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5G Explained - Everything about the next generation wireless

Kushal Raut
Kushal Raut

What is 5G?

Whenever you want to access the Internet when on the go, you always take a quick glance at the network bar to check whether you're on 4G, 3G/H+, or E/2G. The taste of 4G and the blazing fast speeds has given us almost Wi-Fi-like experience on mobile data. This meant we could enjoy video streaming and data-heavy services. The day is not far where you can start streaming FHD and 4K content on-the-go as 5G services are being introduced around the world. Let's dive in and understand the technology involved in this 5th generation telecommunication network which will shape the world of the future.

5G Phases
5G Standardization

5G is the successor to 4G. Is that enough? Well, no. Certainly, the most common answer by anyone would be “The Next Generation of the Internet.” Technically it's called 5G NR. NR stands for “New Radio” because the technology also makes use of high-frequency mmWave apart from your general 4G LTE bands.

How does it work? Will it make your internet faster? Will it make data plans cheaper? Let us find out.

Features of 5G

With every New Generation (G), there is an expected 10 fold increase in speeds and Drop in network latency, wider connectivity, etc. But if you compare the transition between consecutive generations, 4G to 5G is going to be greater because 5G is Takes advantage of everything we already have in 4G as well as introduces the use of high-frequency mmWave i.e. the concept of Millimeter waves which we would discuss ahead as follows.

  • Faster network with the potential to transform the Internet of Things.

    • Foundation for Self Driving cars, VR and so on
  • Handle more traffic than ever over a particular area.
  • 100x more Network capacity than 4G Network.
  • Lower Latency (Ping)

    • Pings

      • 4G - 0.045ms
      • 5G - 0.001ms
Pillars of 5G

Well, you read about these features but you wouldn't have understood what it means if you aren't into Tech. Don't worry we are going to explain you everything. Just stay till the end and you would understand it.

Pre-Concepts for 5G

Before we explain to you how 5G works, you need to know a few basic concepts of Communication Systems. Let's tackle them one by one.

  • Bandwidth
  • Repeaters
  • Modulations
  • Power of signals

Bandwidth: Bandwidth is the capacity of a wired or wireless network communications link to transmit the maximum amount of data from one point to another over a computer network or internet connection in a given amount of time -- usually one second. Synonymous with capacity, bandwidth describes the data transfer rate. Bandwidth is not a measure of network speed -- a common misconception.

How does it work?

The more bandwidth a data connection has, the more data it can send and receive at one time. Bandwidth can be compared to the amount of water that can flow through a water pipe. The bigger the pipe, the more water can flow through it at one time. Bandwidth works on the same principle. So, the higher the capacity of the communication link, or pipe, the more data can flow through it per second.

Repeaters: A repeater is a combination of a receiver and a transmitter. They are used to extend the range of a signal.

Modulation: It is the process of superimposing low-frequency signal on a high-frequency wave which is going to act as a carrier wave for long distance transmission.

Power of Signals: For an antenna of length ‘l’, the power radiated is equal to l2. Thus, the power radiated increases with decreasing λ (i.e. increasing frequency). Thus, we need high frequency.

Deploying of 5G Bands

There are two ways to deploy 5G bands which are on the basis of technologies used.

  1. Standalone Mode: Using new 5G Packet Core Architecture and Cells for signalling and data transfer.
  2. Non-Standalone Mode: Using existing sub-6 or sub-6 GHz infrastructure for deployment.
MM waves and Sub 6-GHz
Spectrum Range

Standalone Mode Deployment

This deployment is going to be independent and won’t depend on any of previous infrastructures of 3G or 4G. The following technologies might be used together to deploy 5G across the globe.

Millimetre Waves

Since more devices are on the existing spectrum, the speed has decreased. With an aim to increase and gain more bandwidth 5G is going to work on the concept of Millimetre ways. It is a band of spectrum between 30GHz and 300GHz.

There’s more catch with MM waves, they cannot travel far or penetrate through walls. Not only Obstacles like a wall but even climate change can affect the signals. Higher frequency mmWaves can be blocked even by your hands around your phone if they are weak before reaching.

