Introducing 5G technology and networks (definition, features, 5G vs 4G and use cases)

        5G technology

        Want to know more about 5G technology? Then you're in the right place.

        In this Q&A page, you'll discover key facts about 5G:

        • What is 5G?
        • How fast is 5G?
        • What is the difference between 4G and 5G?
        • What are the 5G use cases?
        • When is 5G coming?
        • What does it mean for consumers and operators?
        • Will 5G technology be secure?
        Let's see how 5G technology is about to change the world.

        What is 5G?

        5G technology is a breakthrough.

        The next-generation of telecom networks (fifth generation or 5G) have started hitting the market end of 2018 and will continue to expand worldwide.

        Beyond speed improvement, 5G is expected to unleash a massive IoT (Internet of Things) ecosystem where networks can serve communication needs for billions of connected devices, with the right trade-offs between speed, latency, and cost. 

        5G technology is driven by 8 specification requirements:

         5G features
        • Up to 10Gbps data rate  - > 10 to 100x improvement over 4G and 4.5G networks
        • 1-millisecond latency
        • 1000x bandwidth per unit area
        • Up to 100x number of connected devices per unit area (compared with 4G LTE)
        • 99.999% availability
        • 100% coverage
        • 90% reduction in network energy usage
        • Up to 10-year battery life for low power IoT device

        How fast is 5G?

        5G tops out at 10 gigabits per second (Gbps). 5G is 10 to x100 faster than what you can get with 4G.

        How fast is 5G?
        What makes 5G faster? Good question!

        The use of shorter frequencies (millimeter waves between 30GHz and 300GHz) for 5G networks is the reason why 5G can be faster. 

        According to communication principles, the shorter the frequency, the larger the bandwidth.

        But here is the part where you understand 5G is a lot more than that.

        What is 5G low latency? 

         5G technology offers an extremely low latency rate, the delay between the sending and receiving of information. From 200 milliseconds for 4G, we go down to 1 millisecond (1ms) with 5G.
        Just think about it.
        A millisecond is 1/1000 of a second. 

        The average reaction time for humans to a visual stimulus is 250 ms or 1/4 of a second. People are capped at around 190-200 ms with good training.

        Imagine now that your car could react 250 times faster than you. Imagine it could react also to hundreds of incoming information and can also communicate its reactions back to other vehicles and road signals all within milliseconds. 

        At 60 mph (100km/h) the reaction distance is about 33 yards (30 meters) before you pull on the brakes. With a 1ms reaction time, the car would only have rolled a bit more than one inch (less than 3 centimeters). 

        5G use cases
        Use cases associated with low latency are: 

        • V2X (Vehicle-to-Everything) communication: V2V: (Vehicle-to-Vehicle), V2I (Vehicle-to-Infrastructure), autonomous connected cars
        • Immersive Virtual Reality Gaming (5G will bring VR to the masses)
        • Remote surgical operations (aka telesurgery)
        • Simultaneous translating

        So, let' s see what makes 5G so different from 4G.

        5G vs 4G - What is the difference?

        The 5th generation of wireless networks addresses the evolution beyond mobile internet to massive IoT (Internet of Things) from 2019/2020 onwards. 

        The main evolution compared with today’s 4G and 4.5G (LTE advanced) is that, beyond data speed improvements, new IoT and critical communication use cases will require a new level of improved performance. 

        • For example, low latency is what provides real-time interactivity for services using the cloud: this is key to the success of self-driving cars for example.   
        • 5G vs 4G also means at least x100 devices connected. 5G must be able to support 1 million devices for 0.386 square miles or 1 Km2.
        • Also, low power consumption is what will allow connected objects to operate for months or years without the need for human assistance.

        Unlike current IoT services that make performance trade-offs to get the best from current wireless technologies (3G, 4G, WiFi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, etc…), 5G networks will be designed to bring the level of performance needed for massive IoT. 

        It will enable a perceived fully ubiquitous connected world.

        In short, that’s what makes it transformational

        5G and the previous mobile generations at a glance

        In the last four decades mobile phones, more than any other technology, have quietly changed our lives forever.

