What is 5G?
5G is the latest generation of cellular communication and it will follow the previous 4G and 3G networks. With the first global standards established in 2017 by governing bodies 3GPP and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), 5G networks promise to deliver substantially faster connection speeds, reduced latency, and higher capacity .
In terms of connection speed, 5G will be vastly superior to the current 4G networks. Devices on the 5G network are expected to have an average download speed of over 1Gbps, with a theoretical peak speed of 20Gbps. In comparison, average speeds on the current 4G network are around 45 Mbps (1Gb = 1,000 Mb)  .
Another big upgrade 5G offers is reduced latency, which is the time it takes for a data packet to travel between two points. With the new generation, latency is expected to fall to just 1ms, compared to 30-70ms seen by 4G networks. As a result, users should expect web browsing to be much smoother, while video calling and online gaming will have virtually no lag .
With its low latency and high data transfer rates, 5G networks could also have a massive impact on technologies outside of our smartphones. Applications such as self-driving cars, traffic control, and remotely controlled machinery that depend on fast responses could experience a leap forward in development as they begin to leverage the new network. Through 5G, hundreds of autonomous cars could be able to move harmoniously, gain live traffic data, and react to the traffic around them in a near-instantaneous manner with no interference from other connected devices .
5G’s high capacity and speeds could also lead to further growth of connected devices (i.e. The Internet of Things, IoT). According to the standards laid out, 5G networks are expected to support a minimum of one million devices per square kilometer. As such, companies and consumers will be able to install more connected devices without running the risk of congesting the network and slowing down speeds for everyone. With the total number of IoT devices expected to rise to an estimated 22.5 billion by 2021, 5G networks could be what the Internet of Things needs to live up to its potential and become an integral part of our daily lives .
How does it Work?
To achieve the higher connection speeds, 5G networks will make use of an entirely new radio spectrum band. While previous generations used frequencies between 700 MHz and 3 GHz (microwave band), 5G will utilize the higher frequency “millimetre waves” broadcasted within the 30 and 300 GHz frequencies. With the higher frequencies, 5G networks will have significantly greater bandwidth but at the cost of a much more limited range. Unlike the microwaves used by 4G networks, millimetre waves have difficulty bypassing physical obstacles such as walls and buildings. Even weather like rain and humidity can adversely affect the signal .
Consequently, 5G networks will make use of multiple small cell stations placed roughly 250 metres apart to transmit the signal. This is in contrast to the larger, more powerful cell towers used for 4G, which were spaced several kilometers apart . Due to its limited range and the infrastructure required, 5G will mostly be implemented in populated urban areas with coverage in rural regions being spotty .
When is it Coming?
Worldwide implementation of 5G is expected to begin this year in 2019 with the United States, China, South Korea, and Japan leading the way for deployment, and development of the modem technology being led by Qualcomm, Intel, and Huawei. As 5G compatible phones are not yet available to the public, 5G service so far has been limited to home internet replacements, or mobile hotspots .
In the US, Verizon offered the world’s first 5G network in October 2018 with 5G Home, a broadband internet service. 5G Home offers internet speeds of 300Mbs to 1Gbps, but is currently limited to only certain areas of Sacramento, Los Angeles, Houston, and Indianapolis. Other major carriers, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have also announced plans to rollout 5G service to cities in the US in 2019, with AT&T aiming to offer a mobile hotspot service for $70 USD per month with 15GB of data .
Meanwhile in Canada, Telus Mobility, and Rogers will rollout commercial 5G service in 2020. Telus plans to implement their network after a successful pilot project with Huawei at their 5G Living Lab in Vancouver. While, Rogers will implement 5G following testing at University of British Columbia.
However, the planned deployment could be hampered by the potential government ban of Huawei technology in the new 5G network due to security concerns. As Telus relies heavily on Huawei technology for their telecommunication equipment, banning Huawei could result in a “material, non-recurring, incremental increase in the cost of Telus's 5G network deployment, and, potentially, the timing."  .
Elsewhere in the world, South Korean telecom companies, SK Telecom, LG Uplus, and KT in South Korea have collaborated to offer 5G service through mobile routers starting in December 2018. In addition, telecomm companies in Japan, China, and the UK have run trials with their 5G network and are planning for a commercial deployment in late 2019 or 2020 .
While it will take time for 5G infrastructure to be ready and connection speeds are as advertised, it will be worth the wait. With its faster speeds, increased capacity, and vastly decreased latency, 5G technology will allow us to be more connected than ever, and give technologies such as augmented reality, and autonomous machinery the platform they need to thrive.
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