3 Reasons Why 5G Is Such a Gamechanger

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Have any of these happened to you?

• A colleague says that “5G can solve that.”
• You read: “This new feature will require 5G.”
• Advertisement declares “5G can do this.”

For each of the situations above, if you’re a little unclear on how 5G fits into each of them, please read on. We’re writing this to help people understand the background, context, and goals of 5G.

Some might ask, “What does 5G even mean in the first place?” 5G is the fifth generation of cellular networks, building on technology that’s been around since the first cellular network was launched in 1983. The first three generations of cellular networks – the first three G’s -- were mainly designed to cater to voice and text transmissions, with data transmission being measured in kilobytes per second. The fourth generation (4G) was designed to support rising data transmission rates as people began using their phones for everything from gaming to video, with data transmission being measured in megabytes per second.

The goals and design of fifth-generation cellular networks are influenced by the rapidly rising levels of data consumption across the globe. In order to support data-intensive cellular applications like video, live streaming, and gaming, networks need to be upgraded and expanded. Businesses looking for a competitive edge will rely on 5G applications such as the Industrial Internet of Things, connecting robotic devices and sensors, as well as robust in-building cellular connectivity, enabling them to maintain a workforce untethered from their traditional desk, computer, and landline.

The ultimate goal of 5G is to achieve cellular connectivity on par with the fixed-line service you get at home or at work. That means gigabyte-per-second connectivity from your phone.

If you use a cell phone, 5G will affect you. If you run a business, 5G will affect you and your customers. Regardless of your profession, we believe everyone should be better equipped with basic 5G knowledge in order to have good conversations with colleagues and customers alike. Without this fundamental knowledge, it becomes much harder to have meaningful conversations on 5G or capture the opportunities it presents.

Now that we’ve covered the context behind 5G, let’s explore the major benefits it delivers, and how those benefits will impact our day-to-day lives.

Major Benefits of 5G

5G differs from the earlier “G’s” in three major ways: enhanced capacity, massive connectivity, and signal speed, or low latency. Let’s dive into what exactly those mean.

1. Enhanced Capacity

As we all consume more and more data via our phones, the capacity of our cellular networks needs to expand to carry all that data. Imagine virtual pipes, transmitting and receiving so much information that they might burst – and sometimes they do! You may live in an area with great cellular coverage, but if the pipes are too small, you get extremely slow service – or “five bars of nothing.” As we move to 5G, the twin goals of increased speed and increased density require a huge increase in network capacity – expanding those virtual “pipes.” That means more cellular antennas and a much denser optical fiber infrastructure to connect those antennas to where the information is processed -- most likely a data center.

2. Massive Connectivity

5G connectivity involves so much more than your phone – it will also connect the emerging Internet of Things, which is everything from your smart fridge to self-driving cars, and even robotic equipment on the factory floor. Bringing that vision to life will require mobile networks to support a level of device density that is rarely seen today outside of stadiums. The architects of 5G, knowing that mobile operators cannot blanket a country with stadium class infrastructure, have addressed device density in it. 5G utilizes new protocols for data transmission and massive multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) antennas, which can connect to significantly more devices than existing antennas. These network advances enable 5G networks to be efficient as possible.

3. Low Latency

When you type a query into a search engine, you expect the results right away. That requires a network with low latency – the third key characteristic of 5G. Latency is simply the round-trip time between two systems – in this case, your smart phone and the search engine servers. The lower the latency, the faster you get the results from your search. While we can all get behind our apps loading more quickly, low latency has other important benefits. Imagine an industrial automation scenario, with a very high density of sensors and controllers, and devices like robots that require very low latency to operate the manufacturing line at peak effectiveness. Or, think of self-driving cars, or other applications that haven’t been developed yet: All rely on the ultra-reliability and low latency of 5G.

Summary

In summary, what is 5G and why is it important? Certainly this fifth generation of cellular networks is built to support the massive levels of data we’re consuming on our phones. But just as important – actually more important – it’s built to enable emerging applications like industrial automation, self-driving cars, and the Internet of Things.

When you’re considering how 5G will impact our daily lives, think of how we’ll be using technology in 10 years. Without building highly reliable low latency 5G networks now, that world wouldn’t be possible.

This post is adapted from an article published in Cable Installation and Maintenance. For more from Art King about 5G, you can listen to this webinar on “Demystifying 5G.” To learn about 5G-ready connectivity inside buildings, visit our In-Building Networks page.


Art King is part of the In-Building Networks (IBN) Technologies group for Corning Optical Communications. A 20-year veteran of both global enterprise IT and the cellular industry, Art’s long term vision of wireless as “digital oxygen” that enables a totally unwired world is happening around us now.