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Five things to keep in mind when thinking about 5g.

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CEO of  RootMetrics , an IHS Markit company, providing key mobile performance benchmarking and insights across multiple industries.  

From advertisements to webinars to articles in mainstream news, 5G is a hot topic. And for good reason. 5G will be a key foundation for unlocking new business value, help make sexy applications like autonomous driving or remote surgery a reality, and power smart cities, factories and farms.

But we’re not there yet. Indeed, at this point, we’re barely scratching the surface on those types of benefits. Moreover, assessing the current 5G landscape (especially in the U.S.) isn’t nearly as straightforward or easy as all those ads imply.

Here are five key things to keep in mind as you start thinking about what 5G can bring to your business in 2021.

1. 5G Is Needed Now More Than Ever

Saying that 2020 has forced us to look differently at work, family and even leisure time is a vast understatement. From the perspective of network connectivity, Covid-19 has shown just how critical connectivity now is to our lives. Remote work, remote learning and remote “happy hours” with friends and family have led to a boom in videoconferencing services like Zoom and Teams, but those services aren’t powered just by broadband.

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Mobile networks have been key to keeping us connected as well. From that perspective, connectivity has become a fundamental part of the infrastructure of our connected communities. That’s not going to change any time soon, and 5G will be key to not just keeping us connected but to helping expand those types of connections.

2. 5G Isn’t Just About Speed

A key reason that 5G will help expand our connected communities is that there’s a lot more to 5G technology than speed. Yes, the speeds can be eye-popping. And yes, those speeds mean that mobile activity, from streaming movies to downloading giant documents and more, will be nearly instantaneous. But 5G also greatly expands the capacity of mobile networks. This means that more and more people can be on a network simultaneously with no drop-off in performance.

From a factory or agricultural standpoint, this type of capacity will be able to support massive numbers of smart sensors and help create new industrial use cases we likely haven’t even thought of yet. Latency, or the “lag” between initiating a network request and receiving a response, will also decrease dramatically with 5G. Mission-critical applications where any delay could be catastrophic, like autonomous driving, simply cannot happen without 5G and the improved latency it will (eventually) bring.

3. Look Beyond The Label

Here’s where things get really tricky. All those ads you’re seeing about 5G? They’re not necessarily talking about the same kind of 5G. The performance you get from 5G remains dependent on the type of spectrum a carrier has available.

In a nutshell, there are three types of spectrum to consider: low-band, mid-band and high-band (also referred to as mmWave). There are pros and cons to each spectrum type. As an analogy, think of these bands in relation to Goldilocks. Low-band offers greater geographical coverage, but speeds are slower and similar to existing speeds on LTE. High-band/mmWave, in contrast, brings incredible speeds but a very small coverage area. Mid-band is Goldilocks in this comparison, providing a strong combination of fast speeds and relatively broad coverage.

The differences in spectrum and performance are why assessing the current 5G landscape is so complicated. Who is “winning” the 5G race really depends on what you want to get out of 5G. From a practical and business standpoint, if you are turning to 5G for coverage in hard-to-reach areas, low-band could be the answer. If, on the other hand, you need 5G for blazing speeds that make your eyes water, mmWave is the answer. Comparing progress and performance in one spectrum band to progress and performance in another is like the proverbially impossible task of comparing apples to oranges.

4. An Ideal Network Solution Is A Combination Approach

This leads us to our fourth point. The best and most robust 5G networks offer a combination of 5G types and can take advantage of the diverse and complementary benefits of different spectrum resources. Think about it as tools in a toolbox. It’s great to have a screwdriver, but sometimes you need a wrench. For 5G, it’s great to be able to offer incredible speeds, but sometimes delivering expanded coverage is more important.

After gaining coveted mid-band spectrum from Sprint, T-Mobile was first to provide a 5G service with all three types of spectrum in play — its so-called layer cake approach. But AT&T and Verizon are expanding their 5G spectrum resources as well, and each is now making use of both low-band and mmWave spectrum.

5. Help For Rural Areas

The FCC has again reiterated the need to expand connectivity to rural Americans. 5G should be a cornerstone of that effort. The broader coverage and opportunity for increased speeds mean that 5G can act as a vehicle for fixed wireless access (FWA), serving connectivity to houses that a router can then distribute just like traditional broadband. Moreover, as 5G expands, networks will be able to “refarm” existing 3G spectrum assets and use for additional 5G service. Pardoning the pun, this type of refarming can help expand service to more farms and rural users.

There’s no question that 5G is the future, but the picture is more complex than simply “adding 5G” to your service. This certainly doesn’t mean you should ignore 5G. As seen above, 5G will be absolutely critical to connectivity and businesses moving forward. But it does mean that especially during this pivotal stage when networks are rolling out and maturing, you should think carefully about what you need from your 5G network and evaluate options based upon those particular needs.

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How Will 5G Impact The Way We Design Digital Products?

How Will 5G Impact The Way We Design Digital Products?

thinking in 5g

Two years ago, 5G was an exciting concept. Today, it is our near future. But something so technologically advanced is bound to change a lot about our everyday lives. From the way we communicate through the way we interact with products and businesses to the way we do things. Just think how much has changed when the Walkman first came out. Then the first iPod and iPhone. The first laptop. All of these advancements have led us to where we are today and each one changed something about our everyday life. 5G is no different in that aspect. So, what exactly is 5G and what possibilities it offers? What does the introduction of 5G worldwide mean for businesses and their products? How will 5G change the way we think about and approach product design? Let’s dive in.

What Is The 5G Mobile Network?

If you take a look at your phone right now, chances are, you’ll see a 3G or a 4G-LTE sign somewhere on the status bar. Those are today’s standard mobile networks. They’re third and fourth mobile network generations. Since the first one (1G), which provided voice-only analog connections, we have really made a huge leap forward. The most advanced mobile network today, available worldwide, is 4G. Although, most providers can’t really hit the 4G speed of 100mbps. And that’s why you might see the 4G-LTE status on your phone. It’s close to 100mbps but not quite there yet. 

All that’s great. Most of us are happy with the service. Most of the time. But the demand has significantly outgrown the supply. People stream and transfer a lot of data, want to use high-quality video calls and have phone service anywhere, even in the most remote areas. And that’s where 5G comes in. While 4G transfers 1GB per second, 5G will be able to transfer 20GB. The innovation lies in the use of millimeter-waves and optimizing speed and coverage needs. This essentially means that there will be access to the internet everywhere in the world . Anywhere and everywhere. It also means that even if the demand is huge (let’s say at a conference or a festival), the network will be able to meet those needs.

