With all the buzz surrounding 5G, it’s no wonder that people have lots of questions about the compatibility of their devices. Can our current generation devices run on the next generation network?
First, let’s explain the difference between 4G, the network that most of us are using now, and 5G. The “G” in 4G and 5G stands for generation. 5G is the fifth generation in network connectivity that began with the development of the early internet.
Have you spotted the little 4G or LTE symbol on your phone or tablet? This indicates that you’re connected to the network. We’ve relied on this 4G connection to carry our texts and emails and video calls, stream our movies and music, send our files to the cloud, and more. 5G will help us do those things as well, but much faster and with fewer network interruptions. Imagine opening your favorite video streaming service, selecting a show, and having it play right away, without buffering, from anywhere in the world. Or, imagine being able to lead a multi-user video conference call from a remote location without glitches or dropped connections. The next generation network is poised to take entertainment, business, learning, and daily life applications to new and exciting levels.
And, 5G will help with expanding some of our emerging technologies like augmented reality (AR) programs, self-driving cars, gaming, and more. Imagine a near future where your autonomous car drives you home from work while you relax and catch up on tasks, and with a few swipes on your smart phone, you can have your washer start a load of laundry and your oven heat dinner to be ready for you when you get home. Next generation smart devices will rely on 5G.
How will this network run? 5G will operate on a new radio interface, the frequency that brings the network from the signal tower locations to your devices. 5G doesn’t use the same radio frequencies as 4G and it doesn’t rely on large cell towers. It instead uses many small signal boxes, some as close as 500 feet apart. You might spot these boxes on buildings, street lights, telephone poles, and some are even being affixed inside manhole covers in streets.
5G will rely on more optical fiber, roughly one hundred times more than a 4G network, and require more connection points in order to establish high speed and low latency coverage. “Network operators must use a combination of more spectrum, advanced modulation techniques, and high-density architectures to carry the optical signal deeper into the network, distributing it more effectively through several smaller cells,” explained Claudio Mazzali, senior vice president of technology with Corning Optical Communications. This dense network will enable devices to connect to 5G and utilize all of the capabilities of the network.
By the time 5G is fully integrated over the next decade, our estimated 25 billion devices -- phones, kitchen appliances, laptops, tablets, autonomous cars, AR glasses, smart watches -- will all be fully connected.
But, are our current devices 5G-ready? Let’s take a look at the science behind making a device 5G-compatible to find out.