizon, with input from the group, released specifications in July 2016, separate from the standards body. The company plans to transition to 3GPP’s 5G non-stand alone release. AT&T waited until October 2018 to release its first official specifications, after 3GPP released their 5G standard mentioned above.
5G Will Integrate LTE
LTE Advanced Pro is foundational to the 5G network. While 5G can access the extremely high-frequency millimeter wave radio spectrum, there will also be spectrum sharing with the LTE wavelengths. The use of mmWave bands will also be aided by existing LTE macro and small cell sites.
Self-organizing networks (SON) are also a key factor in reducing costs of installation and management of the network by simplifying operational tasks. Other technologies, such as coordinated multipoint, which lets operators have multiple sites simultaneously transmitting signals and processing signals, will play a part in limiting inter-cell interference.
Virtualization is a key Step in Achieving 5G
Software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) are going to play a key role for operators as they prepare to migrate from LTE to 5G and scale their networks quickly.
SDN will be necessary for operators to carve virtual “sub-networks” or slices that can be then used for bigger bandwidth applications. That includes video, which is projected to be 82 percent of all IP traffic by 2022 with use cases like video conferencing or streaming 4K video that can use between 15 to 25 Mb/s. Lower bandwidth applications, such as smartwatches, will also be part of a sub-network connecting devices that are less demanding on the network.
What is 5G? The Uses Cases
The 5G wireless standard delivers a unifying connectivity fabric that brings huge enhancements to today’s mobile broadband services. With 5G, mobile networks are able to support a considerable diversity of devices and services. As 5G networks emerge in 2019, speculation is growing about what use cases are possible. For example, 5G finally gives the Internet of Things (IoT) the connectivity it demands.
The following are the categories that cover the most talked about 5G use cases most speculated about prior to the network’s full maturation, some of which won’t be realized on 5G’s first day.
5g-use-cases Source: 3gLTEInfo
Early 5G Use Cases
- Fixed Wireless: One of the top 5G use cases will be fixed wireless access. Fixed wireless will provide Internet access to homes using wireless network technology rather than fixed lines. It will use 5G concepts such as millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum and beamforming to bolster wireless broadband services.
- Enhanced Mobile Broadband: The 5G standard promises to usher in the next era of immersive and cloud-connected experiences with faster, more uniform data rates at lower latency and lower cost per bit. The 5G standard will take mobile computing performance to the next level with high-speed, always-on, always-connected internet links with real-time responsiveness. The goal is to reach up to 20 Gb/s peak throughput and 1 Gb/s throughput in high mobility. The need for high-speed internet with real-time responsiveness is seen with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences.
Later 5G Use Cases
- Massive Machine-Type Communications: One of the most anticipated 5G use cases is the ability to seamlessly connect embedded sensors in virtually everything. The industry foresees huge numbers — as many as 20.4 billion — of potential IoT devices in service by 2020. Industrial IoT is one area where 5G will play a major role, enabling smart cities, asset tracking, smart utilities, agriculture, and security infrastructure (e.g. alarms or geofencing).
- Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications: This category includes new services that will transform industries with ultra-reliable/available low-latency links, such as remote control of critical infrastructure, and (popularly) self-driving vehicles. The level of reliability and latency will be vital to smart-grid control, industrial automation, robotics, and drone control and coordination
Future 5G Use Cases
Once everything is connected via 5G, use case opportunities will increase enormously as new services and applications emerge. Watch for vertical industries and national priorities — from healthcare to smart cities, to remote industrial machine operation, to virtual sports attendance — to experience revolutionary changes.