Here is where you find 5G technology explained—how 5G works, why 5G is important and how it’s changing the way the world connects and communicates. At Qualcomm, we invented the foundational breakthroughs that make 5G possible.
A: 5G is the 5th generation mobile network. It is a new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. 5G enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices.
5G wireless technology is meant to deliver higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds, ultra low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability, and a more uniform user experience to more users. Higher performance and improved efficiency empower new user experiences and connects new industries.
A: No one company or person owns 5G, but there are several companies within the mobile ecosystem that are contributing to bringing 5G to life. Qualcomm has played a major role in inventing the many foundational technologies that drive the industry forward and make up 5G, the next wireless standard.
We are at the heart of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the industry organization that defines the global specifications for 3G UMTS (including HSPA), 4G LTE, and 5G technologies.
3GPP is driving many essential inventions across all aspects of 5G design, from the air interface to the service layer. Other 3GPP 5G members range from infrastructure vendors and component/device manufacturers to mobile network operators and vertical service providers.
A: 5G is based on OFDM (Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing), a method of modulating a digital signal across several different channels to reduce interference. 5G uses 5G NR air interface alongside OFDM principles. 5G also uses wider bandwidth technologies such as sub-6 GHz and mmWave.
Like 4G LTE, 5G OFDM operates based on the same mobile networking principles. However, the new 5G NR air interface can further enhance OFDM to deliver a much higher degree of flexibility and scalability. This could provide more 5G access to more people and things for a variety of different use cases.
5G will bring wider bandwidths by expanding the usage of spectrum resources, from sub-3 GHz used in 4G to 100 GHz and beyond. 5G can operate in both lower bands (e.g., sub-6 GHz) as well as mmWave (e.g., 24 GHz and up), which will bring extreme capacity, multi-Gbps throughput, and low latency.
5G is designed to not only deliver faster, better mobile broadband services compared to 4G LTE, but can also expand into new service areas such as mission-critical communications and connecting the massive IoT. This is enabled by many new 5G NR air interface design techniques, such as a new self-contained TDD subframe design.
A: The previous generations of mobile networks are 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G.
First generation - 1G
1980s: 1G delivered analog voice.
Second generation - 2G
Early 1990s: 2G introduced digital voice (e.g. CDMA- Code Division Multiple Access).
Third generation - 3G
Early 2000s: 3G brought mobile data (e.g. CDMA2000).
Fourth generation - 4G LTE
2010s: 4G LTE ushered in the era of mobile broadband.
1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G all led to 5G, which is designed to provide more connectivity than was ever available before.
5G is a unified, more capable air interface. It has been designed with an extended capacity to enable next-generation user experiences, empower new deployment models and deliver new services.
With high speeds, superior reliability and negligible latency, 5G will expand the mobile ecosystem into new realms. 5G will impact every industry, making safer transportation, remote healthcare, precision agriculture, digitized logistics — and more — a reality.
A: There are several reasons that 5G will be better than 4G:
• 5G is significantly faster than 4G
• 5G has more capacity than 4G
• 5G has significantly lower latency than 4G
• 5G is a unified platform that is more capable than 4G
• 5G uses spectrum better than 4G
5G is a unified platform that is more capable than 4G.
While 4G LTE focused on delivering much faster mobile broadband services than 3G, 5G is designed to be a unified, more capable platform that not only elevates mobile broadband experiences, but also supports new services such as mission-critical communications and the massive IoT. 5G can also natively support all spectrum types (licensed, shared, unlicensed) and bands (low, mid, high), a wide range of deployment models (from traditional macro-cells to hotspots), and new ways to interconnect (such as device-to-device and multi-hop mesh).
5G uses spectrum better than 4G.
5G is also designed to get the most out of every bit of spectrum across a wide array of available spectrum regulatory paradigms and bands—from low bands below 1 GHz, to mid bands from 1 GHz to 6 GHz, to high bands known as millimeter wave (mmWave).
5G is faster than 4G.
5G can be significantly faster than 4G, delivering up to 20 Gigabits-per-second (Gbps) peak data rates and 100+ Megabits-per-second (Mbps) average data rates.
5G has more capacity than 4G.
5G is designed to support a 100x increase in traffic capacity and network efficiency.1
5G has lower latency than 4G.
5G has significantly lower latency to deliver more instantaneous, real-time access: a 10x decrease in end-to-end latency down to 1ms.1
A: 5G is driving global growth.
• $13.2 Trillion dollars of global economic output
• 22.3 Million new jobs created
• $2.1 Trillion dollars in GDP growth
Through a landmark 5G Economy study, we found that 5G’s full economic effect will likely be realized across the globe by 2035—supporting a wide range of industries and potentially enabling up to $13.2 trillion worth of goods and services.
This impact is much greater than previous network generations. The development requirements of the new 5G network are also expanding beyond the traditional mobile networking players to industries such as the automotive industry.
The study also revealed that the 5G value chain (including OEMs, operators, content creators, app developers, and consumers) could alone support up to 22.3 million jobs, or more than one job for every person in Beijing, China. And there are many emerging and new applications that will still be defined in the future. Only time will tell what the full “5G effect” on the economy is going to be.
A: 5G is designed to do a variety of things that can transform our lives, including giving us faster download speeds, low latency, and more capacity and connectivity for billions of devices—especially in the areas of virtual reality (VR), the IoT, and artificial intelligence (AI).
