What is 5G?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be aware of the current mobile technology “4G”, which stands for – Fourth Generation Mobile Technology. 

What is 5G?


The current 4G technology burst onto the scene in the US way back in 2010, however, the ripple effect wasn’t felt until around 2 years after.

4G has many benefits – being able to access the internet quickly, stream videos without lag when on the move and utilizing several applications that use 4G technology, like UBER and Snapchat.

Now, we are approaching the widespread application of 5G. The question is – what does 5G really mean?  And how will 5G impact our world?

In this article, we’ll be doing a deep dive in all things 5G to discover all of the highs and lows of the new technology that is about to take over the world.

Let’s discover the TRUTH ABOUT 5G

You might be surprised to hear that small trials of 5G technology have been going on for the past two years. Test sites have been set up throughout the world, including several in London, UK.

8/5/18 UK’s First Live 5G Trial Starts in Canary Wharf

Several 5G smartphones are now on the market (Moto Z3 from Verizon is one) and can be used in some areas of the UK, Chicago, and Minneapolis in the US. At Verizon, the 5G switch was flicked ahead of the 11th April 2019 schedule. Signaling a global race to be the first to widely deploy the network.

4/3 Verizon turns on mobile 5G network ahead of schedule in Chicago and Minneapolis

The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G is said to be the first fully-fledged 5G mobile phone. Surprisingly Apple is waiting off until 2020 to release their 5G compatible mobile phone.

4/8 There might not be a 5G iPhone until 2021

Some mobile operators as seeing this as an ideal opportunity to gain a competitive advantage over Apple and the iPhone

4/9 Apple’s Rivals See 5G as ‘Golden Opportunity’ to Beat iPhone

South Korea is the test bed for the Samsung S10 which has just been released.

4/6 World’s first 5G phone released in South Korea

Although the Samsung 10 5G is widely available,  5G coverage is still underway. EE in the UK has stated that there will be additional 5G rollout throughout the UK in 2019, namely in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham, and Manchester.

5G is More than Mobile Technology

5G technology begins with the mobile phone, but extends out to the internet of things (IoT), augmented reality, virtual reality, robots, and autonomous vehicles. 5G technology will be using a 20-50 GHz millimeter-wave which is considered an extremely high frequency (EHF). There are many implications to the widespread use of a radio wave with such high frequency, which we will explore within this article.

Other uses for EHF emissions include security screening, thickness gauging, medicinal uses, police radar, and weapons systems.

Clearing Up the 5G Confusion

5G stands for “fifth-generation cellular wireless”. To be clear, 5G wi-fi, 5G E and 5GHz are NOT the same as the rollout of 5G cellular technologies. 5G wi-fi is actually 5GHz wi-fi and has been about since 1999, so nothing new there.

The “G” in 5G wi-fi stands for the bandwidth “GHz” and not “Generation”, in the new 5G technology that we are covering in this article. We are focusing on 5G cellular wireless, in which the G stands for generation.

Evolution from 1G to 5G

The first generation (1G) mobile phones were introduced back in 1979 and worked via analog cellular. The second generation (2G) was released in 1991 in Finland – this was the first true “digital” cellular network.

The third-generation (3G) was released in 2001 and brought much faster internet, and then the fourth generation was released in 2010. 4G completely changed the face of smartphones, with Facetime, Snapchat and enhanced, faster streaming capabilities.

During the change to 4G LTE, a few technology companies got over-enthusiastic and lied about advanced 3G being 4G. We are seeing the same thing happen with 5G. AT&T is now calling their 4G network “5G Evolution” because the advancements of their 5G technologies stand on the shoulders of the 4G networks. However, this is understandably very confusing to those who know little about 5G technology.

Setting the 5G Standard

Before rolling out the next generation of cellular networks a standard has to be set for the technology. The standard outlines the features and functions of the new technology. The 3GPP is the international governing body for communications and is made up of seven organizational partners. As such, 3GPP is the official body responsible for setting the 5G Standard.

Since 2017 the 3GPP has been working on an evolving work plan for the rollout of 5G. The recent document is called “Release 15” and outlines the activities and checklists for the next generation of telecommunications architecture.

01/25 3GPP Release 15

Phasing in 5G

Initially, 5G will be available to people who have 5G devices, residing in a 5G compatible area. When booting our phones up we’ll still rely on 4G for some time to come. Because 4G will need to fill in the gaps where 5G is not yet available. Once 5G has taken root, devices will no longer require 4G to boot up and will become stand-alone (SA) 5G devices.

5G Will Alter the World

The way that we live in the world has already been completely altered by technology. However, the widespread uptake of 5G will provide a massive leap forward. This is when we’ll be seeing the IOT take off because 5G will allow us to connect multiple devices simultaneously.

Devices will be able to communicate with each other with greater speed and with faster response times. There will be very low latency with 5G, therefore greater scope for augmented and virtual reality applications.

