In the past year, a new technology trend has not only hit news articles but also taken over conspiracy theory forums. Almost everyone by now has heard of it. However, what exactly is it and why is it suddenly a trend? Here is 5G explained including the impacts and downsides of 5G.

What is 5G?

5G is the 5th generation mobile network that will eventually replace or augment 4G LTE. The new on-demand broadband will bring constant connectivity, faster download and upload speeds, and low latency. Higher performance and improved efficiency from 5G can enable automation, AI, and connectivity. Furthermore, all of these will enhance user experiences and connect new industries.

statue of 5g with radial blur

How fast is 5G?

The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), which is a collaboration of telecommunications standards organizations, created standards for 5G. 3GPP completed its non-standalone (NSA) specifications in 2017. Additionally, in 2018 it followed up with its stand-alone specifications (SA).

Below are the standard set by 3GPP:

  • Peak data rate: There will be faster data speeds with 5G. Peak data rates can hit 20Gbps downlink and 10Gbps uplink per mobile base station.
  • Real-world speeds: User download speeds will be of 100Mbps and upload speeds of 50Mbps.
  • Latency: Latency is the time it takes devices to communicate with each other through wireless networks. For 5G, latency should be at 4 milliseconds, and at 1 millisecond for use cases that demand a higher speed.
  • Efficiency: Radio interfaces should be energy-efficient when in use. They thus drop into a low-energy mode when not in use. With 5G, the time it takes to switch into a low-energy state should be within 10 milliseconds.
  • Spectral efficiency:  It should have an increased spectral efficiency over LTE, with 30bits/Hz downlink, and 15 bits/Hz uplink.
  • Mobility: Base stations with 5G should support movement from 0 to 310 mph.
  • Connection density: It should support many more connected devices than LTE, with about one million connected devices per square kilometer.

The Impact of 5G

5G will be meeting different needs across industries.

Internet of Things (IoT)

5G will have a great impact on the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is essentially an ecosystem of devices wirelessly connected to each other through a network that collects and exchanges data. This involves no human interaction. With the high speeds and low latency that it brings, IoT will be powered by communications among sensors and smart devices that communicate with a central server with one another.

Vehicle Safety

With 5G impacting IoT, we can also anticipate a rise of autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles will be able to communicate with other vehicles on the road by providing information on road conditions and performance to drivers.  Just imagine how many lives could be saved if your vehicle could sense that the car ahead of you just broke down giving you enough time to safely reduce your speed.


It also has the potential to transform healthcare. Due to its bandwidth and low latency, we can expect to see improvements within telemedicine, precision surgery, remote recovery, and physical therapy through AR and VR technology.

Public Safety

5G-enabled innovations will allow emergency personnel and first-responders to stay in constant communications, replacing inefficient two-way radio systems or easily dropped 4G signals. Plus, it has the potential to give cities a wireless advantage. Utility companies will be able to easily track usage remotely, sensors can notify public work departments when drains flood or streetlights go out.

5G symbol on smartphone

Downsides of 5G

One drawback with it is that your device must be able to use it which, depending on the device, could be purchasing brand new ones instead of a simple update. Another drawback is that many have voiced some health concerns. Citizen’s groups and even some scientists have expressed concerns about adverse health effects due to radio-frequency. Most research has found little evidence of any danger. However, many continue to stand against its usage at all costs.

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