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How is 5G different than 4G? (And other big questions about the next gen of wireless)

You’ve read the news: 5G is coming in 2019. But what is it and what does that mean for your business? And how is it different from 4G, your current network standard? Because 5G is so new, there are plenty of questions about its capabilities and the timeline for its rollout. We’ve compiled some of those questions here.

  • What exactly is a G?
  • What is true 5G?
  • How is 5G different than 4G?
  • Why is 5G so fast?
  • What does 5G mean for your business?
  • Is 5G going to replace 4G?
  • How do you know that a network is running 5G for real?
  • When will 5G be up and running?

Ready to get your questions answered about the newest fastest wireless generation?  Let’s get into it. 

speed-highwayPhoto by Joey Kyber on Unsplash

5G is coming. What should you do to prepare?
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What do 4G and 5G mean? (And other questions)

What is 5G? What is 4G? And what’s all this about 5G E? All of these are great questions but let’s answer the most basic question first.

What exactly is a G?

G stands for generation. About once every 10 years, starting in the 1980s when mobile technology was introduced, a new generation of cellular mobile technology is introduced. Case in point: the first 4G network was launched in 2009 and the first 4G phone was introduced in 2010. At the time, providers were racing to be first to offer 4G. Now, 10 years later, there’s a similar competition happening — every operator wants to be the first to offer 5G and AT&T has jumped into that race by offering what it’s calling a 5G E network. 5G E, which stands for 5G Evolution, isn’t true 5G. It’s an enhanced 4G network. Other networks call the same kind of network 4GE, 4G Max and LTE Advanced.

What is true 5G?

5G is the fifth, newest and fastest generation of cellular technology. It’s very fast, with a minimum speed of 20GB per second. That’s a wireless connection that operates faster than most in-home internet services. It also has low latency, or lag time, so any apps running on a 5G device and network will be faster than you’re used to. 

How is 5G different than 4G?

The big news here is that 5G is a good 20 times faster than 4G — while 5G achieves speeds of 20Gb per second, 4G currently has a peak speed of 1GB per second. Another difference — 5G can support many more devices at once than 4G. How many? Possibly 1,000 more devices per meter.

Why is 5G so fast?

5G uses higher frequencies and will be operating anywhere from 30GHz to 300GHz. 4G, which operates on lower frequency band, and can only handle up to 6GHz.

antennaPhoto by kilarov zaneit on Unsplash

What does a basic IoT architecture look like?
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What does 5G mean for your business?

If you want to take advantage of 5G, you’re going to have to upgrade your mobile devices and hardware. You may also need to purchase antennae if your organization needs to use 5G inside of a building. Once your organization has upgraded, you’ll be able to realize the full potential of some of the technology you’ve already got. You’ll be able to send massive amounts of data wirelessly which means that streaming live video will be a lot easier and more reliable. So if you’re streaming an event, or communicating with distant clients, you’re less likely to have trouble with latency. You’ll also be able to take full advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT). Remember how many more devices are supported per meter by 5G? That has huge implications for organizations using the IoT, promising more connected devices and faster processing and data analytics. This could mean more efficiency for manufacturing (which uses the IoT) and new possibilities when it comes to the healthcare industry.

Is 5G going to replace 4G?

The short answer is no. 4G will still be there (just as 3G is still around) and all of your 4G devices will still run on it. But eventually, like other generations of cellular technology before it, 5G become the standard.

How do you know that a network is running 5G for real?

That’s an easy one: you will need new hardware to take advantage of 5G. So if your phone normally runs on 4G and now it says its on 5G, you’re on a 4G network. Currently there are no 5G phones available, but you can expect to see them later this year. (5G laptops and cars were also spotlighted at CES earlier this month.)

When will 5G be up and running?

That’s uncertain. Networks are still deploying antennae and getting ready for launch. The New York Times is predicting that most carriers will switch on 5G and release the devices to go with it by the second quarter of 2019.The full speed and potential of 5G; however, may not be realized until the carriers upgrade their own switching equipment, which might not happen until late in the year, or even in 2020. And of course, software designed specifically for 5G’s speed and low latency won’t be seen until 5G’s been around for a while.

How should your organization prepare for 5G?

The fact that 5G won’t be fully deployed for a while is a good thing, because it will give you and your company time to prepare. How you do that will depend on how your organization uses technology.

For example, your organization may benefit from reviewing:

  • how you use streaming video
  • converting processes that update in real-time
  • mobile application development that takes advantage of 5G
  • reviewing your Internet of Things (IoT)
  • purchasing new antennae, devices and other hardware

Still need help? Reach out to Omni to learn what you can do to prepare.

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Paul Rasmussen

About Author Paul Rasmussen

Paul wants to live in a world where he can golf every day of the year, he has an unlimited number of “Do Overs," and he hits every goal he sets for himself. As a project manager, one of Paul’s strengths lies in managing multi-faceted Agile projects. After tackling some tough ones, he’s learned a lot about which management styles do and don’t work in a given situation, when and how to ask the hard questions, and how to identify who can be counted on at critical junctures. Throughout the project cycle, he strives to give team members and clients more than what they expect. “When I can do that, it’s amazing to see the lasting business and personal relationships that are made.” Outside of work, you are likely to find Paul at the golf course, brewing up his own specialty beer, or whipping up something new and crazy for Saturday breakfast. The past few years he has spent an inordinate amount of time assembling toys for his kids. Paul grew up in Sparta, near LaCrosse WI. He graduated with a degree in Management Information Services from UW - Oshkosh. He and his wife Jody have two daughters (Maddison & Skylar) and a son (Dyllan).


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