How does 5G Work?

Using wired or wireless connection, 5G is transmitted through a 5G cellular network much in the same way that 4G is distributed. However, the frequency emitted differs. Similar to 4G, 5G networks are divided into what they call “sectors” inside of which there are several smaller cell sites.

The idea is that 5G will have far lower latency than 4G allowing more devices to connect per sector. 5G also uses advanced antenna technologies. 5G networks use an encoding called OFDM, similar to the 4G LTE encoding.

There are a few drawbacks to 5G in that the frequencies are powerful, but don’t go as far as 4G signals. Therefore we are going to need hundreds of thousands of small cell sites to emit 5G effectively.

These cell sites are going to be on every lamp post and building, as well as inside some buildings. The frequency is also affected by water and cannot navigate walls and foliage like 4G can, so we are going to need a lot of transmission devices to ensure continuous coverage. Many network providers are making their new cell sites compatible with 5G so that when the time comes they can simply flick the switch from 4G to 5G technology.

Possible Health Implications of 5G

There are many scientists who are requesting that a thorough study is carried out on the health implications of 5G – due to the fact that there are possible adverse health risks. The millimeter wave and pulse technology that is going to be required for the5G  IoT may have a negative effect on cell tissue and could possibly cause permanent damage to the skin and eyes.

Essential 5G Products

The preparation for full deployment of 5G is well underway, with many products (out with the 5G smartphone) being imagined and in some cases being put into production.

The four major 5G product development companies to watch out for are Crown Castle International, Ericsson, Qualcomm, and Samsung. These companies are paving the way with 5G Modems, 5G New Radio (NR), 5G NR Base Stations Infrastructure and Management Systems.

10x to 100x Faster than 4G

With 5G you’ll be able to download an HD movie in a matter of seconds. Thanks to the new higher frequencies known as millimeter wave. A lot of the transmitters and modems created for 5G run at a frequency of 28GHz and above. At this frequency, there is space for more channels and thus much faster download speeds.

Access to 5G

The rollout of 5G is set to be worldwide, and there should be nowhere that cannot access it (well, that is the vision anyway). However, there are often struggles to secure land or property to install the multiple cells required to create a seamless 5G network.

The story in cities, however, is very different, due to the fact that the groundwork has already been laid during the 4G rollout, and a multitude of cell sites have already been situated. All that is needed is a quick radio upgrade to change these sites from 4G to 5G.

Connecting the Internet of things (IoT)

There’s a lot of buzz around 5G and the IoT (Internet of Things), since 2012 innovators have been coming up with ways in which the whole global society will be seamlessly connected with the IoT, also known as the MIoT – “Massive” Internet of Things.

Devices already have chips and sensors that can communicate autonomously, however, the cost and power requirements are high. Therefore we need 5G to make the IoT a reality.

Both 5G and IoT are at still at the very early stages of deployment, so how soon we will see a widespread uptake of IoT is a mystery.  Many marketers are stating that the widespread IoT is just around the corner, with 2020 being sited in many documents.

No doubt about it, the IoT is going to be HUGE. Consumer items like Alexa are just scraping the surface of the possibilities for the IoT. We are just seeing the IoT beginning to use LTE chips (Long-Term Evolution) to enhance the speed of connections. However, LTE capacity is quickly depleted with 4G and the current networks.

There are plans to be able to connect virtually everything to the 5G grid. This will begin to be a reality when there are low-cost solutions, available to the masses.

What is mMTC?

mMTC stands for massive machine type communications. This technology is used to offer the seamless,  cost-efficient and robust connection of billions of devices. For mMTC to work all devices need a significant amount of testing to ensure that they don’t overload the network. Without mMTC and 5G this type of machine to machine connection would not be possible at such a scale. The important factors to be considered with mMTC are the coverage, low power consumption, performance, and longevity.

Some of the Many Uses for 5G Include:

Faster broadband

Channels are limited with 4G and we are already running out of channels to broadcast on. With 5G the frequency spectrum is opened, making way for more connections to be made at a faster pace. Sure, 5G will be faster, but it’s also a necessity for our continued enjoyment of the web.

Autonomous vehicles

One use of 5G is to power autonomous vehicles, allowing vehicles to communicate with each other to make the roads safer. Important information can be shared instantly, about all aspects of driving, performance and road conditions.

It’s estimated that the deployment of the 5G network will save thousands of lives due to the fact that traffic accidents can be pre-emotively avoided. For example, if a car is broken down ahead or is out of control, other vehicles can be alerted and a suitable alternative course of action can be taken. Such as taking another route, or slowing down ahead of time to avoid a collision.

Remote device control

The possibilities for remote device control are immense. From self-driving cars, remote brain surgery, drone operation, smart homes, security and surveillance and the remote control of heavy machinery. Devices will be able to be controlled from anywhere in the world, so location requirements will be a thing of the past. In essence, remote device control is one of the major possibilities of 5G, whose effects will be far-reaching.