The antennas for Millimetre waves would be relatively small in terms of height and there'll be need of more antennas per square kilometre of the radius. Thus, they would be used with below technologies to reach everywhere in malls, offices and so on. This is because theoretically, the Size of Antenna is 1/4th of Wavelength. For Millimetre Waves, Frequency is high and Wavelength is less.

Smart Cells

To cater to the problem of Millimetre waves used, there are two options. The first one is to create more towers which are practically impossible across the globe. The other one is to use smart cells. (Similar to Repeaters) They consume low power and act as base stations to eliminate physical obstruction of millimetre waves.


MIMO stands for “Multiple Input Multiple Output.” By using it, one signal tower capacity can be boosted to a whole new level. It (multiple inputs, multiple outputs) is an antenna technology for wireless communications in which multiple antennas are used at both the source (transmitter) and the destination (receiver). The antennas at each end of the communications circuit are combined to minimize errors and optimize data speed. This requires more antennas and more streams per antenna

This technology has aroused interest because of its possible applications in the digital television (DTV), wireless local area networks (WLANs), metropolitan area networks (MANs), and mobile communications. However, due to massive input/output, it is going to cause interference. This can be fixed by changing how these signals transmit.

Beam Forming

Instead of sending signals in a wide range, the signals would be sent in a form of a beam in a particular direction for a particular user. Think of it as using a Torch and a Laser Light. This would help to send quality signals over quantity and eliminate interference discussed above.

Full duplex

In simple words, it means using the same route for sending and receiving data. In other words, it’s a one-way route through which data can be sent and received efficiently without any lag. Think of it as two trains running on the same track in opposite direction without any interference.

5G Technology

5G Roadmap

Accelerating 5G NR

Before getting into Standalone (SA) Mode, 5G was in works with Non-Standalone Mode (NSA) NSA Mode means depending on 4G Infrastructure for 5G. Work items for R15 5G followed by R16 5G. After all the research we are in the phase of 2019, where we would foresee the launch of 5G NR R15 and 5G NR R16.

As 5G is in works, even LTE would be evolved in parallel in order to integrate it with 5G Platform in near future.

Hurdles for 5G

Even though 5G was already debuted for testing in Korea Olympics in 2018, there is a long way to go for it to become widespread. Companies like Qualcomm and Intel are working on 5G Modems. Qualcomm has already announced the X50 Modem Add-on which supports the next generation of wireless.

  1. It requires new infrastructure due to higher bandwidth and the use of MM waves especially in the Standalone Phase for the future.
  2. The devices with 5G capabilities would be expensive until the adoption becomes widespread. Coming to smartphones, the 5G variants might be costlier than regular ones by 100-200$. This is because Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 has an X50 Modem add-on chip for 5G Antennas which costs an additional rate. Another reason being the use of multiple antennas in phones.

5G in India

Before getting into how long would it take for 5G to come to India. Here’s the process for setting up any network.

  1. Government allocates the spectrum and an auction takes place.
  2. Telecom Companies bid for the same in the auction.
  3. Telecom Companies build or modify the Infrastructure according to their needs.
  4. Technology Adoption across areas followed by commercial roll-out for masses in a country.

For India, the government is going to auction the spectrum for 5G by the end of 2019. Followed by which the Telecom Companies might take up to 6 Months to rollout for the people. Thus, 5G would be available in India by the mid or end of 2020. According to DOT & TRAI, the bands which are going to be in the auction are 3300-3600 MHz bands, besides the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz, 2,100 MHz, 2300 MHz and 2,500 MHz range.

“We missed the opportunity to participate when the standards were being set for 3G and 4G, but don’t want to miss the 5G opportunity. Now when the standards are being set for 5G across the world, India will also participate in the process,”- Manoj Sinha (Minister of State for Communication)

Meanwhile, are you wondering about the existence of Ads on the Internet?

For the USA, 5G is expected to roll out steadily by mid or the end of 2019. Network carriers such as Sprint, AT&T. T-Mobile, Verizon are already gearing up for the same in the USA.

