5G is accelerating digital transformation and Internet of Things applications for businesses.

By now, most of us have heard of 5G but aren’t quite sure what the jump from 4G to 5G truly means. 5G is able to send more information faster and able to respond quickly to commands, at a rate we’ve never seen before. So, with 5G you’ll be able to do all the things you can with 4G, like browse the web on your phone or share documents across your devices.

But, with 5G, there will be transformational opportunities too. Hyper-connectivity between machines, smart devices and people means we will start seeing intelligent new processes that have just not been possible (or conceivable) until now. In short, 5G is so much more than a step on from 4G. 5G is driving the digital revolution.

Is 5G just a faster version of 4G?

It’s understandable why people would think this – after all 5G is faster than 4G! But that’s only part of the story. You probably remember 3G ushering in video calls and mobile data.

Then 4G came along with higher speeds which meant we could have mobile internet and better video streaming. 5G, however, is unlikely to be defined by any one thing. 5G has been referred to as “the network of networks,” bringing together multiple strands and applied in a myriad of ways for both business and home.

In a few years, we could see speeds of 10Gb/s, that’s 100 times faster than 4G. It’s not surprising the speed of 5G tends to make the headlines; 5G is expected to be able to reach speeds in excess of 1Gb/s and capable of reducing latency from 20ms to 40ms on 4G to less than 10ms.

To provide some context, your average HD movie takes a day to download on 3G and around 10 minutes on 4G. With 5G, you could be watching your favourite film in as little as 5 seconds. The speed of a wireless system like 5G depends on the amount of information that you can send over a unit of area, otherwise known as area-throughput. With 5G, advanced technology means information can be sent more efficiently and, by using higher frequencies, there is more available bandwidth for the information to be sent. These combined means a significantly faster network.


How does 5G reduce latency?

Latency measures the delay (in milliseconds) for the time it takes data to get across the network to its destination. For example, how long it takes a text message from one phone to reach another, and back again (such as the sender receiving a ‘delivered’ notification).

We mainly experience latency by responsiveness. Does the page load straight away or are you left drumming your fingers? Examples of things that can cause lag time include: a slow network, bandwidth running at capacity, or a large chunk of data being sent. 5G’s speed, bandwidth and capacity overcomes these problems. 5G increases data rate and cuts response time down to just 1 millisecond (compared to 4G’s 50 milliseconds). This means you can expect lightning-fast responses, which opens up lots of exciting opportunities when you think of 5G and robots and self-driving cars.


How will 5G affect the Internet of Things (IoT)? 

IoT is really gathering momentum and showing what it can do for businesses of all sizes. 5G will accelerate this movement since it means IoT applications have the wherewithal to collect massive amounts of data using a really efficient, responsive, high-speed network. This is where things like data collection and real-time analytics will come into their own. With 5G, IoT can really flex its muscles.


Will 5G replace Wi-Fi?

In reality, 5G and Wi-Fi will probably co-exist for quite some time. The two will work as a collaborative network that allows all devices to be connected all of the time. This will help improve overall speed and lower the latency of 5G as the device can also count on the reliability and robustness of Wi-fi. That said, we’re seeing some businesses starting to adopt private 5G networks. These networks connect only specified devices and really suit manufacturing companies. This can be useful when there are a large number of connected devices that need a network that can keep up, prioritise critical devices and remain undisrupted even if the rest of the network is disrupted.


What is Massive-MIMO technology and why is it essential to 5G?

Massive-MIMO technology is a core component of 5G. Before 5G, there was multiple-input/multiple-output (MIMO), and this basically boils down to the ability of several antennas at a base station to send and receive different signals simultaneously. Massive-MIMO sees this advance by jumping from two or four antennas to more than one hundred.

We mentioned earlier one of the reasons 5G is so fast, is due to sending information efficiently, this is where Massive MIMO comes in. Algorithms can plot the best transmission route through the air to each user. What this means for 5G is that multiple users and multiple devices can be served simultaneously and still maintain speed and consistency, which is quite innovative.


So, what does 5G have to do with Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC)?

Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) is basically the key to reducing congestion on mobile networks and managing online traffic in a more intelligent way. With the number of connected devices set to reach 100 billion by 2025, MEC is going to be essential. MEC shifts the data load of cloud computing closer to the end-user, assessing local network conditions for greater reliability, speed, and efficiency. Therefore, a big part of this is helping to reduce lag time on 5G.


What is 5G network slicing?

Operators will be able to allocate capacity and resources to match requirements by ‘slicing’. For example, a simple IoT device only needs a small slice of the 5G network to operate compared to, say, an autonomous car where responsiveness and low latency is critical. Slicing shows the agility and adaptiveness of 5G, and it’s a real gamechanger for network management.


What part does SDN have to play in 5G Networks?

With Software-Defined Networking (SDN), networks can be managed centrally, meaning businesses can have more agility, more control, and more bandwidth – the perfect environment for 5G. On top of this, with SDN, multiple network slices can be allocated bandwidth across a shared infrastructure, resulting in better data flows. SDN is definitely going to play a big part in 5G.