5G (from "5th Generation") is the latest generation of cellular mobile communications. It succeeds the 4G (LTE-A, WiMax), 3G (UMTS, LTE) and 2G (GSM) systems. 5G performance targets high data rate, reduced latency, energy saving, cost reduction, higher system capacity, and massive device connectivity. The first phase of 5G specifications in Release-15 will be completed by April 2019 to accommodate the early commercial deployment. The second phase in Release-16 is due to be completed by April 2020 for submission to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as a candidate of IMT-2020 technology.



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3GPP's 5G logo

5G (from "5th Generation") is the latest generation of cellular mobile communications. It succeeds the 4G (LTE-A, WiMax), 3G (UMTS, LTE) and 2G (GSM) systems. 5G performance targets high data rate, reduced latency, energy saving, cost reduction, higher system capacity, and massive device connectivity. The first phase of 5G specifications in Release-15 will be completed by April 2019 to accommodate the early commercial deployment. The second phase in Release-16 is due to be completed by April 2020 for submission to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as a candidate of IMT-2020 technology.[1]

The ITU IMT-2020 specification demands speeds up to 20 Gbps, achievable with wide channel bandwidths and massive MIMO.[2] 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is going to submit 5G NR (New Radio) as its 5G communication standard proposal. 5G NR can include lower frequencies (FR1), below 6 GHz, and higher frequencies (FR2), above 24 GHz and into the millimeter waves range. However, the speed and latency in early deployments, using 5G NR software on 4G hardware (non-standalone), are only slightly better than new 4G systems, estimated at 15% to 50% better.[3][4][5] Simulation of standalone eMBB deployments showed improved throughput between 2.5×, in the FR1 range, and nearly 20×, in the FR2 range.[6]


Like the earlier generation 2G, 3G, and 4G mobile networks, 5G networks are digital cellular networks, in which the service area covered by providers is divided into a mosaic of small geographical areas called cells. Analog signals representing sounds and images are digitized in the phone, converted by an analog to digital converter and transmitted as a stream of bits. All the 5G wireless devices in a cell communicate by radio waves with a local antenna array and low power automated transceiver (transmitter and receiver) in the cell, over frequency channels assigned by the transceiver from a common pool of frequencies, which are reused in geographically separated cells. The local antennas are connected with the telephone network and the Internet by a high bandwidth optical fiber or wireless backhaul connection. Like existing cellphones, when a user crosses from one cell to another, his mobile device is automatically "handed off" seamlessly to the antenna in the new cell.

Their major advantage is that 5G networks achieve much higher data rates than previous cellular networks, up to 10 Gbps; which is faster than current cable internet, and 100 times faster than the previous cellular technology, 4G LTE.[7][8] Another advantage is lower network latency (faster response time), below 1 millisecond, compared with 30 - 70 ms for 4G.[8] Because of the higher data rates, 5G networks will serve not just cellphones but are also envisioned as a general home and office networking provider, competing with wired internet providers like cable. Previous cellular networks provided low data rate internet access suitable for cellphones, but a cell tower could not economically provide enough bandwidth to serve as a general internet provider for home computers.

5G networks achieve these higher data rates by using higher frequency radio waves, in or near the millimeter wave band[7] around 28 and 39 GHz while previous cellular networks used frequencies in the microwave band between 700 MHz and 3 GHz. A second lower frequency range in the microwave band, below 6 GHz, will be used by some 5G providers, but this will not have the high speeds of the new frequencies. Because of the more plentiful bandwidth at millimeter wave frequencies, 5G networks will use wider frequency channels to communicate with the wireless device, up to 400 MHz compared with 20 MHz in 4G LTE, which can transmit more data (bits) per second. OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing) modulation is used, in which multiple carrier waves are transmitted in the frequency channel, so multiple bits of information are being transferred simultaneously, in parallel.

Millimeter waves are absorbed by gases in the atmosphere and have shorter range than microwaves, therefore the cells are limited to smaller size; 5G cells will be the size of a city block, as opposed to the cells in previous cellular networks which could be many miles across. The waves also have trouble passing through building walls, requiring multiple antennas to cover a cell.[7] Millimeter wave antennas are smaller than the large antennas used in previous cellular networks, only a few inches long, so instead of a cell tower 5G cells will be covered by many antennas mounted on telephone poles and buildings.[8] Another technique used for increasing the data rate is massive MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output).[7] Each cell will have multiple antennas communicating with the wireless device, each over a separate frequency channel, received by multiple antennas in the device, thus multiple bitstreams of data will be transmitted simultaneously, in parallel. In a technique called beamforming the base station computer will continuously calculate the best route for radio waves to reach each wireless device, and will organise multiple antennas to work together as phased arrays to create beams of millimeter waves to reach the device.[7][8] The smaller, more numerous cells makes 5G network infrastructure more expensive to build per square kilometer of coverage than previous cellular networks. Deployment is currently limited to cities, where there will be enough users per cell to provide an adequate investment return, and there are doubts about whether this technology will ever reach rural areas.[7]

