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According to all the industry hype, 5G has arrived. But it’s more accurate to say it’s still arriving. 

Given its developing status, it’s worth looking at where we are with the technology at this point—not just with the major carriers’ 5G rollout but in terms of usable 5G at home, work and in school. 

Beyond all the hype, what is 5G’s true potential? How can we make the most out of it? And why are we not there yet? 

The Promise of 5G 

Once it’s fully realized, this latest generation of mobile technology will offer a quantum leap forward in the world of mobile communication. According to estimates from the International Telecommunications Union, 5G networks will deliver: 

• 1,000 times higher mobile data volume per area 

• 100 times the number of connected devices 

• 100 times higher user data rate 

• 10 times longer battery life for lower-power massive machine communications  

The benefits include: 

Speed and Capacity  

Users on 5G networks can enjoy download speeds that are exponentially faster than those on 4G networks. With expected peak download speeds as high as 20 gigabits-per-second, streaming high-definition video, playing graphically intensive online games, and downloading large files become seamless, almost instantaneous experiences.  

5G’s enhanced capacity opens new possibilities for data-intensive applications. It can facilitate the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) by providing the bandwidth and reliability needed to connect billions of devices, which has practical implications for smart cities, autonomous vehicles, and industrial automation.   

Reduced Latency 

5G networks can achieve ultra-low latency (the delay between sending a request and receiving a response) often measured in milliseconds. This paves the way for innovations in fields where real-time communication is critical, bringing about transformative changes in healthcare, transportation and entertainment. Ambulances equipped with 5G connectivity can transmit critical patient data to hospitals in real time, allowing for faster and more accurate treatment. With 5G, smart factories can monitor machines in real time, predict maintenance needs, and optimize production processes. 

The Global Rollout of 5G Networks  

5G networks have already achieved a significant global footprint. All developed and many developing countries have made substantial progress in deploying 5G infrastructure—with the U.S., China, and South Korea at the forefront. The expansion of 5G networks involves a collaborative effort between the public and private sectors. Governments are allocating substantial resources and streamlining regulations to facilitate the rollout. Telecoms are investing billions in building the necessary infrastructure. And tech companies are developing the hardware and software required to make 5G a reality.  

In a recent mobility report, Ericsson projected that by the end of 2025, there will be 2.6 billion 5G subscribers, amounting to 65 percent of the global population and generating 45 percent of the world’s total mobile data traffic. 

But what are we actually seeing?  While these numbers reflect the general availability of 5G worldwide, many of us rarely find ourselves working in a 5G environment because we don’t yet have the infrastructure to support it. But why?  

What’s Holding Us Back from Ubiquitous 5G 

The fact is, 5G waves don’t propagate well through building materials, and the expected global rollout doesn’t account for the need to densify our own networks or extend the signal to indoor spaces where coverage might not be able to reach. The promise of 5G should have been here already. But because 5G propagates differently indoor spaces will require other solutions. In addition to that, major carriers have tended to invest in broad but not dense 5G coverage. 

There is also a “chicken-and-egg” problem. While developers wait for 5G to become available, IT leaders await the release of apps that can make full use of 5G before deciding it’s worth their while to build out the infrastructure. 

In addition, 5G technology itself is not without its challenges.   

Speed and Capacity 

 Although the lightning-fast speed and huge capacity of 5G offer exciting new possibilities for high-bandwidth applications like autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, and smart cities, implementing 5G technology requires significant investment in infrastructure development to ensure smooth connectivity and efficient data transfer, unlocking 5G’s full potential. Deploying new base stations, small cells, and fiber-optic networks is critical to support the increased data traffic and provide widespread coverage.  
 
Governments and regulatory bodies must assign appropriate frequencies and manage them effectively to meet the growing demand for wireless connectivity. Additionally, mitigating interference issues and managing spectrum sharing among service providers are crucial to ensuring uninterrupted and reliable 5G connectivity. 

Security and Privacy 

The rapid expansion of 5G networks has raised concerns about cybersecurity. As more devices connect to 5G, the attack surface for cybercriminals expands, increasing the potential for network vulnerabilities. Ensuring the security of 5G networks and the data transmitted over them requires greater vigilance. Implementing strong security measures and policies such as encryption, authentication protocols, and threat detection systems will be crucial to protecting sensitive data and safeguarding against cyber threats in the 5G era.  

Not All 5G Has the Same Level of Performance 

The designation of 5G that you typically see on a phone refers to the fifth generation of cellular network technology, designed to provide faster and more reliable internet connectivity compared to previous generations like 4G and 3G. This 5G technology encompasses various standards and frequencies, ranging from low-band frequencies (offering wider coverage but slower speeds) to high-band frequencies (providing faster speeds but with a shorter range). 

5G NR (New Radio) is a specific part of the 5G standard, focused on the air interface or the technology for radio communication between a mobile device and the cellular network. Modulated 5G refers to the modulation techniques used in 5G NR. Modulation is a process used in telecommunications to convey a message signal, such as digital data, using an electromagnetic wave. In 5G NR, advanced modulation techniques like QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) are used to increase the amount of data that can be transmitted over a wireless network. 

The key differences between generic 5G and modulated 5G NR are: 

  • Scope: The term “5G” is more general and encompasses the entire suite of technologies and standards that make up the fifth generation of mobile networks. “5G NR”, on the other hand, specifically refers to the part of the 5G standard dealing with the radio interface and communication. 
  • Technical Details: “5G NR” with modulation involves specific techniques and protocols for efficiently transmitting data over radio waves, such as using different types of QAM. These techniques are part of what enables 5G networks to achieve higher speeds, lower latency, and more efficient use of the radio spectrum. 
  • Implementation: When you see “5G” on your phone, it generally means your device is connected to a network capable of 5G speeds, but it doesn’t specify the technical details of the connection. “Modulated” 5G NR is a more technical term that would be used by engineers and network professionals to refer to the specific methods and standards used in transmitting data over the network. 

In short, while “5G” is a broad term for the overall technology, modulated 5G NR refers more specifically to the technical aspects of how data is transmitted within the 5G networks. 

Digital Divide  

Despite widespread 5G coverage in many urban areas, rural and underserved regions still face challenges in accessing high-speed connectivity. Bridging the digital divide is a priority for governments and organizations worldwide. However, while it’s critical for the public and private sectors to continue to invest in infrastructure development to ensure equitable access to 5G technology, building and maintaining the necessary infrastructure is expensive.  

As 5G continues to evolve and mature, it will be essential for stakeholders to address these challenges to ensure that its benefits are accessible to all. The potential for 5G to reshape how we live, work and communicate is undeniable.  Let’s make sure everyone can make the most of it. 

Contact us to learn how WilsonPro can help your organization claim the advantages of 5G. 

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