In 2019, a few cellular service providers launched test and pilot programs for 5G. And there’s a possibility, that 5G will start to be implemented by the end of 2020. What will change and what are the main advantages of introducing 5G?

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What possibilities does 5g offer.

Because of how drastically better and more advanced than our current networks 5G is, when it’s launched, we will have a lot of new opportunities and room for growth. Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said that 5G opens a lot of possibilities for the gaming industry. Especially AR games will see a huge growth under 5G. 

5G could also mean the rise of telemedicine. Yes, you could be operated by a doctor that’s thousands of miles away. Because the connection is so fast and stable, doctors could remotely use robots to perform some procedures. This could be a big revolution in the healthcare industry.

Video calls will become really life-like. It’s good quality now, but imagine if it felt like you’re looking at your friends, family or team mates through a window. That’s the quality 5G will be able to provide.

All in all, the speed will be major. Downloading a full movie will take 15 seconds. This performance will kick-start all kinds of innovations like smart homes , self-driving cars and more. But before it happens, we will need to change our mindset and understand how this new technology will affect not only our everyday lives but also our businesses and interactions with services or products.

5G’s Impact On Businesses

According to Conor Pierce, a corporate vice president at Samsung, “ With the release of the first commercial 5G devices, along with new and exciting form factors, we have seen reinvigorated consumer demand within the smartphone industry. As 5G capabilities continue to develop, we will see stimulation across other industries, including healthcare, automotive and smarter cities. ”

Such exponential changes present multiple opportunities for businesses across all industries. But they also change customers’ behaviour, their needs and expectations. This double-edged sword is exactly why business owners should think ahead and start preparing for the 5G launch. Once consumers get used to extraordinary speed and performance, the disappointment level will be huge when something fails. And it’s not only a matter of B2C consumers. When 5G is implemented, it will enable us to improve search and rescue operations, medical procedures, autonomic cars, smart cities and more. 

5G will bring connectivity at a level we have never seen before. With this network’s response time of 1ms, the customer journeys and interactions can be more elaborate. It will be really important to think through your products and consider a redesign according to the new 5G reality.

The main features of 5G mobile network that could impact the way we design products in the future.

Is A New Way Of Designing Products On The Way?

With so many changes coming, and coming soon, we need to start thinking ahead. Not only business owners need to do so, but also product owners, project managers, designers, developers and testers. In short, all of us do. As Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s CEO states: “ Once you have a network this sophisticated and advanced, all that storage, boost, high gear – you don’t need a big, bulky device. When you have this fast speed, no latency, you begin to think differently about the entire architecture of what kind of devices (and products) you design. ”

It’s hard to predict what exactly will change but one thing’s for sure – most of our limitations will simply disappear . Those animations, 3D renders or AR features you wanted but would slow down your product? Now will work seamlessly. 

The Big Change From A Designer’s Perspective

We asked two of our Designers about their thoughts on 5G and what might it change. Patryk and Robert shared their predictions and insights but keep in mind that there’s no way of telling what will happen until 5G is launched into the world.

User Interface Designer’s Perspective

One of our designers, Patryk Polak , says: “ To be honest, I’m not quite sure what to expect. We know that 5G will be a big change and that it brings fast speed, no latency and overall great performance but there’s no way of telling how will all that shift design. I mean, there are two possible routes from my point of view. We will either gravitate towards more elaborate user journeys and flows or towards more elaborate interfaces and interactions. Or, a secret option number three, we will do both. No matter what happens, I am very excited. I’m sure many designers feel this way, but 5G is like a veil lifted. If something was blurry before, it won’t be anymore. The designs I make will truly come to life if I will be able to include more animations, micro interactions etc. ”

User Experience Designer’s Perspective

Head of one of our design teams, Robert Siębor , shared his thoughts: “ I wouldn’t say I’m skeptical, but I’m not that excited either. I guess we will have to wait and see. What I think will happen is that initially, we won’t notice a difference. Businesses will need some time to figure out how to fit such technology into people’s everyday lives. Because other than extreme situations (remote areas, big events and so on), 4G or 4G LTE pretty much fulfill our needs. Sure, we will be happy that a movie downloaded faster or the video call quality was better. But it will take time, before we figure out what do we want from this new technology, what can be done, so that it’s actually useful for us. I think that it’s crucial for every business to look closely at their market right after the 5G launch. Observe, analyze and come up with possible integrations of 5G into your customers’ lives and, hence, your products or services. “

Reimagined Products Of The Future

All this to say, things will change. According to Jasmeet Singh Sethi, Ericsson’s lead researcher, “ the more-distant future won’t look anything like what we know today, especially when it comes to the design of the devices we’ll be using ”. He also shared insights about customer expectations: “ When we’ve spoken with consumers who carry the latest smartphones today, and you talk with them about 5G, what these users are saying is that the current form factor and feature sets cannot take advantage of the promise of 5G. ”

This means that in order to fully utilize the power of 5G, we will need to reimagine our devices and the software we use today . Otherwise, we will just do the same things we do today – just a little (well, a lot actually) faster. As our team gathers more insights and observes the launch of 5G, we will keep you updated.

If you’re looking for an experienced team to transform your digital product into a 5G-ready masterpiece – contact us and we will come up with solutions that will boost your business’s digital transformation.

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thinking in 5g

Why 4G won’t work in a 5G world Why 4G thinking won’t work in a 5G world

Why 5G is the revolutionary advancement operators need to value.

Everyone wants to know if 5G will be revolutionary. For telecom operators, the jury is still out. But for human advancement in communications, the answer should be an unequivocal yes. And the smartest operators will see the value in that.

By Alex Holt, Global Head of Media & Telecommunications and Sean Rivett, Manager, Global Strategy Group

There are a wealth of articles, papers and pundits offering the traditional opinions and comparisons of 4G and 5G. Pick up any industry trade publication and you are sure to find dozens of valid viewpoints. The problem is that most are based on a very ‘4G’ way of thinking. And that means they might be missing the point about the value of 5G. Yes, 5G offers extraordinarily low latency, unprecedented data rates and network capacity. But by focusing only on these technical aspects, we may be missing the forest for the trees. So, instead of the technical or business view, let’s view it from the customers’ perspective , and think about what telecom operators really do every day: enable people to communicate. Let’s consider why humans bother communicating in the first place. The academics will tell you there are three levels to human communication. At the first level, our most base level, we communicate to share needs and important information . The second level adds more sophisticated language and comprehension, allowing us to share thoughts and ideas . The most sophisticated thing humans can do with communication is to share feelings and emotions , which is on the third level. For the most part, humans use language — essentially our way of ‘coding’ and ‘decoding’ messages — for communicating those base needs and ideas on the first and second layer respectively. But our language often fails us when we try to communicate or share our feelings and emotions.

