By: Max Ash  | 

Intro to 5G

Imagine if Alexander the Great had access to a telegram machine when he was fighting his battles. Imagine if Eisenhower’s army had cell phones during the Second World War. Different outcomes, right? The power of communication, and how its evolution has changed society throughout history, is overwhelming. 

If you were to compare current network speeds to ones in the early 2000s, the difference would be glaring. That being said, if one were to experience both 4G and 5G bandwidth speeds, they wouldn’t necessarily notice such a dramatic increase in performance. The incremental contrast between one generation to the next will not be as stark as the comparison between 5G and, say, 2G. So, while this difference isn’t that noticeable to the average consumer, society’s growing demand for instant gratification has been a major driver of innovation within the world of network speeds. 

What is 5G? 5G, 4G’s successor, is the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks. First introduced in 2019, it boasts greater bandwidth which allows for faster download speeds. What’s unique to 5G is that it not only benefits mobile; it also offers beneficial opportunities to cloud technology and data centers. 5G use varies by country, as each country is approving a specific spectrum on its own timetable. With its implementation comes a host of factors involved as it becomes more widely used. 

Focusing on technology, 5G chipsets, which are used in 5G consumer mobile devices, have seen their market become increasingly consolidated in recent years as numerous competitors have dropped out due to high research and development costs. Major players focus their energies on manufacturing 5G modems (Sub-6GHz) and RF-front-end-components. When comparing companies within this industry, the key differentiator is normally seen as to whether they have mmWave capability or not, and more specifically, whether it can be implemented commercially. mmWave is a spectrum that allows for larger bandwidth, thereby offering faster speeds. What makes mmWave so important is that they require a considerable amount of engineering and are very difficult to implement into mobile devices. Qualcomm has been a leader in both, as it was the first to introduce 5G modems and ship them out in commercial devices. Right on Qualcomm’s heels are Samsung and Huawei, who have both shown substantial growth and innovation as the technology standard evolves. 

While 5G has many uses, the most obvious application of the technology is to mobile devices.  Unanimous among industry experts, Samsung is the clear leader in this category, as it was the first to ship out 5G-enabled phones.  What separates them from the pack is that they shipped products in multiple geographies on multiple carriers with both Sub-6GHz modems and mmWave. In the U.K., their Galaxy 5G offers over Sub-6GHz. Surprisingly, Apple has remained pretty quiet considering the dynamism of the industry; they have only just introduced their first 5G-enabled phone. Apple also picked up Qualcomm for their 5G connectivity, dropping Intel, whom they had relied on for 4G along the way. 

Before anything is rolled out, though, there needs to be a viable infrastructure in place to carry the new spectrum. Infrastructure is split into two categories: single-purpose and multi-purpose infrastructure. Single-purpose refers to companies that have cemented themselves as producing supporting equipment for wireless network build-outs. Multi-purpose infrastructure refers to various enterprise technology companies that have packaged and certified their own offerings (hardware, etc.). Within single-purpose infrastructure, there has been a tremendous amount of activity within the industry. Samsung and Ericsson have been the consensus industry leaders. Where it gets interesting is where Huawei, a Chinese company, comes into play. Recently, there has been a resounding global backlash over Huawei regarding security concerns. In the U.S., Huawei access has been restricted under the Trump administration. In the U.K., the government has initiated a process that would effectively erase Huawei’s presence in 5G connectivity there. Recently, BT, the leading telecom provider in the U.K., has announced deals with Nokia and Ericsson to provide 5G connectivity throughout the country, replacing Huawei. 

The world runs on connectivity — one minute without Internet globally would throw the world into chaos. With advancements in technology moving at paces quicker than ever thought, 5G is only expected to be here for the next 10 years. After that, it will be replaced by 6G, then 7G, and so on. The future of this generational technology only makes the mind spin at its potential. Could we keep up?

Photo Caption: 5G, the future of technology
Photo Credit: Pixabay