5G: The Fifth Generation of Mobile Network Communication Technology

June 2, 2017 by Massimo Mazza

The development of new mobile network communication technologies is always in progress. In a highly interconnected world, the demand for increasingly efficient and performant communication protocols is unstoppable.  The 5G network looks to be ground-breaking.

So, while there are still areas without 4G coverage, many telecommunication players are vying to be the first to offer customers the 5th generation ultra-speed connection. In 2013, the European Commission allocated 50 million euro for research on 5G technology to be completed by 2020 and in 2016, published the 5G action plan. Also, in 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a plan for the United States to open airwaves for 5G networks.

Testing Currently in Progress for 5G

5G has been one of the most important topics during the last Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where Borje Ekholm, on how the 5G network will change our daily lives. 5G will enable the automation and business transformation that the Internet of Things requires, as well as services like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.  In addition, Ekholm detailed the Scania semi-truck lab; a backdrop that served to announce a new Connected Vehicle Marketplace, with Scania CEO, Henrik Henriksson.

At the moment, the largest operators are beginning to experiment with 5G networks. Although 5G does not exist yet, a draft document with guidelines has is available by the International Communication Union (see more in the Conclusion).

Key players in the telecommunications industry such as Verizon, AT&T, Ericsson, Huawei, Samsung, Vodafone and many more at national level, are involved in these tests.

The goal of all key players is to be ready to launch new compatible devices together with new services and applications when 5G technology will enter its commercial phase. The business opportunities are huge. In a recent report, Ericsson said that the 5G market will grow to $1.2 trillion by 2026.

Advantages of 5G Technology

Modern communication networks must be able to ensure specific requirements. In the fifth generation network there are three important dimensions to consider:

  • Number of connections – a 5G network provides up to a million connections for every .38 square miles, while of connections.
  • Latency – this is the response time of a system, it is important to reduce the latency time. 5G technology can reduce the latency up to 1ms vs 40ms of 4G networks.
  • Throughput – this is the transmission capacity of a communication channel. 5G will allow the transmission of billions of bits vs thousands of bits allowed by 4G networks.

Applications of 5G Technology

With that said, the opportunity that 5G brings is exciting:

  • IoT Internet of Things – 5G will offer a better support to the growing number of personal devices (like wearable technologies) and IoT devices that use a network.
  • Online gaming and VR – Thanks to latency and bandwidth, 5G will encourage the development of new online gaming platforms and offer the best experience to the end-user. It will also be a key factor for the success of upcoming Virtual Reality applications. Many big players in the IT industry, like Facebook, are hoping for a fast and wide adoption of 5G networks.
  • Cloud and video streaming (4K/8K, 3D) – 5G technology will provide the end-user with an improved experience while using cloud storage services and streaming platforms to watch 3D videos or other content in ultra-resolution, like 4K or even 8K. In theory, the speed of a 5G network should be 10Gbps in download and 1Gbps in upload.
  • Smart car –car manufacturers have a keen interest in 5G. The extremely low latency time should allow sending commands and information to cars in a very short time and over large distances. In a future automatic traffic management system, where cars are able to “talk” to one another, a 5G network will allow the sending of a brake command to a car that is driving at 62 miles per hour in 1 millisecond . In this very short time, the car will move just 2.8 centimeters. The same is not possible with 4G technology, due to the high latency time; the car will still move 1.4 meters before it brakes.

Surgery?  Yes

  • Telemedicine – future applications could involve healthcare. 5G enables enhanced minimally invasive remote surgery. Mischa Dohler, a professor at King’s College London, along with Peter Marshall of Ericsson, demonstrated a touch-sensitive medical tool that provides haptic feedback to a remote clinician.  The tool can detect early cancerous lumps under the skin of patients. The robotic representation gives the surgeon the sense of touch in minimally invasive surgery and is able to send accurate real time localization of hard nodules in soft tissues.


5G technology promises to be revolutionary. Larger bandwidth and low latency times will allow the development of new services and the improvement of existing ones. The guidelines for the 5G standard are detailed in the new Draft Report ITU-R SG05. The standard itself should be defined by 2020, but the first business applications are expected by 2022/2023.

However, these dates are only estimates and certainly some countries will see the availability of 5G networks and mobile devices before others.

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