Monetizing human communication

Now, let’s think about the various generations of network functionality that have been developed over the past few decades. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the world was fairly content with 2G mobile technologies. Voice and SMS allowed humans to achieve that first level of communication — sharing needs and important information. And telecom operators found ways to monetize that communication and add value to their businesses as a result. By 2008, the internet was seeping into the far corners of the world and the information age was in full swing. By connecting us to each other via the web, 3G and 4G networks empowered the world to share ideas and views. Mobile broadband allowed people to share all sorts of thoughts and ideas — that second level of communications need that is so typical of the internet — on their devices, sometimes through speech, but increasingly through pictures, video and music. Again, telecom operators found ways to monetize that communication and add value to their businesses as a result. With this context, one can understand that regardless of whether 5G is a technological revolution or not, what is certain is that we are on a path towards communicating in richer and richer ways through our telecom networks. And 5G will be the next step towards enabling humans to truly move into that last level of the human communication hierarchy — sharing truly immersive and emotional connections. We are certain that, once again, telecom operators will find ways to monetize that communication and add value to their businesses as a result.

You don’t need to squint to see it

Indeed, the move towards monetizing shared experiences and feelings through 5G is already underway. Viewers of the most recent Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang will certainly have enjoyed the extraordinarily rich experience that came from the multitude of cameras worn by competitors and participants. Powered by a test 5G network being showcased by KT Corp, this was not just about providing yet another camera angle; this was about allowing viewers to actually experience — in real time and high definition — exactly what the athletes themselves experience. And what was interesting was that, all of a sudden, the verbal descriptions and event commentators that we had been so dependent on for decades didn’t seem to matter as much; they could never explain in words what viewers were able to experience themselves. For tech enthusiasts, the spectacle of the show in Pyeongchang may have been slightly overshadowed by the spectacle of the technology being demonstrated. How would this change the way people consume content in the future? What will be the next big consumer of the bandwidth that we’re unlocking? And how will viewers be ‘participating’ in the big sporting events of the 2020’s? Will telecom operators be able to bring us even closer to the action and immerse us even deeper into the experience and the content? The ability to share collective and individual experiences through media will connect people at an emotional level that was not possible before: they will feel as if they were part of the action.

Let the machine do it

This is not just about helping people enjoy shared, immersive experiences together — though that is certainly part of it. It’s also about enabling people to interact with the growing ecosystem of connected machines around them. The reality is that machines are starting to take over an increasingly large part of the human ‘cognitive load’ 1 , allowing us to refocus our minds onto other (hopefully more valuable) things. There are already an estimated 10 billion connected ‘things’ in use today; and the volume of these devices is expected to double by the end of 2020 2 . As these — and other, so-far unimagined devices — become interconnected through 5G, we’ll be able to put more and more of our current cognitive load into the hands of our devices. Indeed, we are already seeing homes behaving more like organic extensions of their owners than inanimate objects; in the 5G-enabled home of the future, our homes will unlock doors, set the right lighting, manage the heating and even order the groceries. Our cities will represent even larger organisms; 5G could even allow objects — such as cars and advertising billboards — to read human emotion and respond accordingly. This will provide telecom operators with even more data to mine, analyze and monetize (particularly once the power of AI is unleashed upon it). It’s a virtuous cycle. And who knows what opportunities that will bring for telecom operators.

Time for a new way of thinking

The key here is in acknowledging that 5G will enable humans to share more deeply through telecom networks — both with each other and with machines — and telecom operators will play the role of enablers. Only from that point can the new business models be developed. We believe that 5G will be revolutionary for some telecom operators; those that take the time to really visualize what a future 5G environment might look like and then start building their business cases upon that. Understanding the flow of people’s feelings to machines and other humans through the network is a good place to start. But if you find that the numbers don’t quite balance out in the short-term, we propose that you take a pause — think about what 5G will really mean to human advancement — and ponder the potential opportunities that you don’t yet know exist. The reality is that 5G will be the catalyst to significant long term changes in the way people communicate, and what gets communicated. But the business case fundamentals that underpinned 4G do not necessarily apply. And that means 4G thinking cannot be used to evaluate 5G ideas ; if you only thought about telegraphs at the turn of the 19th century, you would never have predicted the value of telephones. We believe that — over the long-term — we will view 5G as having been a revolutionary step in human connectivity. Undoubtedly, big questions still remain. Will the first movers recoup their investments? When will consumers soak up the bandwidth in sufficient numbers to make it profitable? What is the advantage to moving first and, potentially, cornering the market? The answers lie in understanding what this structural shift might look like, and taking the right steps to achieve competitive advantage. Businesses that do not actively play a role in building this future risk being absorbed or made irrelevant by a system that does not suit them. The winners will be the ones who understand the power and opportunities of 5G communication and take steps to build the ecosystem that position them to deliver the next level of human communication needs.

1 Cognitive load refers to the tasks that we use our brains to complete. Technology aims to allow us to outsource these cognitive processes to machines so that we can use that time, or brain power, in other ways

2 Gartner  

Global Head for Technology, Media & Telecommunications

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What Do People Think About 5G?

thinking in 5g

Soon the 5th generation of wireless cellular technology will come to our lives and change many things with its unparalleled speed. But on the other hand, there are some myths about 5G technology. The common point of those myths is the necessity of this wireless speed. Is there a benefit to end customer?

According to those myths, the world’s giant telecom brand Ericsson made a consumer lab study and examined the myths about 5G wireless cellular technology. The purpose of the research was to found out and highlight consumer insights about this high tech.

Consumers think that 5G will solve the internet speed problem in crowded places

The most crucial finding of the research was that consumers mostly complain about the internet speed in crowded places, megacities etc. and they think that 5G’s will solve this problem. They believe that they will never face any network, broadband band problems with 5th generation.

When we look deeper, half of the smartphone users in South Korea and Australia, 2 out of 5 in the USA, are complaining about internet speed. Also 6 out of 10 in mega/metro cities globally face issues in crowded areas and would like 5G to be deployed first in these kind of areas. Also at home, people demand more speed, less lag so, with the release of the 5G tech, they think that they will get what they want.

People tend to pay 20% more to 5th generation technologies, early adopters 32% more

One of the myths about 5G is people don’t want to pay more for new technology but Ericsson’s study proved the opposite. People are willing to pay %20 more and early adopters are willing to pay %32 more for this new technology and they are excited about the benefits.