The new 5G wireless devices also have 4G LTE capability, as the new networks use 4G for initially establishing the connection with the cell, as well as in locations where 5G access is not available.[9]

The high data rate and low latency of 5G are envisioned as opening up new applications in the near future.[9] One is practical virtual reality and augmented reality. Another is fast machine-to-machine interaction in the Internet of Things. For example, computers in vehicles on a road could continuously communicate with each other, and with the road, by 5G.[9]

Performance targets

5G systems in line with IMT-2020 specifications[10] are expected to provide enhanced device and network-level capabilities, tightly coupled with intended applications. The following eight parameters are key capabilities for IMT-2020 5G:

Capability Description 5G target Usage scenario
Peak data rate Maximum achievable data rate 20 Gbit/s eMBB
User experienced data rate Achievable data rate across the coverage area 1 Gbit/s eMBB
Latency Radio network contribution to packet travel time 1 ms URLLC
Mobility Maximum speed for handoff and QoS requirements 500 km/h eMBB/URLLC
Connection density Total number of devices per unit area 106/km2 MMTC
Energy efficiency Data sent/received per unit energy consumption (by device or network) Equal to 4G eMBB
Spectrum efficiency Throughput per unit wireless bandwidth and per network cell 3–4x 4G eMBB
Area traffic capacity Total traffic across coverage area 1000 (Mbit/s)/m2 eMBB

Note that, for 5G NR, according to 3GPP specification when using spectrum below 6 GHz, the performance would be closer to 4G.

Usage scenario

ITU-R have defined three main types of usage scenario that the capability of 5G is expected to enable. They are Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), and Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC).[11]

Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB)

Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) refers to the use case of using 5G as an evolution to 4G LTE mobile broadband services with faster connection with higher throughput and more capacity. 5G would need to deliver higher capacity, enhance connectivity, and higher user mobility to match these demands, which would require capabilities in the above table with eMBB mark to deliver.[12]

Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC)

Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC)



5G promises superior speeds in most conditions to the 4G network. Qualcomm presented a simulation at Mobile World Congress[13][14][15] that predicts 490 Mbit/s median speeds for 3.5 GHz 5G Massive MIMO and 1.4 Gbit/s median speed for 28 GHz mmWave.[16] 5G NR speed in sub-6 GHz bands can be slightly higher than the 4G with a similar amount of spectrum and antennas,[17][18] though some 3GPP 5G networks will be slower than some advanced 4G networks, such as T-Mobile's LTE/LAA network, which achieves 500+ Mbit/s in Manhattan.[19]

The 5G specification allows LAA (License Assisted Access) as well but it has not yet been demonstrated. Adding LAA to an existing 4G configuration can add hundreds of megabits per second to the speed, but this is an extension of 4G, not a new part of the 5G standard.[19]

Low communication latency

Network latency is the time it takes to pass a message from sender to receiver.[20] 5G will have much lower latency than previous cellular networks; below 1 millisecond, compared with 30 - 70 ms for 4G.[8]

New use cases

Features of 5G network, including extreme high bandwidth, ultra low latency, and high density connections, are expected to enable many new use cases that are impossible to be done via older network standards.[21] (See Usage scenario)


Initially, the term was defined by the International Telecommunication Union's IMT-2020 standard, which required a theoretical peak download capacity of 20 gigabits, along with other requirements for 5G networks.[22] Then, the industry standards group 3GPP have prepared the 5G NR (New Radio) standard together with LTE as their proposal for submission to the IMT-2020 standard.[23][24]

ITU has divided 5G network services into three categories: enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) or handsets; Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications (URLLC), which includes industrial applications and autonomous vehicles; and Massive Machine Type Communications (MMTC) or sensors.[25] Initial 5G deployments will focus on eMBB[26] and fixed wireless,[27] which makes use of many of the same capabilities as eMBB. 5G will use spectrum in the existing LTE frequency range (600 MHz to 6 GHz) and also in millimeter wave (mmWave) bands (24–86 GHz). 5G technologies have to satisfy ITU IMT-2020 requirements and/or 3GPP Release 15;[citation needed] while IMT-2020 specifies data rates of 20 Gbit/s, 5G speed in sub-6 GHz bands is similar to 4G.[17][18]

