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5 Misunderstandings About 5G Technology—Here’s What You Need to Know

Businesses small and large will be able to use 5G technology to improve operations, better serve customers, and leapfrog competitors.

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about the 5G wave that’s fast approaching. It’s one of the latest innovation buzzwords we’ve been hearing for a couple of years now. But if you’re not sure what that means, you’re not alone. Despite its innovative ability to change how companies across industries do business, the next-generation network remains widely misunderstood.

Media coverage has generally focused on the technology’s ability to deliver faster speeds—around 20 times that of 4G. However, this only represents one component of the disruption and enterprise capabilities that 5G is poised to deliver, for Fortune 500 companies and small businesses alike.

Here’s what you need to know about 5G and its impact on businesses large and small:

1. 5G is not just about speed

Much of the buzz around 5G has focused on the potential to enhance speed. And while the download and upload speeds alike on some types of 5G connections will be ridiculously fast, it can detract from 5G’s other, equally impactful benefits. It’s about building on top of what is in place today, while at the same time improving it, and expanding the scope of wireless technologies to new capabilities, services, segments, and enterprise services.

Far greater than 4G, 5G’s bandwidth will provide the wide-scale ubiquitous coverage necessary for devices (from phones to cars) to interface with one another and their surroundings. And its low latency—the ability for the network to process data with short, almost non-existent lag time—could eliminate barriers for use cases like self-driving cars or virtual reality, which require near-instantaneous feedback. (Imagine how an even seconds-long delay could affect the safety of your ride.) 5G also promises to unlock significantly improved battery life which is a boon for various Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

In the future, a 5G network could power interconnected cities, autonomous cars, and automated manufacturing, all of which cannot be fully supported by 4G today.

2. 5G technology is important for big businesses and small

Will Townsend, a senior industry analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, says, “a lot of times when people talk about 5G, it’s very grand. It’s autonomous driving, it’s smart factories” or applications that enterprises with big budgets can only afford. “However, the delivery of real-time, high-resolution mobile video capabilities given the low latency will unlock a host of use cases for smaller businesses, from technical troubleshooting in the field to immersive service delivery.”

“For small businesses in particular, one of the problems has been a lack of competitive options when it comes to connectivity,” says Anshel Sag, an industry analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy. “With 5G, you are going to start seeing a lot more competition in having affordable and fast internet connectivity.”

3. 5G and 4G will be compatible

Historically, each iteration of wireless network technology has replaced the previous generation. Not so with 5G, which is the first technology generation that will allow devices to connect to both 5G and 4G LTE at the same time. In other words, 5G doesn’t supersede 4G, it enhances it.

On a practical level, this means many applications that work fine on 4G—such as video conferencing, smartphones, and augmented reality—will experience gradual improvements as 5G is added to the existing 4G network.

4. The technology is innovative, layered, and advanced

ip-patent analytics-innovation partner-5G5G does not operate at its best on a single spectrum. Instead, it can be deployed on three main layers, each with its own strengths, which complement one another. Low-band spectrum can provide wide, consistent coverage that doesn’t require a high data transfer, including in rural areas still struggling to connect to high-speed internet. The mid-band spectrum is capable of handling use cases such as augmented reality, wearables, and critical IoT applications that need near-instantaneous data response rates. And at the top, there are the ultra-high frequencies that can be deployed to provide lightning-fast data speed, far greater capacity, quality, and low latency, but do not travel far, and can’t penetrate buildings or even windows.

Once the network is mature, the interplay of all three spectrums means you will be able to get more signal in more places than you ever could before. This will ultimately unlock new, innovative solutions for next-generation applications that require high-bandwidth, low latency and always-on connectivity such as self-driving cars and drone delivery.

5. 5G is upon us

5G is practically upon is. By the end of 2019, businesses and consumers were beginning to experience the first taste of what 5G is all about and what its capabilities are. In terms of rollout, “history is a great teacher.” The first 4G networks were launched about a decade ago; while the user experience was vastly superior to 3G, it took time for people and businesses to understand its capabilities. But it’s different for 5G. It’s a transformational power that may not be evident from day one but, once available everywhere will start stimulating innovation very quickly.

Interested in learning more about 5G technology and who is working in the technology space? Check out InnovationQ for your prior art search and analytics.