Consumers want to experience wearable technologies

Smart watches, glasses and all the other outcomes of new technologies will be more useful and better working with the speed of 5G technologies. The consumer lab shows that people are willing to use and experience those features of the new technology era. So they are waiting for 5G to have that great experience.

You can find the whole study by clicking here .

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5g technology and networks (speed, use cases, rollout).

Last updated 25 January 2022

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

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

What is 5G?

How fast is 5g.

What's the relation between 5G and satellites?

Will 5g technology be secure.

Let's see how 5G technology is about to change the world.

5G technology

5G technology is a breakthrough.

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

Beyond speed improvement, the technology is expected to unleash a massive 5G 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.

This makes sense if you think about what 5G has to offer.

5G technology is driven by 8 specification requirements:

5G features

5G speed tops out at 10 gigabits per second (Gbps).

5G speed

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

Using shorter frequencies (millimeter waves between 30GHz and 300GHz) for 5G networks is why 5G can be faster. This high-band 5G spectrum provides the expected boost in speed and capacity, low latency, and quality.

According to the February 2020 issue of Fortune Magazine, average 5G speed measures done in Q3/Q4 2019 range from:

Some download and upload 5G speed tests in Australia, America, and China (April 2020)

But here is the part where you understand the benefits of 5G go beyond speed. 

What is 5G low latency? 

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 proper training.

Imagine now that your car could react 250 times faster than you .

Imagine it could also respond to hundreds of incoming information and 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

In other words, 5G and IoT create the perfect match.

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

5G vs 4G - What is the difference?

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

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

It will enable a perceived entirely 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?

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

5G will support all communication needs from low power Local Area Network (LAN) – like home networks, such as Wide Area Networks (WAN), with the proper latency/speed settings.

This need is addressed today by aggregating various communication networks (Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, LoRa, 3G, 4G, etc.)

And 5G is more innovative.  

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

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

What are the real 5G use cases?

Each new generation wireless network came with a 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 schedule, we can mention the following uses cases over time:

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

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

When is 5G coming? 

5G rollout : Where do we stand? How long will it take?

Here are the recent steps done so far:

This brings us to our next point.

New 5G phones  - 5G for all?

By early 2022, 1250 5G devices had been announced by 180 vendors.

Phones represent close to 50% of the announced 5G-compliant devices ( GSA  report).

ATT launched fifteen 5G phones in October 2020 in the US.

We can count on twenty 5G devices  from Verizon. Some are priced below $600.

At the Consumer Electronics Show , at least two companies revealed new 5G phones that will cost less than $500. These lower-cost phones will help make 5G more affordable for many of us.

Similarly, Samsung has released its new Galaxy S line of phones in San Francisco. These new devices are also likely to have a lower price point than the company's current 5G phone line.

On 13 October 2020, Apple has released its long-awaited 5G-compliant iPhone. All four iPhone 12 models support 5G.

The four models support the three types of 5G services based on different frequencies: the "low-band," the "mid-band," and mmWave,(millimetre wave, the fastest).

Which 5G service should you get? 

Well, it all depends on where you live. 

How fast will 5G take-up be?

The projected adoption rate for 5G differs drastically from all previous generation networks (3G, 4G). 

Globally, the number of 5G users worldwide is foreseen to explode from less than 200 million in 2019 to 1,02 Billion in 2023 (Fortune Feb. 2020).

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 crucial to the success of 5G.

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

Implementing 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 (mainly if the forecasted massive volume on IoT occurs). 

MNOs will need to operate a new spectrum in the 6 to 300 GHz range (typical 5G bandwidth ), which means massive network infrastructure investments .  

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

5G networks are planned to support virtual networks such as low power, low throughput (LPLT) networks for low-cost IoT on the cost savings side. 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 have introduced the first 5G smartphones in 2019 . 148 5G phones are already commercially available, according to the GSA October 2020 report.

5G SIM cards made their debut in 2019 and 2020. 

what is 5g all about

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

Discover the 5G SIM definition and benefits

5G network

5G satellite communication -directly from the sky to the device- will soon become a reality.

Indeed, a new generation of satellites will bring onboard 5G capabilities to ensure full 5G coverage of the Earth, in addition to the terrestrial mobile 5G networks.

Specifically, with space-based systems, 5G will offer higher accessibility, reliability, and resilience, along with broadcasting and multi-broadcasting capabilities.

We expect 5G to support a wide variety of applications (e.g., agriculture, logistics, public safety) so that everybody in the world can be connected.

Along with space and mobile phone manufacturers, Thales Alenia Space supports the efforts of 3GPP to develop solutions embracing the vision of a single global space-based network fully integrated with mobile operators 5G networks. 

thinking in 5g

Beginning of 2021, South Korean operator KT SAT, a subsidiary of the world's first 5G commercial service provider Korea Telecom, has led a  5G satellite demonstration using the geostationary Koreasat 5A telecommunication satellite to provide a 5G network to remote areas. More recently,  Hellas Sat performed a successful 5G demonstration in Greece : it consisted in backhauling the connection between a 5G Core Network and a 5G gNB through Hellas Sat 3 / Inmarsat S EAN satellite.

Thales Alenia Space manufactured both satellites.  

4G networks use the USIM application to perform strong mutual authentication between the user and their 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.

Today, security solutions 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 was finalized in 2018. 

The need for 5G 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 secure network access and support secure services such as emergency call management and virtual IoT networks. 

5G connectivity promises to break traditional data delivery paradigms by providing network connectivity almost everywhere.

New business opportunities drive data-in-motion security requirements to include network transparency, low latency, high-level bandwidth, consistency in delivery, and complete interoperability.

  To accommodate this new paradigm in data delivery, the build-out of 5G infrastructures is underway.

Older, more traditional data in motion security methods are no longer viable solutions to meet these diverse 5G requirements.  

Additionally, these older technologies cannot meet today's challenges of auditable compliance and the not-so-distant future's quantum threat challenges.

Security, performance, interoperability, and auditable compliance are just a few of the 5G challenges that require immediate attention.  

There is a need for a more intelligent data-in-motion security solution to accommodate the diverse range of 5G use cases.

How will 5G impact roaming?

While traveling abroad, 5G users will enjoy a  5G roaming experience on visited networks seamlessly. A 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 speed and latency.

Many IoT services demand more ubiquity, more mobility, and more performance speed and response time.

5G will truly unleash a vibrant IoT ecosystem.

5G and IoT

How will 5G networks use cases change the world?

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

For example, self-driving cars' well-expected success 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, testimonials on 5G speed, a question to ask, or have 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 papers.