IEEE covers several areas of 5G with a core focus in wireline sections between the Remote Radio Head (RRH) and Base Band Unit (BBU). The 1914.1 standards focus on network architecture and dividing the connection between the RRU and BBU into two key sections. Radio Unit (RU) to the Distributor Unit (DU) being the NGFI-I (Next Generation Fronthaul Interface) and the DU to the Central Unit (CU) being the NGFI-II interface allowing a more diverse and cost-effective network. NGFI-I and NGFI-II have defined performance values which should be compiled to ensure different traffic types defined by the ITU are capable of being carried. 1914.3 standard is creating a new Ethernet frame format capable of carrying IQ data in a much more efficient way depending on the functional split utilized. This is based on the 3GPP definition of functional splits. Multiple network synchronization standards within the IEEE groups are being updated to ensure network timing accuracy at the RU is maintained to a level required for the traffic carried over it.

Air interface


5G NR (New Radio) is a new air interface developed for the 5G network.[28] It is supposed to be the global standard for the air interface of 5G networks.[29]

Pre-standard implementations

  • 5GTF: The 5G network implemented by American carrier Verizon for Fixed Wireless Access in late 2010s uses an pre-standard specification known as 5GTF (Verizon 5G Technical Forum). The 5G service provided to customers in this standard is incompatible with 5G NR. There are plans to upgrade 5GTF to 5G NR "Once [it] meets our strict specifications for our customers," according to Verizon.[30]
  • 5G-SIG is another pre-standard specification of 5G developed by KT Corporation. It is the version of implementation deployed at Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics.[31]


3GPP is going to submit evolution of NB-IoT and eMTC(LTE-M) as the 5G technology for the LPWA (Low Power Wide Area) use case.[32]


Development of 5G is being led by companies such as Qualcomm,[33] Huawei,[34] and Intel[citation needed] for modem technology and Nokia,[citation needed] Ericsson,[35] ZTE,[citation needed] Cisco,[citation needed] and Samsung[citation needed] for infrastructure.

Worldwide commercial launch is expected in 2020. Numerous operators have demonstrated 5G as well, including Korea Telecom for the 2018 Winter Olympics[36][37] and Telstra at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.[38] In the United States, the four major carriers have all announced deployments: AT&T's[39] millimeter wave commercial deployments in 2018, Verizon's 5G fixed wireless launches in four U.S. cities and millimeter-wave deployments,[40] Sprint's launch in the 2.5 GHz band, and T-Mobile's 600 MHz 5G launch in 30 cities.[41] Vodafone performed the first UK trials in April 2018 using mid-band spectrum,[42] and China Telecom's initial 5G buildout in 2018 will use mid-band spectrum as well.[43] The world first service of 5G was in South Korea, as the South Korean telecoms deployed it all at once on 1 December 2018.[44]

Beyond mobile operator networks, 5G is also expected to be widely utilized for private networks with applications in industrial IoT, enterprise networking, and critical communications.

Initial 5G NR launches will depend on existing LTE 4G infrastructure in non-standalone (NSA) mode, before maturation of the standalone (SA) mode with the 5G core network.

In December 2018, Nokia and Telefónica Deutschland start testing 5G in Berlin, with five sites.[45]


In order to support increased throughput requirements of 5G, large quantities of new spectrum (5G NR frequency bands) have been allocated to 5G, particularly in millimeter wave bands.[46] For example, in July 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States freed up vast amounts of bandwidth in underutilised high-band spectrum for 5G. The Spectrum Frontiers Proposal (SFP) doubled the amount of millimeter-wave (mmWave) unlicensed spectrum to 14 GHz and created four times the amount of flexible, mobile-use spectrum the FCC had licensed to date.[47] In March 2018, European Union lawmakers agreed to open up the 3.6 and 26 GHz bands by 2020.[48]

5G modems

Traditional cellular modem suppliers have significant investment in the 5G modem market. Qualcomm announced its X50 5G Modem in October 2016,[49] and in November 2017, Intel announced its XMM8000 series of 5G modems, including the XMM8060 modem, both of which have expected productization dates in 2019.[50][51] In February 2018, Huawei announced the Balong 5G01 terminal device[52] with an expected launch date for 5G-enabled mobile phones of 2018[53] and Mediatek announced its own 5G solutions targeted at 2020 production.[54] Samsung is also working on the Exynos 5G modem, but has not announced a production date.[55]


New radio frequencies

The air interface defined by 3GPP for 5G is known as New Radio (NR), and the specification is subdivided into two frequency bands, FR1 (below 6 GHz) and FR2 (mmWave),[56] each with different capabilities.