        Do you remember how much you loved your 2G Nokia 3310? 

        • 1G, the first generation of telecom networks (1979), let us talk to each other and be mobile
        • 2G digital networks (1991) let us send messages and travel (with roaming services)
        • 2.5G and 2.75G brought some improvement to data services (GPRS and EDGE)
        • 3G (1998) brought a better mobile internet experience (with limited success)
        • 3.5G brought a true mobile internet experience, unleashing the mobile apps eco-system
        • 4G (2008) networks brought all-IP services (Voice and Data), a fast broadband internet experience, with unified networks architectures and protocols
        • 4 G LTE, starting in 2009, doubled data speeds
        • 5G networks expand broadband wireless services beyond mobile internet to IoT and critical communications segments

        Virtual networks (5G slicing) tailored to each use case

        5G will be able to support all communication needs from low power Local Area Network (LAN) – like home networks for example, to Wide Area Networks (WAN), with the right latency/speed settings. 

        The way this need is addressed today is by aggregating a broad variety of communication networks (WiFi, Z-Wave, LoRa, 3G, 4G, etc…)

        And 5G is smarter.  

        5G is designed to allow simple virtual network configurations to better align network costs with applications needs. 

        This new approach will allow 5G Mobile Network operators to catch a larger piece of the IoT market pie by being able to deliver cost-effective solutions for low broadband, low power applications.  

        What are the real 5G use cases?

        Each new generation wireless network came with all new set of new usages. 

        The next coming 5G will make no exception and will be focused on IoT and critical communications applications. 

        In terms of the agenda, we can mention the following uses cases over time:

        • Fixed wireless access (from 2018-2019 onwards)
        • Enhanced mobile broadband with 4G fall-back (from 2019-2020-2021)
        • Massive M2M / IoT (from 2021-2022)
        • Ultra low-latency IoT critical communications (from 2024-2025)

        Some key applications like self-driving cars require very aggressive latency (fast response time) while they do not require fast data rates.  

        Conversely, enterprise cloud base services with massive data analysis will require speed improvements more than latency improvements.

        When is 5G coming? 

        Where is 5G technology in terms of roll-out, standardization and how long will this take?

        • ITU-R launched “IMT for 2020 and beyond” in 2012, setting the stage for 5G.
        • Japan and Korea started to work on 5G requirements in 2013.
        • NTT Docomo did the first 5G experimental trials in 2014.
        • Samsung, Huawei, and Ericsson started prototype development in 2013.
        • South Korean SK Telecom demoed 5G in 2018 at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
        • Ericsson and TeliaSonera made commercial services available in Stockholm and Tallinn in 2018.
        • North America 5G is available in some locations in 2019. It won't take off in most areas until 2020.
        • Deutsche Telekom started 5G in Berlin, Darmstadt, Munich, Bonn, and Cologne in Sept 2019.
        • In the UK, many cities will see 5G in 2019 and more in 2020. EE, Vodaphone, and O2 are actively deploying 5G since mid-2019.
        • India is targeting 2020 for 5G roll-out
        • Japan's target is to launch 5G for the 2020 Tokyo summer Olympics.
        • China Unicom has set up 5G in a few locations in 2019. 460 million 5G connections are expected by GMSA in China by 2025.

        More resource: 5G availability around the world as of September 2019.  

        How fast will 5G take-up be?

        The projected adoption rate for 5G differs drastically from all previous generation networks (3G, 4G): while previous technology was driven by mobile internet usage and the availability of “killer apps”, 5G is expected to be mainly driven by new IoT usages, such as connected and self-driving cars for example.

        According to a June 2019 report from Ericsson, 5G will reach 45% population coverage and 1.9 billion subscriptions by 2024, making it the fastest generation ever to be rolled out on a global scale. 

        5G for mobile operators

        What are the implications of 5G for mobile operators?

        5G is still a cellular broadband technology and is a network of networks. 

        MNOs' expertise and knowledge in building and operating networks will be key to the success of 5G.

        Beyond providing network services, MNOs will be able to develop and operate new IoT services.