We look forward to hearing from you. 

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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.

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The promise of 5G

Consumers are intrigued, but will they pay?

Consumers are largely satisfied with their current home and mobile internet services; however, there’s mounting frustration with overall reliability, speed and cost. As a nationwide deployment of 5G draws near, it becomes increasingly important to understand how consumers feel about their existing home and mobile broadband services and what they perceive about this next generation of wireless technology, of which only 46% are familiar.

Doing so will allow companies to make more informed decisions about the network devices, services, and applications that will depend on 5G. Specifically:

We asked 1,000 home and mobile internet users questions in several categories:

Download this report

Methodology:  During September 2018, PwC surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,000 Americans between the ages of 18-64 who have access to the internet via an online survey conducted by a leading global research firm.

Today’s home internet could use an upgrade

Overall satisfaction with today’s internet services is high, with 92% and 87% of users at least somewhat satisfied with their mobile and home internet services respectively. However, more consumers are “completely satisfied” with their mobile internet (50%) than with their home internet service (38%).

“My home internet is extremely inconsistent. I feel I pay way more than what it’s worth for basic internet. I wouldn’t mind what I pay if my internet consistently worked.” Female, 34, who was not aware of 5G, finds it very appealing

Compared to one’s home internet, mobile internet seems to hold more value for the money. Reasons for this include:

1  Federal Communications Commission, “International Broadband Data Report,” February 2, 2018.

The promise of 5g

Awareness of 5G needs improvement

46% of respondents were familiar with the term “5G” without prompting, with familiarity skewing heavily towards males. Awareness of 5G is also higher in urban vs. rural areas (50% vs. 40%).

“Now that I know about 5G, I’m pretty excited about it and hope that it is as great as it has been built up to be." Female, 25, who was not aware of 5G, finds it very appealing

The idea of 5G is very appealing

Once defined, the idea of 5G technology is appealing to nearly everyone (93-98% across all age segments); 62% of consumers find 5G “very” appealing. Interest peaks among 18-24-year-olds (71% “very appealing”).

The promise of 5g

Reliability is top priority

Inconsistency is a current pain point for consumers and is largely contributing to overall dissatisfaction: 43% agree that the internet on their mobile device “cuts in and out sometimes/ is not always strong,” while 37% say the same for their home internet, and how it “disconnects for no reason.”

Thus, it’s no surprise that if consumers could change just one thing about their current internet, both in and out of the home, the majority would change its reliability—more so than speed, data and cost.

Reliability is the top consumer “must-have” for internet across the board.

The promise of 5g

Portability is an added benefit of 5G in the home

In addition to faster speeds and lower latency, 5G in the home brings with it a host of other benefits, including the possibility of less wires, faster do-it-yourself installation, and portability of the service to bring it to other locations when not at home. But do consumers care?

One third are willing to pay more for 5G

The business case for 5G isn’t ideal—the rollout and implementation will be costly, and there’s growing concern around small profit margins. But what if internet users are willing to pay more for 5G service?

If 5G delivers on its promise, a third of internet users will pay more for the technology—33% would do so for 5G in the home, while 31% would do the same on mobile.

But how much more would consumers be willing to pay?

Among all surveyed respondents, on average, consumers would be willing to pay an extra $5.06/month for 5G internet service in the home, and an extra $4.40/month for 5G internet on mobile.

Notably, more consumers are willing to pay a premium for 5G in the home than on mobile. As it is, home internet users are less satisfied with their current service, and they feel as though they are already overpaying. What’s a marginal increase in price for a significant improvement in service?

The promise of 5g

Speed warrants a premium

Though reliability is a consumer’s top priority, it’s speed for which consumers will pay an upcharge. Faster internet, both in and out of the home, is the primary reason why consumers said they would be willing to pay more for 5G.

Interestingly, benefits having to do with video specifically hold more weight among mobile internet users. More would pay a premium for 5G if it provided “better quality video” on their mobile device (29% vs. 25% of home internet users) and “decreased buffering while streaming video” (25% vs. 19%).

Despite the benefits, 5G is not an immediate need

53% of mobile internet users said they would be willing to make a switch for 5G:

However, being amenable to change does not equal urgency, and most consumers are not in a rush to get the new technology—in a scenario where a new mobile device would be required to access 5G, only 26% said they would rush out to buy one, even if they were not yet eligible for an upgrade.

Willingness to buy a new device right away was highest among young males <40 (36%), African Americans (36%), and consumers who regularly play video games (34%).

The promise of 5g

Spotlight: Consumers under 40

Not surprisingly, internet users under the age of 40 hold the most excitement about a future with 5G connectivity. While much of their attitudes and opinions align with the broader population, it’s worth noting where this group falls outside the line.

Younger consumers place more value overall on the internet and what it affords them. Our respondents under the age of 40 were significantly more likely to report a household income of less than $75,000/year, and yet, they were also significantly less concerned with the cost of their internet.

The promise of 5g

Honest feedback: what consumers really think

The potential of 5G

Given the history of the wireless industry, how do you feel about what 5G is likely to bring to you?

Current home internet

What do you wish your current home internet provider knew about your service?

Home internet service: one change

If you could change one thing about your current home internet service, what would it be?

Current mobile internet

What do you wish your current mobile phone provider knew about your internet service?

Mobile internet services: one change

If you could change one thing about your current mobile provider regarding the internet, what would it be?

The opportunity

5G doesn’t just promise a faster version of the 4G internet we have now; by some estimates, 5G will spur $1 trillion in global GDP over the next three years. It will change how consumers digest media, purchase products and services, and operate their homes. And in the workplace, 5G underlies immense potential for automation and proliferation of intelligent environments.

Yet as the industry looks to capitalize on 5G’s true potential, there will inevitably be some bumps along the way. The actual deployment of 5G, for one, which involves a costly and time consuming rollout of small cells (of which consumers are accepting if certain needs are met). Other pressing issues include: downward pricing pressure on mobile broadband as the number of provider options grow; the need to define a more streamlined, self-service customer experience; and the need for network operators to capture significant enough return on their investment beyond just access charges. Providers will need to “up their game” in developing new products to monetize more effectively.

For companies to successfully capitalize on 5G in the near term, there are a few key consumer points to keep in mind:

The promise of 5g

In the near term, incumbent mobile network operators directly responsible for 5G deployment have the most at stake; however, in the long run, the test will be for companies with applications that rely on the internet to deliver products and services. As 5G rolls-out market by market, consumers’ expectations for efficient, reliable and secure interfaces will only escalate, and companies who ignore their exposure to the impact of 5G may be trailing their competitors.

