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5G: What does it all mean?

The 5G network is the 5th generation of "cellular mobile communications" and it will succeed but not replace the current 4G standard we all depend upon now. Carriers like Verizon and Sprint have invested heavily on the infrastructure needed to provide "dramatic improvements of latency, speed, coverage, capacity and density. Let's take a look at each one of these improvements and see what industry leaders predict will be accomplished and what platforms will thrive.


How close are we to real-time? That's the question being posed to engineers and Sprint has the following comments regarding that. "Humans don’t have instant reaction times. When every driver has a slightly delayed response to the car in front, you end up with a traffic jam. 5G is the first generation of networking that’s being designed for machines like autonomous cars. By reducing network latency, it’s enabling near instantaneous reaction times."


In the 4G network, we were able to realize speeds 10x faster than 3G "in real-world use with speeds commonly between 20Mbps to 50Mbps. With the advent of new technologies like Carrier Aggregation, your smartphone connects to multiple cellular frequencies at once and may offer even faster speeds in certain areas. However, with 5G on the horizon, it too will be 10x faster than previous cellular communications. This means speeds up to 100Mbps.


Up until now, network coverage strategies were optimized for one primary use case: people with smartphones, moving around. But in a world where every milk carton, motorcycle, park bench and parking space has a sensor and a transmitter, coverage presents a different range of challenges. 5G will combine new technologies in new ways to provide better coverage. Smaller antennae in massive arrays will make a single base station act like many, and beamforming techniques will focus data streams at specific users, tracking them as they move- even bouncing signals off walls to maintain the connection.


Serving a few hundred users with new, connected experiences is a challenge. Serving 50,000 at the same time? Imagine a city where augmented reality is a routine way of experiencing the world. Field service engineers use it to get step-by-step instructions. Architects use it to ‘walk’ clients through a not-yet-built school. And consumers use it for multi-player games and immersive movies. Houston, we have a capacity challenge.

What can you do when capacity is no longer a constraint? 5G will also use technologies like Massive MIMO to use all this new spectrum more intelligently – and make sure every business gets as much capacity as they need, when they need it.


People and IoT devices are never evenly distributed. They cluster in places like cities, stadiums, airports and skyscrapers. With each of these devices generating and consuming far more data – often while moving around – you get a dynamic, density dilemma. Because 5G is being designed to connect a world with hundreds of thousands – even millions – more devices per square mile, it will take new devices, sensors and more ways to access the network to solve this density problem".

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