Understanding 5th Generation (5G) Cellular Technology

5 min readMar 26, 2020


In the following article, Ben Longwood, one of eSimplicity’s talented Electrical Engineers takes a look at the progression of cellular technologies. Ben provides data and insight into potential applications of 5G and concludes with some insight into 5G’s predicted performance.

“The 5th Generation (5G) Cellular protocol is in the news just about every day addressing everything from cellphones to autonomous vehicles to thermostats. In the next two or three years, the 5G telecom standard will bring radical changes to the way we use data. The features and benefits of 5G will result in an unacceptably enormous strain on current 4G datacenter infrastructure. 5G will increase Data Rate, Energy Efficiency, Spectrum Efficiency and the efficiency of other devices. 5G promises to enhance video-streaming and low-bandwidth Internet of Things (IOT) deployment as well as provide high throughput (data rate) for billions of devices, 10Gbps for a Smart interconnected world. 5G will require an enhanced mobile broadband, a Flexible Heterogeneous System and ultimately additional Spectrum. There have been 5G protocols published by various organizations since 2012. However, the initial release of a 5G standard by the 3GPP (“3RD Party Partnership Project” international standards committee) was not published until 2017. All of this comes at a time where internet traffic is estimated to triple, achieving approximately 3.3 zettabytes globally by 2021. 5G is going to enable autonomous cars to quickly and reliably access computing resources in the cloud. Autonomous cars alone are projected to produce 5 terabytes of data for every hour of driving. 5G is an exciting and fundamental change to support the scope of the coming IP traffic explosion. Table 1 outlines the historical evolutionary progression of cellular technology starting in 1940 with the introduction of the Mobile Radio Telephone to the 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE).

Table 1: Progression of Cellular Technology:

IMT-2020 (5G) systems will differentiate themselves from 4G system not only through further evolution in radio performance but also through greatly increased end-to-end flexibility. 5G isn’t just for the introduction of the latest smartphone technology. 5G is the new Radio Technology (5GNR) RAN radio access network. It is a new wireless communication network technology. 5G is the latest Fifth Public Private Partnership (5PPP) Specification to address cellular technology and represents a new era of technological change. It is built on an entirely new network architecture. 5G is a business case revolution not an evolution of 4G technology and will require a fundamental change in infrastructure.

The amount and the rate of growth of the devices occupying the network has outpaced the technological ability to support 4G devices. The high mmWave 5G frequencies are better at supporting higher data rates at short distance. Higher frequencies are more easily absorbed by the atmosphere and can also be scattered and absorbed by weather events and buildings, thus they require nearly line of sight communication.

The 5G focus on latency and device density are the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that differentiate it from the previous four generations of cellular technology. Latency is the time it takes for an action to be executed following an instruction. As the 5G higher frequency requirements increase the user’s demand for more bandwidth will also increase. Latency decreases with higher frequency implementation. 4G Downloading of a 500MB episode of Game of Thrones will take an hour while a 5G Downloading of a 500MB episode of Game of Thrones will take less than one minute. 5G will enable application of three broad areas of use cases. Extreme Mobile Broadband (eMBB) enhancing cell phone capability. Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC) sensors will facilitate the IoT implementations. Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC) will aid applications like autonomous vehicles and augmented reality.

Potential 5G Applications: A technological foundation for wireless communications

  • High Resolution Video
  • Virtual Reality
  • Augmented Reality for Gaming
  • E-Health (Real time communications with doctors)
  • Self-Driven Cars
  • IoT (Internet of Things) / Machine Learning AI
  • Agriculture
  • Development of Smart Cities
  • Ultra-Fast Connection Speed
  • Ultra-Broadband (Big Data) & Pipe Networking Systems
  • The concept of “Zero Distance”
  • Machine-to-Machine Communication

The 5th Generation Cellular Technology

  • 5G can sustain 1000 times more traffic than today’s 4G LTE
  • 5G is 10 times faster than today’s 4G LTE
  • 28GHz and 24GHz mmWave frequencies will be the workhorse for 5G
  • 600MHz to 6GHz (Initial 5G implementation frequencies)
  • 10x to 100x Connected Devices
  • 5x lower Latency
  • 10x Battery Life for low power devices
  • $/device/month: Revenue for some distributed sensors

5G will benefit by the implementation of many technologies. Millimeter Waves (mmWaves) introduce the application of very high frequencies (30GHz — 300GHz). Unfortunately, mmWave introduce poor penetration and the need to avoid obstacles. The 5G wavelength (mmWave) is more susceptible to signal degradation over greater distances. The implementation of Massive MIMO to support up to 100 ports where 4G can support 8 to 12 ports and the deployment of Beamforming technology to augment a focused stream of data are key technologies needed to overcome the potential performance degradation.

5G Predicted Performance

  • 100MHz Minimum Bandwidth
  • Theoretical Peak Downlink of 20Gbps
  • Average Downlink of 100Mbps
  • Average Uplink of 50Mbps
  • Latency of 4msec for extreme broadband
  • Latency of 1msec for Ultra-low latency

According to an analysis commissioned by one of the big 3 cell phone carriers, the deployment of 5G networks is expected to result in the creation of 8.5 million during 2019–2025, adding more than $900 billion to the U.S. GDP.

$225 billion in capital expenditure will be needed over the next seven years or so to fully deploy 5G. New employment opportunities will result through the way 5G will enable new applications, services, and ways of doing business.”

This is an exciting time for 5G especially as the White House just released their National Strategy to Secure 5G in the United States. The strategy focuses on four lines of effort and will help guide agencies in their approaches for implementation. The strategy also helps formally frame how the nation will safeguard fifth-generation wireless infrastructure at home and abroad.

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Launched in 2016, eSimplicity delivers game-changing Digital Services, Healthcare IT, and Telecommunications solutions.