        The implementation of 5G networks while keeping 3G and 4G networks operational will likely trigger a new challenge for MNOs regarding the ability of frequencies in the spectrum (especially if the forecasted massive volume on IoT occurs). 

        MNOs will need to require then operate a new spectrum in the 6 to 300 GHz range, which means massive investments in the network infrastructure.  

        To reach the 1ms latency goal, 5G networks imply connectivity for the base station using optical fibers.

        On the cost savings side, 5G networks are planned to be capable to support virtual networks such as low power low throughput (LPLT) networks for low-cost IoT. Unlike today where LORA networks address that need, separately from 4G.

        What does 5G mean for consumers?

        5G for consumers means not just faster mobile internet, but mainly internet connectivity in many more objects than what you see today.

        The car and the house are two examples of the big IoT revolution coming ahead, supported by 5G networks.

        Samsung and other Android OEMs plan to introduce the first 5G smartphones in 2019. 

        5G SIM cards are making their debut in 2019. 

        Download the infographic 

        5G SIM

        Discover the definition & benefits of a 5G SIM for 5G virtualized networks.

        Discover the 5G SIM definition and benefits

        Will 5G technology be secure?

        4G networks today use the USIM application to perform strong mutual authentication between the user and his/her connected device and the networks.

        The entity hosting the USIM application can be a removable SIM card or an embedded UICC chip. 

        This strong mutual authentication is crucial to enable trusted services. Security solutions today are already a mix of security at the edge (device) and security at the core (network). 

        Several security frameworks may co-exist in the future and 5G is likely to re-use existing solutions used today for 4G networks and the cloud (SEs, HSM, certification, Over-The-Air provisioning, and KMS).

        The standard for strong mutual authentication for 5G networks has been finalized in 2018. 

        The need for security, privacy, and trust will be as strong as for 4G if not stronger with the increased impact of IoT services. Local SEs in devices can not only secure network access but also support secure services such as emergency call management and virtual networks for IoT. 

        How will 5G impact roaming?

        While traveling abroad, 5G users will be able to seamlessly enjoy 5G roaming experience on visited networks. Fall-back to 3G-4G will be guaranteed.

        How will 5G boost the commercialization of IoT devices relying on cellular rather than Wi-Fi technology?

        Wi-Fi wireless is a “Local Area Network” technology, limited in operating range and very limited in both speed and latency.

        Many IoT services are demanding more ubiquity, more mobility, and more performance speed-wise and response time-wise. 5G will truly unleash a true IoT eco-system.

        5G and IoT

        How will 5G networks & use cases change the world?

        The “perception” of speed, instantaneous response time and performance for IoT will become a reality thanks to 5G.

        As an example, the well-expected success of self-driving cars will only be possible when 5G networks are available.

        Now it's your turn

        What do you think?

        If you've something to say on 5G technology and networks, a question to ask, or have simply found this article useful, please leave a comment in the box below. We'd also welcome any suggestions on how it could be improved or proposals for future articles.

        We look forward to hearing from you. 

        More resources on 5G technology

        Discover below our three white papers, video, blog posts, and related press releases.

        5G Big Data 

        Reaching 5G's "Plateau of Productivity"

        Big Data Analytics, Machine Learning & AI are Critical for Service Providers to Master 5G Operational Complexity.

        Download the eBook

        White Paper

        • A New Trust Model For The 5G Era

          5G use cases will bring new requirements on the storage, compute and network domains and will introduce new risks to the confidentiality, integrity and availability of enterprise & user data. This White Paper provides Gemalto’s recommendations to address these new challenges and build a new trust model for the 5G era.

          Building a new trust model in the 5G era

        Download the Q&A

        • 5G Networks Q & A

          Introducing 5G networks – Characteristics and usages

          The fifth generation networks (5G) is currently under development and will hit the market at the horizon 2020. Compared with the current 4G LTE technology, 5G is targeting to reach both high speed (1 Gbps), low power and low latency (1ms or less), for massive IoT, tactile internet and robotics.

          Introducing 5G networks – Characteristics and usages


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