A Comparison Between 4G & 5G 5 Dec 2020
Fifth-generation (5G) networking is in the process of being introduced across the UK, bring super fast speed and an end to network congestion. With 5G expected to revolutionise mobile networking, O2 has even predicted that 5G will boost the UK’s productivity by £3 billion each year. If this has left you wondering how 5G can achieve this, read on to find out the differences between the fourth-generation (4G) and 5G.
It all began with third-generation networks (3G) and the launch of smartphones, which soon progressed to the 4G enabling faster internet browsing. But, now its time to introduce the new generation of wireless technology, 5G.
All four major UK mobile networks have begun the installation of their 5G services; the introduction began for some providers back in May 2019. However, the 5G network is still within a phased introduction. Most mobile devices still cannot support the connectivity speeds of 5G yet; but, Ericsson is predicting that 40% of the global population coverage will have access to a 5G network by 2024.
How does 5G work?
5G has the ability to carry more data with great responsibility and reliably and this is all due to the new and improved technology it uses to transform units of data, known as bytes, through the air. 5G achieves this using a 5G New Radio interface along with other new technologies. It differs from 4G as the 5G system uses higher radio frequencies, 28 GHz compared to 4G which could range between 700-2500 MHz. The higher frequency allows for more data to be transfer exponentially through the air, which results in faster speeds, reduced congestion and lower latency — the delay before a transfer of data begins following an instruction.
Unlike 4G, 5G uses millimetre wave spectrum which allows more devices to be supported in the same geographic location. For example, a 4G interface could comfortably support around 4,000 devices per square kilometre; however, 5G can support a million without interruption.
Another digital technology that makes 5G possible is Massive MIMO (multiple inputs multiple outputs). Massive MIMO uses lots of target beams to spotlight and follower users around a cell site. These beams allow the area’s coverage to improve as well as its speed and capacity. Currently, in an area with 4G, network technology is best described as a spotlight; an area is illuminated as a whole but, within it, there are areas where light is wasted or misused.
The Differences Between 4G and 5G
When 4G was first introduced, it replaced the 3G mobile network which revolutionised the way we all communicated using mobile phones. As the 3G network could support smartphones, they rapidly increased in popularity.
4G, however, used higher radio frequencies and was able to provide a stable enough signal, that could support a higher quality video streaming. With 4G, internet speeds were faster and more people could enjoy live TV on their daily commute.
There soon became a problem; the more people that upgraded to a 4G device increased the congestion on this network, and many 4G mobiles struggled to access the internet during prime time.
This is where 5G steps in.
With 5G, this network congestion is completely eliminated. Due to 5G’s Massive MIMO technology, having full bars of signal and the inability to access the internet at peak times, is a thing the past.
The most highly anticipated element of the next network generation is its speed. 5G is expected to be 100 times fast than 4G. This means you should be able to download a two-hour film in around 10 seconds. With a 4G connection, the same film can take approximately 7 minutes to download.
Faster movie streaming and app downloads are not the only benefits of increase data speeds; experts envisage more advantages in other settings. For example, video cameras can also reap some benefits. Multiple cameras are able to gather and analyse a vast amount of footage in order to monitor security or even product quality in real-time.
All this is possible as 5G networks are built on super-high-frequency airwaves called high-band spectrum. It is these elevated frequencies which enable the faster transmitting speeds compared to 4G.
There is a slight catch with the 5G connection, signals travelling on the high-band spectrum cannot travel very far. This difficulty means that travelling through walls, windows and other hard surfaces. As we move around and travel to and from work, this interrupts the internet signal. However, there is a way around this issue.
When 5G is installed, wireless carriers are positioning small cell sites to poles, walls and towers. These sites are located in close proximity to other small cell sites, to help us stay connected wherever we go; as 5G’s high-band spectrum has less distance to travel. Moreover, the need for many cell sites means 5G has to be deployed city by city in order for the connection to work.
Latency is just important as the connection speed; this is the time it takes for a device to communicate with each other or with the server that is sending them information. So, speed refers to the time it takes for your phone to access and download a webpage; but, the latency is the time it takes to send your friend a text message and for their phone to give them a notification.
Latency is measured in milliseconds, and with a 4G connection, it is around 50ms. With the new 5G network, this could drop to 1ms. Latency is already low with 4G; however, the next step could see messages being instantaneous. And, when you take into consideration a larger amount of information, these milliseconds can add up.
For real-time gamers, this innovation really is game-changing. No matter when you are in the world, by using wireless internet-connected devices, you can all play one game and be at precisely the same point at the same time.
The reduced latency will also help pave the way for other new innovations, such as self-driving cars.
The question everyone has been asking: is a 5G network reliable? Unfortunately, until 5G has been installed, it will be hard to say either way. Due to the huge speeds and capacity, together with the reduced latency, 5G relies on a high-band spectrum. And, here lies the problem. As high-band spectrum can only cover small areas, this makes it less reliable. Despite this, is enough small cell sites are installed around the city, then all areas should be covered; but, until this is up and running and tested, we will just have to wait and see.
Here at Global EMEA, we offer IT services which are tailored to your needs; whether your businesses requires network support or network and system monitoring, our expert teams are on hand to help. We can also oversee any upgrades, changes and replacements to your IT assets if you would like to find out more ring us today on 0345 340 3105 or send us an enquiry on our website.