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How 5G was defined for respondents

5G refers to the next generation of wireless network technology. Previous wireless network generations include 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G/ LTE. You might recognize 3G and/or 4G/LTE, which most consumers currently use on their mobile devices. Up until now, these wireless networks have been primarily used by only mobile devices outside of the home when not connected to Wi-Fi.

Like the advances seen in previous generations of technology, 5G is expected to bring significantly faster speeds, shorter delays/ buffering, and improved reliability. However, unlike previous generations of technology, 5G will not only offer mobile capabilities but may also be offered as a potential replacement for your current home internet connection.

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Principal, Consulting Solutions, PwC US

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Testbeds & trials

5G New Thinking

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The 5G New Thinking project will look at the provision of mobile/wireless connectivity primarily using the shared spectrum and local spectrum licencing options announced by Ofcom in July 2019. Working closely with communities, the project will develop a community toolkit to allow the creation of networks that provide rural connectivity for cooperatives of consumers, local enterprise, councils and other stakeholders.

The project will work to create facilities and tools for spectrum sharing and monitoring, neutral hosting, partnerships and B2B engagement models with operators. In its first stage the project will create models, strategies and use case demonstrators on the Orkney Islands network, and engage forward with community and council partners in Borderlands, Scotland, Northern Ireland and areas of rural England to help develop and ultimately roll-out 5G connectivity.

Visit the project website

Project Overview

All around the world, city planners, building owner / occupiers, venues, rural communities and others talk about building radio equipment that can provide high quality 5G mobile coverage to citizens, attendees, occupiers, etc. 

But typically, they are not mobile operators, They may not understand legislative and regulatory regimes in which they need to operate, they may not have international roaming deals with the rest of the world, and they may not even have customer care and billing systems or the 1000 other bits and pieces that a mobile operation needs in order to serve its customers with valuable products and services.    This is why Neutral hosting is an attractive concept. It can, in theory, enable high quality, cost competitive coverage for all, whilst keeping all that other stuff in the hands of mobile operators who have built highly optimised value propositions capable of serving the needs of the population.    So whilst Neutral host networks sound like a walk in the park, they are actually more difficult than you might think. Its not just about sticking some radios up on the top of a hill or inside a building.     Pop in and hear about what it takes from the perspective of a Mobile operator and potential Neutral Host providers, to deploy coverage in this manner. 

Related resources

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5G New Thinking Project Overview Presentation | 2021

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5G RuralFirst: New Thinking Applied to Rural Connectivity

Organisations participating in this project.

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Agriculture, Broadcasting & Media Technologies, Sport, Travel & Tourism, Telecommunications

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Orkney islands council, pure leapfrog.

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The rural community network.

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Ideas Made to Matter

5G, explained

Feb 13, 2020

Most Americans have yet to use a 5G-connected device, but the next-generation cellular network is already generating buzz. Ads and headlines tout a 5G revolution that will change the way people live and work, through unprecedented digital speeds, reduced lag, and better connectivity for a broader range of devices. Some say it’ll spur a fourth industrial revolution.

With experts expecting 5G to become widely available in the next few years, the full business impact of the network has yet to be seen. What’s clear is that it’s ripe with opportunity for fields as varied as entertainment, manufacturing, health care, and retail. Successful enterprises will tap 5G to boost “internet of things” applications, virtual and augmented reality, and larger-scale robot and drone deployments.

“What does this mean? It depends who you are,” said MIT electrical engineering and computer science professor Muriel Médard . For users, which includes most businesses, “it’s likely you’ll get a rich set of offerings, and you’ll get better coverage,” said Médard, who leads the Network Coding and Reliable Communications Group at MIT’s Research Laboratory for Electronics.

As the first 5G symbols begin to pop up on cellphones, it’s time for businesses to think about how to harness the possibilities. “If you’re a business leader looking to use this network to provide some new services for customers, or if [you] would like to create some new value that’s not possible today … all of this is possible with 5G,” said Athul Prasad, a student in the MIT Sloan Fellows program who is on sabbatical from Nokia, where he was the head of 5G business modeling and analytics.

Companies that embrace 5G early stand to gain, said Diego Fernandez Bardera, a principal consultant at Ericsson who focuses on 5G and the internet of things. Some 73% of 4G first-movers grew their market share after their 4G launch, and a 5G first-mover likewise will benefit, said Bardera, a graduate of the MIT Sloan Fellows program. “I urge organizations and the whole ecosystem, from industry partners to universities, to have discussions across business and operational domains to better understand how 5G will transform their industries.”  

Here’s what businesses need to know to set themselves on a course for 5G success:

From 1G to 5G

5G is the fifth-generation cellular network, as formally defined by global standards agencies . New networks have emerged roughly every 10 years since 1980, when 1G came on the scene with large cellphones that only made phone calls. Later, 2G introduced messaging, 3G brought access to the internet, and 4G, which emerged around 2009, brought a leap in data download speeds, allowing users to do things like stream movies on mobile devices.

The official definition of 5G specifies higher speeds and lower latency — the lag time between when a device asks for information and when it receives it, Médard explained. The network will use higher-frequency radio waves in addition to the range of frequencies already used, and will work with smaller, more closely distributed wireless access points instead of large, dispersed cell towers.

5G is also expected to include a suite of hybrid technologies that will facilitate seamless transitions between different Wi-Fi networks or from cellular networks to Wi-Fi, and allow networks to more easily take advantage of unused extra bandwidth.

5G should allow for higher connectivity — that is, more devices connected to a network — and significantly higher download speeds. Speed isn’t the only improvement, though.

Consistency will be key, Médard said. 5G will allow small, consistent amounts of data to be accessed on a regular basis. “If you have needs such as streaming, gaming, even more if you go to something like virtual reality, you don't need a huge amount of data delivered to you at once,” she said. “What you may need is a more modest amount, but reliably delivered, and delivered with shorter delays.”

Experts expect 20 billion connected IoT devices by 2023.

Augmented reality — overlaying virtual information over a live view of the world — and virtual reality both need reliable, low latency networks to be effective, which makes them prime use cases for 5G. (Beyond being inconvenient, high latency while using virtual reality devices can cause motion sickness.)

Shorter range radio waves and cell towers that cover smaller areas will also improve location tracking . That opens the way for businesses to use geolocation to their competitive advantage, though some advocates have pointed out it also raises privacy concerns .

Speedier and more reliable communication and reduced lag times will enable new IoT use cases that are more widely and easily deployed, according to industry experts. While some companies are already using connected sensors in the field, 5G is expected to bring the internet of things into the mainstream with new uses and massive connectivity.

