What Is a 5G Network & How Does 5G Differ From 4G?

By Helen LinLast Updated May 20, 2021 1:01:34 AM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Barcroft Media/Getty Images

Recently, 5G has started taking the world by storm. But just how does it differ from 4G? The superfast fifth-generation mobile network, most commonly referred to as 5G, is a mobile internet connection that promises next-level coverage, usage and reliability. To put it in perspective, downloading a movie on 4G takes 50 minutes — while, on 5G, it takes only nine minutes.

Here, we’ll take a look at 5G in more detail, from exploring the differences between 5G and 4G to looking at how 5G can improve our lives. Essentially, if there’s anything you’ve wanted to know about 5G, we’ve got you covered.

Why Is 5G So Important & Do We Really Need It?

Known as the 5th generation mobile network, 5G is the next in the line of succession, coming in the wake of the 4G, 3G, 2G, and 1G networks. The power of 5G promises wider (and faster) connectivity. In fact, with 5G you’ll be able to connect your device to nearly anything without compromising data speed.

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With this in mind, increased availability and higher data speed are the two main points that differentiate 5G from other mobile networks. With an increased data speed, 5G is essential for businesses that rely on faster access and efficiency. In many cases businesses weren’t able to solely rely on the 4G network, but the increased network capacity of 5G allows many industries to use it as their primary mobile network. As an added bonus, 5G all but ensures that you won’t need to walk around to different parts of your house to find a better connection.

So, What’s MIMO?

MIMO stands for "Multiple-In, Multiple-Out." More importantly, it’s the name of the antenna used for the 5G network. Although they work on a similar principle to 4G, they use more connections, thus ensuring that data can be sent and received simultaneously by many users. This is particularly useful for large gatherings or concerts where mobile network connectivity notoriously gets weak due to the sheer number of people trying to connect. In short, with 5G more people are able to connect to a single cell tower.

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The Next Generation of Mobile Network Connectivity

In summary, 5G’s biggest benefits include:

  • 5G is up to 100 times faster than 4G
  • 5G is able to connect a larger number of devices
  • 5G reaches lower latency (10 milliseconds compared to 20-30 milliseconds with 1-millisecond delays)
  • 5G is able to connect humans and machines with minimal delays in communication

What Did 4G Bring to the Table?

Although it already sounds outdated, 4G did change our lives for the better when it launched. Without 4G, we wouldn’t have reliable access to apps like Uber or FaceTime. Furthermore, 4G really stepped up its game when it came to live customer service, allowing us to connect with brands on a more personal level.

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Although 4G marked a fantastic upgrade, it now feels lacking in both coverage and connectivity, especially when compared to 5G, which promises to solve many of these existing 4G issues. In fact, Dr. Christoph Grote, the senior vice president of electronics at BMW Group said, "We expect 5G to become the worldwide dominating mobile communications standard of the next decade."

From Robotics to “Smarter” Cities, Here’s How the 5G Network Will Help Us Make Advances

One of 5G’s most exciting prospects is its ability to connect humans with machines, allowing for the remote operation of robotics. That is, people will be able to feel and touch through a machine while being in a completely different location from a robot.

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In turn, it’s predicted that this new mobile network will give birth to a new generation of robots. Able to roam freely, these remote-controlled robots won’t be tethered to wires or computers. This sounds cool, but is it a practical use? Well, many believe this could be useful for folks working in factories and for doctors who are performing surgeries.

Back in 2001, surgeon Jacques Marescaux managed to successfully remove a patient’s gallbladder with a console, all while being located thousands of miles away. Now, with this new tech, more patients could have access to urgent, life-saving care.

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Using 5G could also have a significant impact on city living. Because of its low delays in transmitting data, it might be able to reduce traffic congestion, thus allowing for easier commutes. How so? Vehicles would be connected to traffic lights and ground sensors. Perhaps the best use case for this tech is that firefighters and EMTs could arrive on the scene more quickly — and with less hassle.

Moreover, 5G could also impact a city’s spending. Investing in smart lighting systems could save a significant amount of money in the long run and, with less traffic jams, air quality may even improve. All of this to say, the sky's the limit when it comes to the 5G network.

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5G Predictions: Everything Else You Need to Know

Apart from smarter traffic lights and robot surgeries, how will 5G improve life for the average user? For starters, you’ll be able to play any game on mobile using nothing but your network and your VR headset. That’s right: no more pings or delays due to bad network connectivity. If that wasn’t enough for the tech-minded, we can also expect next-level product demonstrations. That is, expect more hologram product demos and a bigger reliance on VR experiences.

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Although less flashy than those benefits listed above, 5G will also allow us to connect all of our devices with ease. For example, we can already upload our health records from our phones, but imagine if we could connect all of our devices, allowing us to compile data and share reports? Well, that’ll be a reality soon. Finally, private 5G networks will be widespread. In fact, they’re already on the rise. Without a doubt, every next-generation mobile network opens up new possibilities. Now, it’s up to us to access 5G’s fullest potential.

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