What Is 5G Technology?
5G is the fifth-generation mobile technology. The 5G NR — New Radio — is the new global standard adopted by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, better known as 3GPP, the standards organization for a unified and more capable 5G wireless air interface.
5G supports diverse radio frequency spectrum bands with very high available bandwidth. The 5G Core is the center of the network and the anchor point for multi-access technologies.
The most noticeable difference to end users regarding 5G is the upgraded speed. 5G can deliver data speeds 10 to 100 times faster than 4G LTE and cut latency to milliseconds. Latency is any kind of delay that happens in data communication over a network.
There are two types of 5G NR. Non-standalone 5G NR leverages existing 4G deployments and requires only minor modifications to the 4G network. The focus is primarily on enhanced mobile broadband: ISPs use this to provide high-speed connectivity to users with 5G-enabled devices.
The other type is standalone 5G NR, which has three defined use cases, according to 3GGP. They include enhanced mobile broadband but also extend to ultrareliable and low-latency communications for critical applications, plus massive machine-type communications to support the Internet of Things.
5G vs. 4G: What Are the Key Differences?
Mark Zannoni, a smart cities analyst and former research director of smart cities and transportation at IDC Government Insights, says that “5G will enable the scaling of existing and development of future smart city solutions, given its ultrareliable low latency and higher data capacity and denser connections than LTE.”
There are network innovations embedded into the 5G standard that make the next generation a “profound leap from LTE,” Zannoni says.
The first is latency. LTE network latency is currently mostly between 50-100 milliseconds, Zannoni notes. “5G standards require a maximum latency of four milliseconds, and for many applications, latency is expected to be less than a millisecond,” he says. That means there will be very little network lag.
Data rates and throughput on 5G can be up to 100 times faster than on LTE. Speeds on AT&T’s 5G network in Dallas hit 1.3 gigabits per second during April tests conducted by PC Magazine. Meanwhile, tests CNET performed in May on Verizon’s 5G network in Chicago produced download speeds of 1.3Gbps.
5G also enables far greater network density than 4G networks. “While an LTE tower can handle around 2,000 simultaneous connections, 5G specifications call for a minimum of one million connections per square kilometer,” Zannoni says.
5G Wireless Network Use Cases in Government
There are a wide range of potential use cases for 5G across government. The DOD’s 5G tests include pilot projects for each branch of military service, Dwayne Florenzie, senior strategy executive at the Air Force’s Office of Commercial and Economic Analysis, said at a 5G conference cosponsored by law firm Venable and the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., according to Breaking Defense.
“That was purposely done,” he said, “so that we do share the information and lessons learned from each other.”
The publication reports:
“Test environments” will be stood up at McChord AFB in Washington (the main base for the Army’s C-17 fleet), which will involve using 5G to enable virtual reality training, and at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Georgia and Naval Base San Diego where 5G connectivity will be used to speed depot and warehousing activities. The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law on Dec. 20, approved $275 million for the DOD-wide 5G research and development effort, and the creation of the test sites.
Meanwhile, separately, the Air Force is working with AT&T to create a “smart base of the future,” including modernizing the Tyndall Air Force base’s communications infrastructure via 5G technology. The full upgrade is expected to take three to five years, but AT&T will turn on 5G service in mid-2020, according to Defense Systems. Tyndall will be able to use 5G for “wide-scale video, surveillance and analytics that cover everything from the flight line to physical perimeter security, such as monitoring gates with license plate readers,” the publication reports.