What is 5G? The rising generation of wireless technology

5G is well and truly here. The latest generation of wireless connectivity can be found in everything from flagship and budget smartphones to laptops, and even in some conspiracy theories.

The next-generation wireless standard doesn’t only provide higher data speeds so you can browse the internet faster. No, 5G-ready devices can also offer ultra-low latency, reliable connections to a massive network of devices, and much more. 5G isn’t just for smartphones, it’s designed to connect everything with a cellular pulse.

With 5G bringing the Internet of Things (IoT) to greater heights, increasing data transfer speeds to fully utilize virtual and augmented reality, and offering new services such as autonomous farming machinery, the upgraded network is full of potential. For many of us, however, there’s good reason to ask ourselves “Do I really need 5G?”

If you’re wondering what 5G can do for you and why there’s already talk of 6G when the current wireless network seems to just drain the battery life on even the best smartphones on the market, read on. 

What is 5G? 

5G is the fifth-generation wireless cellular standard. These standards are created by an organization known as the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) which is composed of seven telecommunications standard development organizations. Members range from mobile network operators like T-Mobile and component manufacturers such as Qualcomm. Interestingly, no one actually owns 5G; it’s a number of companies building on the network’s foundation.

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

To get real technical, 5G is based on OFDM (Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing), which modulates a digital signal across several different channels to reduce interference. As explained by Qualcomm, 5G also uses wider bandwidth technologies such as sub-6 GHz and mmWave.

As previously reported, there are three distinct frequencies on which 5G can operate — low, mid and high band spectrums — each of them offers advantages and disadvantages.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

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