With the new year upon us, a new and big technology shift is set to begin – a once-in-a-decade upgrade to wireless systems expected to reach mobile phone users in the coming months. No, it isn’t about next-generation SoCs or breakthrough DxOMark scores, but the fifth-generation cellular network, or 5G for short. And what’s more, this isn’t a technology limited to cellular devices; it includes security cameras, cars, drones, and industrial robots even.
It might reduce buffer speeds to a laughing matter or revolutionize the gaming experience – call it a technology ready to dethrone the current fourth generation. Over the course of 2018, several countries prepared for 5G, viewing it as the competitive edge to help spread artificial intelligence, and even several other forms of cutting-edge technologies.
Device manufacturers also lie in wait, with Samsung recently demonstrating prototype smartphones compatible with 5G. But what else is there to know? Let’s trudge along this article to find out.

The Fifth Generation (5G): What is it?
From a technology perspective, 5G is a set of ground rules that define the functionalities or workings of a cellular network. This includes radio frequencies used, and how different components – antennas, chips – handle said radio signals and exchange data.
It started first during the 1970s, when engineers convened from different companies to decide and agree upon a set of specifications for cellular networks. This implied that users would have to buy new devices to utilize the advantages of technologies succeeding the previous generation, while carriers moved to upgrade or install new transmission equipment to compliment the faster service. With 5G, there is a similar expectation with the users in terms of an upgradation of devices used, and with carriers to step beyond what’s currently present to offer breakthrough 5G speeds.

Speed Analysis: 5G
There are a variety of factors that go into the determination of 5G speeds, primarily – location, wireless services used, and time of adoption. For example, Qualcomm reported peak download speeds of approximately 4.5 gigabits per second, while predicting an initial median speed of 1.4 gigabits. In comparison, the 5G overtakes the 4G experience by roughly 20 times from a speed perspective. This is set to be exceptionally noticeable when streaming videos of a higher quality.

Beyond Speed: A Rounded Look at 5G
There are multiple identifications to speed, and among them, one that is of particular interest to future users of the technology. It’s something we call lag, or latency. People often notice or experience this as a delay between user action and server reaction supporting the function. As an example, think of games hosted online, which often experience a form of noticeable lag. This is due to the signals’ need to often switch centers while passing through different carriers.
On the other hand, 5G is designed to reduce latency and deliver signals more reliably than its technological predecessors. This improvement is set to expand avenues in virtual reality as well. While VR applications currently require bulky headsets – often connected by wire to systems that generate 3D images, 5G enables wireless off-loading to other machines. This frees users, allowing for easier development of the next generation of VR goggles.

It’s an exciting year for technology, with several forms finding breakthrough success. 5G stands closer to the finish line than ever before. Let’s look forward to what happens next!

About the Author

Ravi CH heads the Cellular practice at Global Edge Software Ltd. He can be reached at ravich@globaledgesoft.com.