If you have no idea what 5G means, you’re not alone: “What is 5G?” is a top Google search. But not to worry, we’re here to explain why 5G is the next big thing in wireless technology!
5G is the next generation of cellphone network service; the fifth generation! 5G is poised to be a big leap forward from the fourth generation (4G) because it uses three separate portions of the network spectrum. In basic terms, 5G is a faster and more reliable connection to the internet, which is a big deal for smartphone users.
What is a network?
The “network” is what we call the connection between signals and devices. “Signals” are what carry the services we use to communicate (sound, visuals, text, etc). Previously, each signal had its dedicated network. Voice was transmitted over the telephone, text was sent over the computer screen, and television and radio were available over cable and radio channels.
Advances in technology have allowed consolidation into a single network that can receive multiple signals. These are called mobile broadband networks; they are now what you use to connect your smartphone or tablet device to the internet.
A brief history of network connection generations
To understand 5G, we need to go back in time and consider how far network connections have come since the early days of the Internet.
The earliest networks were dial-up internet connections, which used standard landlines to transmit a signal. Dial-up networks could be sluggish and expensive depending on your location.
Next came cable modems, and then after that were DSL lines. Cable internet was faster and more reliable than dial-up and did not utilize the telephone line for a connection. After that, WiFi changed the scene of internet connectivity, allowing users to free their devices from cords and cables. Now, in the era of smartphones, we have mobile broadband networks. These are the connections that allow us to stay online wherever we are.
Most people access mobile networks on their smartphones and tablets. 3G was the first available consumer wireless network and allowed faster speeds than ever before. 3G networks support a transfer rate of at minimum 144 kbit/s (that was pretty fast for the time!)
Evolution of wireless
As you can predict, 3G was succeeded by 4G. Specifically, 4G LTE, which offered much faster connections. As more and more people migrated from landlines to mobile phones, stronger and more resilient networks were required. The upgrade from 3G to 4G LTE allowed for much faster connections, and now we are poised for a similar migration.
The hype for 5G, the fifth generation of mobile networks, will change the shape of wireless connectivity. Much like 3G opened the door for smartphones, 5G will open the door for a variety of tech to update and evolve. Let’s break down the top 3 reasons to be excited about 5G:
1. Lower Latency
When you launch any command on your smartphone, the result isn’t exactly instant. Smartphones now are faster than they’ve ever been before, but they still experience lag. New browsers windows can take a second or two to open; apps can buffer before fully launching, or fail to meet their designed functionality.
The reason for this is that signals (remember signals, from the beginning of this article? They transmit the services we use to communicate) have to pass between different carriers. This lag is called “latency” and if latency is too high, then it may affect your device’s ability to use the Internet. Even the Hushed app can be affected by latency issues.
5G was created to reduce latency. Instead of seconds, latency will drop to mere milliseconds. It will transmit signals faster than previous generations, and those signals will be more complete. 4G, for instance, will often release tiny segments of unnecessary data. 5G will be more reliable.
2. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)
VoIP is a cloud telephony function. With VoIP, phone calls and text messages are sent and received over the Internet, instead of through existing telecom infrastructures. Voice over IP phone numbers require an active Internet connection to make and receive calls. They need a stable connection and low-latency. High latency networks will result in choppy calls and difficulty connecting. While 4G was much better than 3G or LTE networks in terms of VoIP stability, 5G is predicted to take VoIP to the next level. Increased stability for VoIP services will mean lower latency, clearer sound quality and fewer connectivity issues.
For people making calls through apps like Hushed, 5G will mean better connectivity worldwide. Right now, many people feel restricted to using WiFi for VoIP calls, but with 5G they will be able to connect to the internet even from remote locations where 4G doesn’t reach.
3. The Internet of Things
5G will stabilize networks and expand coverage capabilities like never before. It’s purportedly able to handle upwards of a million devices per square mile; that’s a lot of connections! Ever since the launch of 3G, which was the first commercially available wireless mobile network, we’ve seen more and more devices designed to be connected to the Internet. Everyday objects are enabled to send and receive data to improve their functionality. This is known as the “Internet of Things.” Here are some examples (both from real life, and future possibilities):
Instead of reading a morning traffic report, your car automatically communicates with your GPS and other cars, and receives instant updates on traffic jams. You don’t have to do anything; your vehicle will instantly know the best route to take to avoid real-time collisions or bottlenecks.
Your thermostat receives weather updates and self-adjusts to compensate for dropping temperatures in your climate. It’s raining; your hallway mirror reminds you to take an umbrella with you.
A construction site that is operated entirely by remote workers. Bulldozer operators sit in a warehouse, removed from the typical hazards of their job, and move their machines located 50 miles away. They lay a foundation for a new office tower without ever visiting the job site in person.
Some of these scenarios sound possible now; some sound outlandish, like flying cars and jetpacks. Nevertheless, they’re all theoretically possible with 5G.
When will 5G be here?
When 5G service becomes available to you really depends on where you are located. Some countries, including the UK, South Korea and China have 5G systems up and running in certain cities.
The US also has some small testing locations set up right now; some early 5G testers reported speeds of up to 1,400 megabits per second! That’s about 10-15 times better than what 4G speeds can average. But experts are unsure exactly how much faster 5G will be. It is predicted to reach speeds up to 20 times faster than 4G.
Whether you’re interested in 5G has an opportunity for better VoIP phone call connections, for better internet stability, or the possibilities offered by the Internet of Things, it’s exciting to think of the changes coming thanks to the fifth generation of network cell phone service.