Health care & Mission Critical Services (MCS)

5G will revolutionize how we approach healthcare. Not only will we have instant access to fundamental data that will reveal the underlying cause of suffering, but remote surgery will also be possible.

In fact, Remote surgery has already been carried out in China. In fact, geographic location will no longer be an issue, as advanced medical practitioners can perform surgery remotely, anywhere in the world.

3/19 China Performs Country’s First-Ever 5G Remote Brain Surgery

Ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC) reduces 5G latency opening up the possibility for real-time applications.  mMtC will be used to connect machines that monitor patients, the result will be faster communication of data that can ultimately save lives. Smart pills can be prescribed that contain small electronic devices that can perform a series of functions.

Think about wearable technology (like the Fitbit) and how it’s already penetrating the health space. Real-time monitoring by similar devices can be used by doctors, tracking, alerting and analyzing the patient’s condition. this could be particularly useful in emergency situations, where every second count.


For subjects that used to require students to be physically present, such as science or medicine, there will now be the opportunity to enhance remote learning through remotely controlled robotic devices.

Enhanced Sporting Entertainment

There will be many uses for VR to be deployed in sporting events. Allowing people to virtually attend events, interact as though they were there and also look up player stats (and much more). Many sporting facilities are already looking into the possibilities that 5G holds for enhancing the sporting experience for their fans.

4/9 Match-day experience will be transformed by 5G says study

Municipalities and Infrastructure

Smart cities are part of the massive 5G plan. However, the uses of 5G extend outwith cities into more rural municipalities. They can track the usage of local utilities remotely, sensors can provide early detection of floods or leaks, all aspects of running a town or city can be upgraded and enhanced with the 5G monitoring capabilities. Thus improving sustainability and efficiency.

5G Frequency Bands

5G operates on three different spectrum bands, as follows:-

Low-band spectrum band (sub 1GHz spectrum) – Currently this is the frequency used by the majority of 4G LTE networks. Low spectrums have limited speed capabilities and are becoming over-used. One thing about the low-band spectrum is its ability to create widespread coverage and penetrate buildings.

Mid-band spectrum offers fast coverage and lower latency. Mid-band spectrum is not so good at penetrating buildings, therefore requires additional cell sites to gain benefit from this spectrum.

High-band spectrum When people think of 5G – automatically they jump to the high-band mmWave frequency. Indeed this is the pinnacle of the technology where we benefit from the lowest latency and highest speeds of up to 10 Gbps and has very low latency.

The 5G high spectrum network is being rolled out by companies like AT&T and Verizon in the US and Korea. Due to the fact that it relies on a large number of small cells, for the time being, we’ll be relying on 4G LTE as a backup. The mid and high-band spectrum 5G network will deliver lightning fast internet via their small cells, where available.

What are Small Cells?

Unlike 4G, 5G does not travel as far, nor does it penetrate through buildings. Therefore thousands of lower power base stations called “Small Cells” are required to beam out the mid to high spectrum frequencies required to power the 5G network.

5G and the Global Economy

The Global Rollout of 5G

5G technology is set to enhance global economic activity across a wide range of business sectors.

4/4 5G set to deliver £15.7bn in business revenue by 2025

It’s estimated that by 2035 5G will enable $12.3 trillion of global economic output – according to the IHS 5G economic impact study. To put that figure into perspective, it is equivalent to the combined consumer spending in China, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, and France in 2016. No small figure.

The value of 5G mobile is set to be more than the entire global mobile chains. In fact, the entire 5G network will play a major role in raising the GDP by at least $2trilliaon dollars, about the same amount increase as the entire GDP for India.

All of the hype about 5G is fuelling an increase in investments in telecommunications companies.

4/8 5G Drives Global Rise in Telecom Investment

What About Cyber Security?

The race to be first to roll out 5G is not taking into concern possible health or security risks. Some security risks include software vulnerabilities which make the software easier for hackers to gain access to.  Which could lead to a frightening situation if all of your devices fall under the control of a hacker or enemy?

The Chinese company – Huawei has been cited with shoddy workmanship that could make their chips less secure. Many companies and indeed countries are pulling products with Huawei chips in them due to their security holes. For example, when BT bought out EE, they began systematically removing Huawei chips from devices.

“We can always share things old-school ways by, you know, paper back and forth. But, in terms of being able to electronically communicate, across Huawei gear, Huawei networks, would be risky at best.”

Congressman, Mr. Conaway told Panorama.

In Summary

5G is an exciting advancement in technology, however, there are a few considerations about health and security that don’t seem to be getting enough attention. They tech hype seems to be taking over, with massive sums of money being invested in new 5G networks and tech.

The rollout will be gradual between now and 2020 when we’ll begin to see the infrastructure come into place. It’ll be great to see whether 5G will live up to its reputation of being a wonder technology that is going to change the world for the better. Only time will tell.