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Issue 17 What is 5G?

5G is an advanced wireless technology and fifth generation cellular network.

Type Technology
Topic Data & Analytics
Urgency Not urgent at this time
Maturity Early adoption
Viability Unlikely to escape the lab
Impact Not changing the commercial landscape


What it is: 5G is an advanced wireless technology and fifth generation cellular network, currently being deployed .

What it does: 5G networks use a system of cell sites that divide their territory into sectors and send encoded data through radio waves. 5G networks use a type of encoding called OFDM, which is similar to the encoding to 4G LTE. However it offers much greater bandwidth, with speeds of over 1Gbps reported.

Why it matters: 5G will connect more devices, make businesses more efficient, and give consumers access to more information faster than before. 5G can accept small, inexpensive, low-power devices, such as ambient sensors and smart devices as well as mobile phones, leading to a potential explosion of innovation based on improved connectivity.

What to do about it: 5G is an investment for the next decade. Expect slow but responsive 5G, or fast 5G with limited coverage, to arrive first, while larger applications will arrive in the next two to three years. Explore ways 5G can serve your organization through faster speeds or enabling more connected devices, and look to hire those experienced with 5G to build a successful implementation strategy.

Advantages & Applications


  • Huge capacity
  • More connectivity
  • Greater speed to move more data
  • Lower latency to be more responsive

Example Applications

  • High-resolution wireless surveillance cameras
  • Game streaming and virtual/augmented reality
  • Medical procedures and therapies
  • Robotics
  • Industrial uses, like automating seaports and industrial robots
  • Connected cars
  • Smart devices/homes/cities/workplaces

5G Spectrum

The FCC defines 5G spectrum in four primary bands:

  1. Low-band between 600–900MHz
  2. Mid-band between 2.5–4.2GHz also known as Sub-6
  3. Millimeter Wave or mmWave (frequencies above 24GHz)
  4. Unlicensed spectrum, that can be accessed for a variety of dedicated uses including 5G.

Due to more efficient encoding, the 5G radio system can get about 30 percent better speeds, using the same airwaves, as 4G. Most 4G channels are 20MHz, while 5G channels can be up to 100MHz.

Security Cautions and The Future of 5G

In the next several years, every device on the planet will be looking to connect to every other, exchanging as much data as it possibly can. 5G is expected to drive the internet of everything, however 5G will also grow the attack surface and is sure to open new complex security threats. Failure to secure 5G networks could result in costly if not catastrophic security breaches.

In 2020, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile intend to launch 5G networks using existing 4G spectrum, which will have slower speeds but broader coverage. In 2020 or 2021, 5G networks will become “standalone,” or SA, not requiring 4G coverage to work. When networks evolve into standalone mode, we may see increased growth in urban coverage, and new innovations related to connected/smart devices, but increased challenges around data security.

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