Frequency range 1 (< 6 GHz)

The maximum channel bandwidth defined for FR1 is 100 MHz, due to the scarcity of continuous spectrum in this crowded frequency range. The band that is most likely to be universally used for 5G in this range is around 3.5 GHz.

Frequency range 2 (> 24 GHz)

The minimum channel bandwidth defined for FR2 is is the 50 MHz and the maximum is 400 MHz, with two-channel aggregation supported in 3GPP Release 15. The maximum Physical layer (PHY) rate potentially supported by this configuration is approximately 40 Gbit/s. There is no particular band that is likely to be universally used for 5G in this range, though there are some regional proposals do converge around certain bands.[57]

Massive MIMO

Massive MIMO (multiple input and multiple output) antennas increases sector throughput and capacity density using large numbers of antennae and Multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO). Each antenna is individually-controlled and may embed radio transceiver components. Nokia claimed a five-fold increase in the capacity increase for a 64-Tx/64-Rx antenna system. The term "massive MIMO" was coined by Nokia Bell Labs researcher Dr. Thomas L. Marzetta in 2010, and has been launched in 4G networks, such as Softbank in Japan.[citation needed]

Edge computing

Edge computing is a method of optimizing cloud computing systems by taking the control of computing applications, data, and services away from some central nodes (the "core area"). In a 5G network, it would promote faster speeds and low-latency data transfer on edge devices.[58][59]

Small cell


Radio convergence

One expected benefit of the transition to 5G is the convergence of multiple networking functions to achieve cost, power and complexity reductions. LTE has targeted convergence with Wi-Fi via various efforts, such as License Assisted Access (LAA) and LTE-WLAN Aggregation (LWA), but the differing capabilities of cellular and Wi-Fi have limited the scope of convergence. However, significant improvement in cellular performance specifications in 5G, combined with migration from Distributed Radio Access Network (D-RAN) to Cloud- or Centralized-RAN (C-RAN) and rollout of cellular small cells can potentially narrow the gap between Wi-Fi and cellular networks in dense and indoor deployments. Radio convergence could result in sharing ranging from the aggregation of cellular and Wi-Fi channels to the use of a single silicon device for multiple radio access technologies.

NOMA (non-orthogonal multiple access)

NOMA (non-orthogonal multiple access) is a proposed multiple-access technique for future cellular systems. In this, same time, frequency, and spreading-code resources are shared by the multiple users via allocation of power. The entire bandwidth can be exploited by each user in NOMA for entire communication time due to which latency has been reduced and users' data rates can be increased. For multiple access, the power domain has been used by NOMA in which different power levels are used to serve different users. 3GPP also included NOMA in LTE-A due to its spectral efficiency and is known as multiuser superposition transmission (MUST) which is two user special case of NOMA.[60]


Channel coding

The channel coding techniques for 5G NR have changed from turbo in 4G to polar for the control channel and LDPC for the data channel.[61][62]

Operation in unlicensed spectrum

Like LTE in unlicensed spectrum, 5G NR will also support operation in unlicensed spectrum (NR-U).[63] In addition to License Assisted Access (LAA) from LTE that enable carriers to use those unlicensed spectrum to boost their operational performance for users, in 5G NR it will support standalone NR-U unlicensed operation which will allow new 5G NR networks to be established in different environments without acquiring operational license in licensed spectrum, for instance for localized private network or lower the entry barrier for providing 5G internet services to the public.[63]


In various parts of the world, carriers have launched numerous differently branded technologies like "5G Project" or "5G Evolution" which advertise improving existing networks with the use of "5G technology".[64][65] However, these pre-5G networks are actually existing improvement on specification of LTE networks that are not exclusive to 5G.[66][67]

Regional progress

On 15 May 2018, Qatari telecommunications company Ooredoo launched the world's first commercial 5G network in several areas of the capital, Doha.[68]

Other applications

Digital television

3GPP have been studying mixed mode multicast and terrestrial broadcast based on equivalent of MBMS for 5G NR and a further development based on LTE's EnTV.[69]


5G Automotive Association have been promoting the C-V2X communication technology that is based on 5G NR for communication between vehicles and communication between vehicles and infrastructures.[70]

Automation (factory and process)

5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation - 5G-ACIA promotes 5G for factory automation and process industry.[71]

Public safety

Mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) and mission-critical video and data are expected to be furthered in 5G.[72]

See also


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Preceded by
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Mobile telephony generations Succeeded by
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