Experts expect 20 billion connected IoT devices by 2023 — representing millions of usually low-cost devices with long battery lives that can transmit non-delay-sensitive data, Bardera said. 5G will also allow what’s called ultra reliable and low latency connectivity, which is required for critical applications like traffic safety, remote surgery, or precise positioning for industrial uses.

For firms, opportunities abound

Industries considered most likely to be transformed by 5G include media and entertainment, manufacturing, retail, health care, hospitality, finance, and shipping and transportation. And the new network stands to enable or improve technologies as far-ranging as holograms, artificial intelligence and machine learning, industrial robots, drones, and smart cities, buildings, and homes.

“When you think about 5G you should think, ‘Well, what doesn’t really work on 4G?'” said Nicola Palmer, senior VP of technology and product development at Verizon, who spoke on a 5G panel at the 2019 MIT Platform Summit .

For example, computer vision, augmented reality, and virtual reality for health care don’t work on 4G networks, she noted. “How do you really tie into those capabilities in a way that creates value for enterprise and consumers alike?” 5G is a key part of the answer. Bardera said organizations approaching 5G should first assess its potential in relation to their specific industry, business, and market. From there they can select and prioritize the most suitable use cases in terms of business impact, time to market, and investment required.

Some industries are already test-driving 5G internet of things ideas for business purposes. For example, in the oil and gas industry, a Houston telecommunications company recently partnered with Nokia to bid on bringing 5G to several oil and gas fields. Other companies are developing “smart harbors” in Germany and China that include automated ship-to-shore crane lifts and sensors with real-time traffic monitoring. A mobile company in South Korea is at work building a 5G infrastructure for a smart traffic system in Seoul. Ericsson has embraced new industrial IoT uses, such as increased assembly and testing efficiency at a plant in Estonia through the use of augmented and virtual reality, Bardera said. And Nokia and ARENA2036 have announced an automotive research partnership at a factory in Germany to validate 5G use cases. 

5G will also make it easier to upgrade facilities or establish new plants. “Factories tend to have a lot of wires, which limits their mobility,” said Prasad. Wired factories are costly to upgrade, he said, but those costs will diminish with wireless sensors.

In entertainment, a 2019 Deloitte Mobile Trends survey predicted 5G could have a large impact on digital entertainment, especially among younger consumers, who said they plan to use 5G to consume media with virtual and augmented reality and that they’d likely play more mobile video games using 5G. Virtual and augmented reality with 5G can be used to train surgeons, truck drivers , and other employees in high-risk professions, as well as for videoconferencing, improved online and physical retail experiences, tourism, and education.

And on the farm, 5G innovations include sensors that control a smart feeding system and open curtains depending on the weather. And a herd of dairy cows in rural England were given 5G-connected devices on their collars that connected to a robotic milking system.

One cutting-edge technology that won’t rely on 5G is autonomous vehicles, according to MIT senior lecturer Nick Pudar,  the former director of corporate strategy at General Motors Co. Pudar said vehicles must be able to make driving decisions without relying on external connections, which may or may not be available. But 5G connectivity will allow vehicles to collect data about car maintenance, road conditions, weather and traffic that can lead to higher quality maps and congestion planning, he said. 

When to expect 5G

A 5G forecast released last year predicted 5G connections around the world will grow from 10 million in 2019 to more than 1 billion in 2023.

5G is already available in limited areas in the United States and worldwide. Experts estimate that 77 service providers worldwide launched 5G commercially by the end of 2019, Bardera said, with coverage and availability varying by country or region. In South Korea, the world’s largest 5G market, there are more than 3 million subscribers, he said.

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, the four largest U.S. carriers, have all rolled out some   5G service to consumers, mostly in select areas of certain cities, and all of the carriers promise more is on the way.

5G devices are slowly coming out, with expensive 5G cellphones for sale. Industry experts predict that Apple could introduce its first 5G-capable phones in 2020. Major Android equipment manufacturers have announced flagship 5G mobile devices, with many already shipping.

73% of 4G first-movers grew their market share after their 4G launch.

5G also requires infrastructure, including the installation of new wireless access points that are closer together. A host of companies are also working on providing 5G hardware and equipment. The U.S. government has cited concerns that Chinese technology company Huawei, which is providing 5G infrastructure in several countries, could give the Chinese government a “back door” to the networks and access to data and information. The United States has lobbied other countries not to use Huawei, though the United Kingdom recently agreed to have the company build part of its 5G network.

There are other concerns, perhaps perceived, to overcome. Critics are raising alarms about radio waves causing cancer and other health problems. Some cities have resisted the installation of 5G poles, and politicians have introduced resolutions urging formal study into its health implications. But a widely cited study that says 5G might be harmful has been debunked .

5G will boost security in some ways, with encrypted data, segmented networks, and user authentication, but also has security vulnerabilities , including potential spying and attacks. The increase in connected devices also creates more targets and attacks on vital connected systems could become more chaotic and consequential.

Experts are estimating a widespread rollout between 2021 and 2024. “I think it’s dependent on forward-looking industries to lean in,” Palmer said. “The examples are out there … leaning in will dictate how fast it happens.”

Prasad agreed. “I think that by 2021 that's kind of the timeline where we are thinking that it would be getting more and more wide-scale,” he said.

What’s certain is that 5G is on the way — with 6G already waiting in the wings — which means businesses should start preparing for what it might bring. Just as Uber, Netflix, and Spotify were enabled by 4G’s use of data and streaming, new or established companies could prove to be the winners in a 5G world, according to Prasad.

“It’s kind of a low-risk investment,” Prasad said, pointing out that the mobile ecosystem enabled by 4G created around $4 trillion in new economic value. “I think 5G could create even more value.”

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Critical Thinking | Intelligent Speculation

The Science of 5G Technology and Your Health

My first cell phone, back in the early 2000’s, was a Nokia 1100. The extent of its capabilities were basic calling, basic text messaging, and surviving high velocity impacts into hard surfaces.  Despite 3G networks being commercially available two years before the Nokia 1100’s release in 2003, the phone operated solely within the 2G network. But what do these 2G, 3G, 5G networks mean, anyway?  Do we just add a new digit every couple of years when the networks get better? Why are people worried about the dawn of 5G in ways that we weren’t for 3G or 4G?

What is 5G?

The cell phone service provider Verizon defines 5G as, “the fifth generation of wireless technology” [1].  Each generation of wireless technology has been marked by specific improvements in capabilities.  

The first generation, 1G, was introduced in 1979 and offered the ability to make phone calls from a wireless device on an analog network.   

