The 5th generation mobile network—5G—promises to start a revolution that goes far beyond faster browsing and clearer calls. Understanding the potential of 5G is the first step to unlocking it.
5G Vs. 4G
A new generation of mobile network technology stands ready to go further than its predecessors could have dreamed.
What does 5G mean? Simply put, 5G is short for “5th generation.” You may also see the standard called 5G-NR (the NR stands for “new radio”). If the earliest mobile network—analog voice calls, no SMS, no mobile data or browsing—was the first generation, 5G is its great-great-grandchild.
When today’s 4G long-term evolution (LTE) mobile networks started rolling out nearly a decade ago, consumers welcomed a new era of rich media mobile browsing. Representing both an evolution of the 4G standard and a revolution in radio technology, 5G technology promises to transform the 2020s into a time of unprecedented connectivity and technological advancement. With higher capacity and speed, plus ultralow latency, 5G will power innovation that would have been impossible under the 4G LTE standard.
How Does 5G work?
All four previous generations of mobile networks used macro cell towers, hundreds of feet tall, requiring vast power outlays to transmit over long distances.
5G works a bit differently. This upgraded mobile network uses a combination of frequencies from multiple bands to maximize throughput. In addition to traditional macro cell towers, 5G will also use a large number of much smaller micro cells for new millimeter wave spectrum bands to create a blanket of ultrahigh-speed network coverage.
Benefits of 5G
For many end users, the 5G upgrade is all about speed. With predicted 5G speed of up to 10 Gbps, new networks will be up to 100x faster than their predecessors.1
For industrial, agricultural, and commercial use cases, the biggest benefits of 5G are its high capacity and minimal lag. With up to 5x the bandwidth available with 4G,2 5G will give rise to new methods of production and distribution. Early tests also show that 5G may cut network latency in half.3
5G Use Cases
The transformative power of 5G will touch nearly every industry. Compelling 5G use cases have already been identified in the healthcare, agriculture, retail, transportation, logistics, and manufacturing industries, among others.
Media and Entertainment
The availability of broadband made it possible to move movies, TV, and gaming to the cloud. Now, 5G promises to bring even richer media experiences to any screen, anywhere. End users will be able to enjoy smooth video streaming in 4K, immersive virtual reality (VR) experiences, and highly responsive gameplay on devices connected to a 5G network, leading to greater revenue opportunities for content creators, cloud service providers, and communications service providers.
The convergence of 5G with AI and the intelligent edge will revolutionize the factory floor in ways not seen since Henry Ford unveiled the first assembly line. Supply chain, inventory management, and quality assurance processes, augmented by IoT and edge computing, will increase automation levels and reduce unit costs.
Modern brick-and-mortar stores face an uphill battle to keep customers due to the onslaught of online retail. With 5G, retailers of the future will power new omnichannel customer experiences. One way? Taking the cash register out of retail transactions. By using AI-enabled cameras with low latency, retailers will be able to create an automatic checkout experience that’s as simple as walking out of the store with your full cart.
For doctors and patients, 5G represents a new frontier of care. Imagine a wearable insulin pump that uses AI to give individualized suggestions about diabetes management to the patient’s endocrinologist or a smart implanted defibrillator that automatically and safely restarts a stopped heart—and instantly notifies the patient’s cardiologist with information about the incident.
With higher capacity and speed, plus lower latency, 5G will power innovation that would have been impossible under the 4G LTE standard.
At today’s early stages of the 5G rollout, deployments are limited in scope and their locations determined by individual carriers. In the United States, all four major wireless communications service providers have early 5G deployments in multiple cities. While most rollouts have involved mobile devices, some have been fixed wireless only—that is, 5G that works for a fixed point, like home internet access. Outside the US, providers have begun deploying 5G in countries including China, South Korea, Germany, and Switzerland.
While select locations have some 5G coverage, today’s deployments are just the prelude to citywide rollouts. Industry analysts indicate that mass deployment of 5G, on a scale that brings it to a broad user base of both consumers and businesses, is likely to start around 2021.
The future of 5G will depend not only on carrier rollouts but also device availability. From cell phones to smart city sensors, broader availability of devices developed with 5G in mind are expected to be launched in 2020 or 2021, with an onslaught of 5G-enabled experiences beginning in 2022 as new products are created to meet the demands emerging from 5G technology.
5G Products and Solutions
5G experiences are only as capable as the network that supports them. As a compute leader in network solutions, Intel is a foundational part of the global 5G rollout, much in the same way that our technologies are the backbone of cloud computing. Network transformation depends on a broad ecosystem of technologies, with Intel compute technologies embedded into the fabric of 5G networks at every level.
Intel participates in more than 300 standards groups worldwide and has provided research and guidance for the 5G standard since its inception. Because 5G depends on using spectrum in multiple bands, Intel has also been an active advocate for spectrum availability for 5G services with groups and governments around the world. 4
Tomorrow’s 5G solutions depend on scaling compute technologies to accommodate vastly expanded throughput. With workload-optimized performance, Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors offer revolutionary advances capable of meeting the data-intensive needs of 5G networking.
5G: Charting the Course to Tomorrow
Today’s early 5G rollouts represent the very beginning of a massive change to how consumers and businesses use wireless networks. By connecting devices to the cloud faster, with less lag than ever before, 5G will dramatically expand the reach of IoT. 5G and IoT will work together to enable more connected devices that automate more business processes.
Powerful applications are expected to emerge as edge computing, IoT, and 5G converge. Revolutionary new use cases will include personalized real-time shopping, lifelike immersive media, augmented reality, and automated robotics.
In the era of 5G, technologies will converge to enable the intelligent edge, IoT, and AI, working together to delight consumers, streamline business operations, and more effectively use data at scale. With technology embedded at every level of the 5G ecosystem, Intel is leading the way to harnessing the full transformative power of the new 5G standard.