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Note: As a courtesy to our followers, this blog article presents a synopsis of the CBINSIGHTS Research Brief “What Is 5G? Understanding The Next-Gen Wireless System Set To Enable Our Connected Future” August 16, 2021.

The next generation of wireless technology will offer new consumer and business applications, with near real-time connectivity.

In the last decade, 4G wireless technology has been the standard for many mobile consumers around the world. Over the next decade, the rise of connected “internet of things” (IoT) devices will require networks to transmit massive sums of data in near real-time. 5G, the next generation of wireless technology, will allow just that.

Graphic source: CBINSIGHTS Research Brief “What Is 5G? Understanding The Next-Gen Wireless System
Set To Enable Our Connected Future” August 16, 2021.

Early 5G deployment began at the end of 2018 when AT&T launched 5G wireless networks in 12 cities, but the pace has picked up since then and the major US carriers now claim to offer some form of 5G nationwide. [ Please take note of the phrase “now claim to offer some form”. YMMV.]

5G will provide speeds faster than any previous generation — up to 3000 Mbps (3 Gbps) in the real world, depending on the conditions and the tech being used — competing even with those delivered via fiber-optic cables. Movies that took minutes to download with 4G will take seconds with 5G.

While smartphones and other mobile devices are the obvious use cases for 5G, there are many other applications for the technology. The internet of things (IoT), for example, will benefit tremendously from the speed and bandwidth provided by 5G. In 2020, there were an estimated 12B IoT connections globally, according to IoT Analytics. By 2025, there will be more than 30B IoT connections around the world, more than 4 IoT devices for every person on Earth. Autonomous vehicles, robotic surgery, and critical infrastructure monitoring are just a few of the potential applications of 5G-enabled IoT.

5G’s quantum leap in connectivity creates tremendous opportunities for numerous industries but also sets the stage for large-scale disruption. Industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, and auto are already adopting technologies and becoming more connected. Once 5G becomes widespread, the effect on these industries could be transformative for 3 main reasons:

1. 5G offers lower latency, enabling faster transmission of larger data streams
2. 5G is more reliable, enabling better transmission of data in extreme conditions
3. 5G is more flexible than Wi-Fi and can support a wider range of devices, sensors, and wearables

Barriers to 5G adoption

Even as 5G services become more common, the tech still has hurdles to overcome.

Inertia gets a vote; network providers will need to install a lot of new, and expensive, infrastructure. Another challenge is range. 5G often relies on high-frequency waves to gain its speed advantages over 4G, but this also entails shorter wavelengths — reducing the distance that 5G can carry a useful signal. With 5G signals tending to travel relatively short distances, network providers will need to deploy more antennas and base stations to ensure broad coverage. All this additional infrastructure will lead to high upfront costs for network providers — who are expected to spend $88B per year globally by 2023 on 5G network deployment, according to a report by Heavy Reading.

There are also some security and privacy concerns around 5G deployment. Alongside fears that compromised 5G infrastructure could create the potential for espionage, the new protocols being deployed may include some unforeseen vulnerabilities. For example, security researchers found shortcomings in 2018 in a 5G security protocol known as Authentication and Key Agreement (AKA) that in some cases could be used to steal sensitive information. As 5G evolves and is rolled out more extensively, other issues may emerge as the interlocking parts are more thoroughly scrutinized.

Michael Conlin

Michael Conlin​

Chief Technology Officer​
Phone: (703) 216-5856​​

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