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5G: What You Should Know About This New Communications Titan

March 30, 2016

A Dilbert strip once featured Wally out to sabotage a new vice president as part of a surprisingly cogent plot from the Pointy-Haired Boss. Wally fed said VP false information, culminating in the revelation that 4G was called 4G “because it's G-G-G-Good.” This is, naturally, not the case, but there are still plenty of things that will be helpful to know about its successor in the making, 5G, that will help users get the most out of it.

First, while there will be a noticeable boost in speed, 5G is a lot more than just a speed boost. Reports call 5G “fiber without the fiber,” and that means speeds at least 10 times faster than 4G, reaching potentially as high as 4Gbps. Much of this is being done to accommodate the huge new influx of connected devices assumed by the still-growing Internet of Things (IoT), expected to hit huge levels by 2020 and require a new, faster, and much higher bandwidth option than currently on hand. Second, this means brand new architectures to follow, since we'll be seeing network conditions that are better than ever before. Latency will plummet, speeds will climb, and new backward compatibility options will be afoot.

Third, it's closer to arriving than some may think. Several companies have already started trials; AT&T was working on it not so long ago, and recently, both T-Mobile and Verizon took out testing approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for testing-related matters. That's before companies like Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung, and plenty of others chip in.

Fourth, the growth of 5G won't mean the end of Wi-Fi. Both networks will continue to exist, and exist together on many fronts. 5G is geared mainly toward the huge new growth of connected devices, so for many users, regular Wi-Fi will likely still be part of the action. Finally, the United States won't get it first. Countries like Japan and South Korea have a bit of a head start and a much more compressed geography in which to work. Asian countries are likely to see the first 5G access, particularly as South Korea is working to have it in place in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

It's not just for the growth of IoT; Google's Project Skybender makes it clear this will be used for connectivity on at least some front, and the potential benefits for rural connectivity are massive. Between the need to supply connections to remote areas and accommodate the growing numbers of smart devices, we clearly needed a connection method that was both powerful and easily dispersed. 5G looks to fill that bill, and provide bandwidth where it's needed most.

5G may not be G-G-G-G-Good, but it will shake up the market. Planning for these changes now will be worthwhile, even if we don't get 5G for another few years. Being ready for the change will help ensure the greatest benefit from it.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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