The second generation of wireless technology, 2G, became commercially available in 1991 and transitioned us into the digital age while introducing text messaging and voicemail systems.  

3G launched in 2001, adding data features to mobile phones such as sending picture messages, streaming music, web browsing, and social media.  This effectively was the dawn of smartphones.  

4G networks rolled out around 2009 which increased data speeds substantially, allowing for faster internet browsing, video calls, and online mobile gaming.  

Cellular networks have already begun testing 5G networks in major cities. The immediate advantage of 5G is data speed up to five times faster than 4G, and over time the speed could increase to twenty times faster than 4G.  Along with increased data speed, 5G offers increased device connectivity for smart machines, such as Google smart speakers, and lower latency [2,3]. Note, 5G cellular is also not to be confused with 5 Gigahertz (GHz) Wi-Fi which is a local wireless network operating with specifically a 5GHz frequency.

How does it Work?

The technology behind 5G is called “5G New Radio” or “5G NR”. A combination of advanced processors in mobile devices and improved radio tower technology which enables the increased data and connectivity of 5G networks.  This means that older phones will not be capable of accessing the entirety of the 5G network, which will be composed of upgraded 4G technology operating under 6GHz frequency as well as new technology operating above 6GHz [4].  

Operating on different frequencies offers a variety of benefits.  The lower the frequency, the greater the range and building penetration, while higher frequencies offer greater data speeds and lower latency.  The frequency range from 30GHz to 300GHz falls into what’s called the millimeter wave spectrum and is the most controversial spectrum in 5G. We can derive why this is within the millimeter wave band using a simple relationship between wavelength and frequency:

Wavelength = Speed of light ÷ Frequency

The speed of light is 300,000,000 meters per second. Gigahertz refers to units of a billion, so 30GHz is equivalent to 30,000,000,000 hertz.  Plugging the speed of light and 30GHz into the above equation results in 0.01 meters or 10 millimeters and 300GHz gives 1 millimeter.  The reason this frequency range is controversial is that as frequency increases the penetration of the light through objects decreases. In other words, the chance of the photon interacting with matter increases at larger frequencies, which raises concerns about potential damage to the body from radiation. In addition, as the frequency of the light increases, so too does the energy of the light by following the formula:

Energy = Planck's Constant x Frequency

The higher the energy, intuitively, the more damage a photon can do when it interacts with our bodies. You may be wondering why it is that visible light, sandwiched between Ultraviolet light and Microwaves, has no harmful effect on us.  The simple answer is that because the sun primarily produces visible light and infrared light, our bodies evolved natural protections from their harmful effects.  While other types of radiation are naturally occurring, they occur so infrequently that we did not need to evolve protection against them.

Image source here

Image source here

When thinking about radiation, most people would probably immediately think of harmful forms of radiation such as X-rays, Gamma Rays, and possibly Ultraviolet radiation. In reality, radiation comes in many forms and for the most part is harmless. Visible light is a form of radiation; as radiation simply means the emission of energy as an electromagnetic wave or particle. The dangers of radiation fall into two categories: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation includes Gamma, X-rays, and some of the Ultraviolet spectrum. These frequencies of light have enough energy to strip electrons from atoms.  This process releases energy, which damages the surrounding tissue and can lead to carcinogenic mutations.

Non-ionizing radiation does not have enough energy to remove electrons from atoms. It does, however, produce thermal effects [5]. For example, a microwave oven heats food but does not change the physical properties of the food. A piece of chicken cooked in a microwave will still be a piece of chicken after cooking. Further, even visible light can cause thermal effects such as a blue laser being used to pop balloons. For the case of cell phones, it is important to note that they emit non-ionizing radiation.

In 2015 a number of scientists wrote a letter to the United Nations and World Health Organization expressing concerns over the non-ionizing radiation emitted from cellular devices.  In their letter they wrote:

“Numerous recent scientific publications have shown that Electromagnetic Fields affect living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines. Effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being in humans. Damage goes well beyond the human race, as there is growing evidence of harmful effects to both plant and animal life.”

Note, the specific scientific publications being referenced are not specified in the letter [6].  In response, the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks released an extensive opinion regarding the health risks of various types of non-ionizing radiation exposure.  The opinion , unlike a published peer-reviewed paper, is a collection of perspectives from various scientists within the European Commision. It does not reflect a scientific consensus , but acts as a counterbalance to scientists with opposing views. The purpose not being to say that those with opposing views are incorrect, but merely to give additional input on the topic. In the opinion it is stated,

“It is clear from the INTERPHONE study (Cardis et al., 2011) that cumulative specific absorption for the early analogue systems were manifold higher than for the next generations of handsets.”

What is being stated is that the total amount of radiation that the body is exposed to from cellular devices has decreased as the technology has improved. When it comes specifically to 5G technology the opinion does say that observation for adverse effects will be important as these technologies are implemented but also states,

“These applications will operate with low power and, due to the small penetration depth of the radiation, expose only superficial tissues” [7].

In other words, at this time, there is no reason to panic over 5G technology increasing harmful radiation exposure.  This makes sense when we think back on why using various frequencies is beneficial. Remember, at higher frequencies data can be transmitted faster, but range and penetration through objects is reduced. Since millimeter waves are high frequency, one would expect the depth that they could penetrate the human body to be reduced, which means that the damage that could occur should be mostly superficial. That is, tissues towards the surface, primarily the skin, would be more vulnerable than internal organs.

While the opinion does not reflect a scientific consensus, it does provide many citations for the claims being made giving it more credibility.

To reiterate; at present there is no reason to be overly concerned about the health risks of 5G technology. That said, there are steps you can take to help minimize your exposure to cellular radiation. These include using hands-free headsets, which operate with lower power than a phone, and utilizing speaker phone so that you do not have your cell phone against your head. It is important to consider that the data we currently have does not show a definitive connection between cellular radiation and health risks. Everything else being equal and given how invaluable cell phones are to our modern way of life, it appears as though avoidance at this point would be doing society a disservice. That being said, the scientific community should continue to investigate cell phone technologies and remain vigilant for any injurious health effects moving forward.

[1] What is 5G? Verizon

[2] Mike Freeman. The Race for 5G and What You Need to Know. The Seattle Times. 09/02/2019

[3] Sascha Segan. What is 5G? PCMag . 01/02/2020

[4] Lindsay Notwell. 5g- A Few Frequency Facts . CIO. 

[5] CDC. Radiation Studies . 12/07/2015

[6] EMF Scientist. International Appeal Letter . 09/21/2019

[7] European Commission. Opinion on Potential health effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields . 01/27/2015


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