For example, with 5G, you can access new and improved experiences including near-instant access to cloud services, multiplayer cloud gaming, shopping with augmented reality, and real-time video translation and collaboration, and more.
A: Broadly speaking, 5G is used across three main types of connected services, including enhanced mobile broadband, mission-critical communications, and the massive IoT. A defining capability of 5G is that it is designed for forward compatibility—the ability to flexibly support future services that are unknown today.
Enhanced mobile broadband
In addition to making our smartphones better, 5G mobile technology can usher in new immersive experiences such as VR and AR with faster, more uniform data rates, lower latency, and lower cost-per-bit.
5G can enable new services that can transform industries with ultra-reliable, available, low-latency links like remote control of critical infrastructure, vehicles, and medical procedures.
5G is meant to seamlessly connect a massive number of embedded sensors in virtually everything through the ability to scale down in data rates, power, and mobility—providing extremely lean and low-cost connectivity solutions.
A: The average consumer is expected to go from being able to consume 2.3 GB of data per month today to close to 11 GB of data per month on their smartphone in 2022.2 This is driven by explosive growth in video traffic as mobile is increasingly becoming the source of media and entertainment, as well as the massive growth in always-connected cloud computing and experiences.
4G completely changed how we consume information. In the past decade we have witnessed leaps and bounds in the mobile app industry around services such as video streaming, ride sharing, food delivery and more.
5G will expand the mobile ecosystem to new industries. This will contribute to cutting-edge user experiences such as boundless extreme reality (XR), seamless IoT capabilities, new enterprise applications, local interactive content and instant cloud access, to name a few.
A: With high data speeds and superior network reliability, 5G will have a tremendous impact on businesses. The benefits of 5G will enhance the efficiency of businesses while also giving users faster access to more information.
Depending on the industry, some businesses can make full use of 5G capabilities, especially those needing the high speed, low latency, and network capacity that 5G is designed to provide. For example, smart factories could use 5G to run industrial Ethernet to help them increase operational productivity and precision.
A: Smart cities could use 5G in a variety of ways to transform the lives of people living in them—primarily providing greater efficiencies like more connectivity between people and things, higher data speeds, and lower latency than ever before in areas like automotive safety, infrastructure, VR, and entertainment.
A: 5G is designed to deliver peak data rates up to 20 Gbps based on IMT-2020 requirements. Qualcomm Technologies’ flagship 5G solutions, the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ X55 and Snapdragon X60 Modem-RF Systems, are designed to achieve up to 7.5 Gbps in downlink peak data rates.
But 5G is about more than just how fast it is. In addition to higher peak data rates, 5G is designed to provide much more network capacity by expanding into new spectrum, such as mmWave.
5G can also deliver much lower latency for a more immediate response and can provide an overall more uniform user experience so that the data rates stay consistently high—even when users are moving around. And the new 5G NR mobile network is backed up by a Gigabit LTE coverage foundation, which can provide ubiquitous Gigabit-class connectivity.
A: Like 4G LTE, 5G is also OFDM-based (Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing) and will operate based on the same mobile networking principles. However, the new 5G NR (New Radio) air interface will further enhance OFDM to deliver a much higher degree of flexibility and scalability.
5G will not only deliver faster, better mobile broadband services compared to 4G LTE, but it will also expand into new service areas, such as mission-critical communications and connecting the massive IoT. This is enabled by many new 5G NR air interface design techniques, such as a new self-contained TDD subframe design.
A: 5G can change home internet service by providing a wireless modem alternative to existing wires. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can now serve customers using 5G infrastructure – making the coverage, performance and deployment flexibility of 5G a compelling backhaul alternative to fiber, DSL or cabled solutions.
A: Yes, 5G is already here today, and global operators started launching new 5G networks in early 2019. In 2020, many countries expect nationwide 5G mobile networks. Also, all major Android phone manufacturers are commercializing 5G phones. And soon, even more people may be able to access 5G.
5G has been deployed in 35+ countries and counting. We are seeing much faster rollout and adoption compared with 4G. Consumers are very excited about the high speeds and low latencies. But 5G goes beyond these benefits by also providing the capability for mission-critical services, enhanced mobile broadband and massive IoT. While it is hard to predict when everyone will have access to 5G, we are seeing great momentum of 5G launches in its first year and we expect more countries to launch their 5G networks in 2020 and beyond.
As of June 2020, 5G was available in:
A: As with previous generations of mobile networks, it will take time to proliferate the new 5G network to make it available to more people. In the meantime, 4G LTE will continue to grow and serve as the anchor of the 5G mobile experience (via multi-connectivity) for many years to come by providing Gigabit data rates outside 5G coverage areas.
A: Yes, you will need to get a new smartphone that supports 5G if you want to be able to use the network. For example, smartphones powered by the Snapdragon X55 or Snapdragon X60 Modem-RF System are 5G compatible.
There are several new mobile phones available that are designed to support 5G, and multiple carriers across the world support the 5G wireless network. As the 5G rollout timeline progresses, more smartphones and carrier subscriptions will become available, as 5G technology and 5G compatible devices becoming more mainstream.
1 Numbers are based on IMT-2020 requirements based on the ITU vision.
2 Cisco Visual Network Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2017 - 2022.
Qualcomm Snapdragon is a product of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.