5G Health Hazards

All the current networks such as 2G, 3G, 4G and even the upcoming 5G network are based on Non-ionizing wavelength. Non-ionizing radiations do not cause cancer, but ionizing radiations are the one which causes cancer. In India, the SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) is 1.6W/kg which is very negligible. It means that phones sold in India should have a SAR level at or below 1.6 watts per kilogram (W/kg) taken over the volume containing a mass of 1 gram of tissue that is absorbing the most signal. Meanwhile, EU countries have the SAR the SAR limit is 2 W/kg averaged over the 10 g of tissue absorbing the most signal. Anyways, this amount of energy is too less to cause any health hazards.

Does Electromagnetic Wave (Radio Waves) cause Cancer?

According to Literature Review in 2009-10, it says there isn’t enough data available to find out whether mobile phones cause cancer.

Then in 2011, WHO (World Health Organization) came up with research papers which said cellphones link in the production of Class II Cancer Compounds. However, there is no direct relation of the same other than linking in the production of the compound.

According to recent studies in 2016, there was an experiment conducted. In this experiment, rats were kept in GSM and CDMA signals which has a SAR rating of 15W/kg (10x Times the Normal) for 2 years. The results showed that the majority of the rats were safe and rest didn’t show any effects. This was a full body exposure for the rats, whereas Human go through only a partial body exposure with less SAR emission.

5G Radiations

Talking about 5G which are based on Millimetre Waves, they work on 24GHz to 300 GHz, most mmWave network radios will operate at a frequency of 24GHz to 60 GHz spectrum. The reflection rate of these waves is higher. As a result, even if these waves fall on your body, they will bounce back and won’t absorb much into your body.

Hence, there isn’t much issue with 5G radiations due to their high deflection rate. This is another reason why you need more towers for 5G Signals to penetrate everywhere.

Birds died in Netherland by 5G testing?

We all heard about it in the news that a lot of birds died in the Netherlands during a 5G Experiment. The truth is the birds died between 19th October 2018 to 3rd November 2018 which were namely 337 Starlings and 2 Pigeons. Whereas, the experiment in this area was conducted on 28th June 2018 under FCC Guidance just for 1 Day. Thus, we don’t see a direct relation or scientific reason about the same. Here’s more about it.

5G FAQ’s

  • Will it make my Internet faster?

Yes, it definitely will. 5G is theoretically 20 times faster than 4G with a ping of 0.001ms. The question is not about how fast but, it has way more peak capacity than older networks.

  • Will it make my data plans cheaper?

As of now, there is no information about the price of data plans.

  • Who is working on 5G?

It is in works by 3GPP(3rd Generation Partnership Project). They are the ones who worked 3G HSPA and 4G LTE standards. Other Manufacturers include Qualcomm, Intel, Huawei and much more.

  • Will it consume more battery?

Initially, it might be. But according to Qualcomm, it might be defaulted to 4G and jumping to 5G when there’s a need of faster speed or lower latency. This switching would definitely save a lot of battery.

  • How much would the 5G phones cost? Whether mid-range, budget-range phone get it? Currently, even a 6K phone has 4G?

Budget and Mid-range phones would not be available immediately with 5G. However with time, as 5G widespread across the globe, we might see them by 2020-21.


“5G is going to be the home ground for connecting everything around us.”

But, we need to build this ground first before we can use it. And it’s not going to happen overnight, but only with time. It is up in the works and way ahead until it is allocated. Most of the countries have to wait until it gets widespread. Until then, one cannot use 5G as it is meant to be with respect to costs, availability of devices and Infrastructure. 2019 would definitely see the 1st Wave of 5G Enabled devices, but it’s better to wait for optimizations which would be done for the 2nd Wave of 5G Devices.

Companies like Samsung, OnePlus, Xiaomi are already stepping into the 5G Game with 5G Ready Devices in Mid 2019. Even Motorola has added a New Mod for Moto Z3 which makes it’s the World First Upgradable 5G Smartphone. Don't fall into any research programs by companies.

According to us, the year 2020-21 feels a sweet spot for 5G. This is estimated on the basis of availability of devices for a fair price, stable 5G connections and decent data plans. Till then, let us cherish 4G as we wait for an amazing 5G experience.

I hope this article made you well aware of the upcoming 5G Network. Let me know in the comments below if you wish to know more or any doubts.

(Special Thanks to Bishal Goswami for helping in the edits of the article)