The forthcoming 5G standard will remain in its development phase for another few years. The market expects the first commercial 5G offerings to launch in 2019. However, one thing is certain — 5G will be vastly different from 4G.
How is 5G different from 4G? You will see the most striking differences in the areas of speed, latency, capacity, and ubiquity.
How is 5G Different from 4G? It’s a Lot Faster
It goes without saying that 5G speeds will be significantly faster than those of 4G. In current 4G LTE communications, transfer speeds max out at 1 Gb/s in perfect conditions. Unfortunately, the 4G signal can be interrupted by such obstacles as buildings, Wi-Fi interference, and more.
The new 5G standard will increase download speeds to around 10 Gb/s, potentially exceeding that. Some estimates put download speeds at up to 1,000 times faster than 4G, letting users download an entire HD film, for example, in less than a second. To achieve this speed and avoid the kinds of interruptions that plague 4G, 5G will employ such technologies as “wide usage of beamforming, the uplink/downlink (UL/DL) cross-interference in case of dynamic time-division duplex (TDD), novel modes of communication (e.g., self-backhauling, and cellular-assisted device-to-device), and more diverse and stringent application requirements,” according to METIS.
How is 5G Different from 4G? It Boasts Lower Latency
The new 5G networks are expected to drastically reduce download latency — down to less than 1 millisecond (more than 50 times faster than 4G). GSMA calls that an order-of-magnitude reduction in end-to-end latency, although it comes with challenges: “Achieving the sub-1 ms latency rate identified as a technical requirement for 5G necessitates a new way of thinking about how networks are structured, and will likely prove to be a significant undertaking in terms of technological development and investment in infrastructure.”
Low latency will benefit a plethora of use cases — from mobile and at-home video downloads, to automated vehicle communication on a massive scale — where performance is key. The IEEE Access document “Business Case and Technology Analysis for 5G Low Latency Applications” outlines four uses cases where the use of ultra-low latency technologies offers great opportunities: remote health care and medical intervention, assisted driving and transport services, entertainment content delivery and gaming, and industry automation.
How is 5G Different from 4G? It Offers Greater Capacity
A major difference between 5G and 4G will be 5G’s use of a higher-frequency band, operating at millimeter wave (mmWave) bands on the radio spectrum. That aspect of the 5G architecture will make great amounts of bandwidth available and overcome 4G’s traffic congestion issues. The aim of 5G is to achieve 1000 times the capacity of 4G.
According to IEEE Xplore, “the wireless industry is already investing heavily in developing systems that operate in the mmWave bands, which are attractive because of the large quantities of available spectrum and the spatial degrees of freedom afforded by very high-dimensional antenna arrays (which are possible thanks to the smaller size of antenna elements at higher frequencies).”
How is 5G Different from 4G? It’s Ubiquitous
5G will bring far greater and more consistent coverage than 4G, thanks to a trend toward smaller cells, which came as a result of the smaller antenna elements. One of the essential goals of 5G is to deliver a more consistent user experience: Consumers should be able to expect a 100-Mb/s connection anywhere. In rural areas, that kind of ubiquity will rely on low-band spectrum, and in smart cities, high-band spectrum will achieve that consistency.
“High-frequency signals can be reused across short distances by different cells in a network, meaning the available spectrum is used more efficiently,” wrote Larry Greenemeier in Scientific American. “In addition, antenna size is inversely proportional to frequency size, so higher-frequency signals would require smaller antennas.”
Jumping from 4G to 5G
All of these ways that 5G is different from 4G are preparing the industry for new and ever-more-complex applications. The future is full of streaming 4K video, virtual reality (VR)/augmented reality (AR) experiences, and instant communications.