4G, 5G, 5G+ all explained!

(This is a translation of an original PlanHub article)

5G and 5G+ are seen as a revolution by operators. Beyond its speed multiplied by 10 compared to 4G, 5G brings technologies in terms of energy consumption.  

Image Credit: Bell Canada 

It’s here, everywhere, in advertisements, on the Internet or on television, and operators are shouting it loud and clear, encouraging you in every commercial to embrace it. It is of course the 5G which is constantly praised and which operators would like to see quickly replace 4G, but for what reason? In this article, we will review the contributions of 5G and 5G+ compared to 4G.

4G, the now ancient network

The arrival of 4G was a real turning point against 3G, but the network now has many weaknesses against current technologies. The first problem with 4G is that its infrastructure is always at maximum capacity. Whether the street is empty at 3am or crowded at 3pm, the antennas are at 100% power consumption, but there are now technologies to automatically modulate this consumption by means of artificial intelligence.

As for transfer speed, the theoretical limit of 4G is 3Gb/s, but in practice, operators have had to restrict themselves to a speed between 40 and 80 Mb/s. With 4K content growing and the demand of professionals on upload speeds, 4G is out of breath, multiplying the speed by 10, 5G comes to solve this problem.

Finally, 4G transmits strongly over long distances and requires expensive equipment, while 5G transmits over short distances and requires more antennas, but their cost is derisory because they were designed from the start to be affordable.

Better reception and increased speed

With its more efficient antenna network, 5G offers better reception when you are on the move like in a train or a car. The other benefit of 5G is of course its speed. Theoretically, 5G can offer a transfer rate of up to 10 Gb/s, but in reality, it is 500 Mb/s, which is already sufficient to listen to two contents simultaneously in 4G.

To go further into the numbers, you should know that 5G was planned from the beginning to be able to handle 1000 times more data than 4G.

Efficient management of network consumption thanks to artificial intelligence

It’s not just customers who benefit from the advances of 5G. On the operator side, artificial intelligence is being trained to modulate network power consumption according to demand. Compared to 4G, whose antennas and network operate at 100% capacity at all times, 5G will allow providers to lower consumption by more than 23% according to measurements in Spain, while the International Communication Union (ITU) has called for network consumption to be 100 times lower than 4G for the same volume of data. In fact, taking into account the increase in data volume generated by 5G, the network should consume half of what 4G currently consumes.

New uses thanks to the speed

It is clear that such high download and upload speeds will allow companies to work outside or to offer new solutions, we can think of robots during natural disasters that could transmit a 4K image in real-time as well as much data and analysis.

Companies will also be able to choose places further away from the cities to set up, while remaining as efficient. However, this use will also depend on the rates charged by the operators, and Canada on this side could lag behind the United States and Europe whose subscription costs are ridiculous compared to the rates in force in Canada.

Gamers, the big winners of 5G

If there is one area that will particularly benefit from 5G, it is video games. With a latency of 0.1 seconds, game streaming services will finally have a technology tailored to them. Currently, if you’re playing a streaming game on your computer or console, you’ll experience a 0.3 second lag in commands. That doesn’t sound like much, but gamers are able to perform many actions in that time. 0.1 seconds is enough for most gamers, although in reality, the best gamers have reflexes that are usually under 0.1 seconds.

Remote operations thanks to 5G

The 0.1 second latency of 5G brings another revolution in remote operations. A surgeon can manipulate a robot in real-time to operate on a remote patient. All his actions are performed instantly without any latency time that could be dangerous for the patient.

5G also has its shortcomings

With increasing data rates and a high frequency of 3500MHz that decreases the range of base stations, operators will have to increase the number of base stations. Fortunately, artificial intelligence will allow modulating power consumption, but maintaining 4G and 5G networks at the same time will necessarily increase the power consumption of operators.

Beware though, the difference between a 4G antenna and a 5G antenna is huge and could compensate for the large number of 5G antennas. 5G is based on Massive MIMO technology which consists of antennas that are inexpensive to manufacture and have low power consumption, while 4G antennas require heavy equipment and are more energy intensive.

5G+, revolutionizing 5G with artificial intelligence

As soon as the 5G network is launched, 5G+ is already announced by Bell and Rogers, but what is 5G+? In reality, 5G+ is 5G with power and data rates controlled and optimized by even more advanced artificial intelligence. In the early drafts of 5G, AI was not as developed as it is now, so 5G uses automated processes, but nowhere near as good as the AI currently employed in 5G+.

As we have seen above, 5G adjusts some of the 4G antennas and equipment still operating at 100% capacity to modulate it according to the traffic, thus allowing a 23% lower consumption compared to 4G. For its part, 5G+ further optimizes this figure, and should in off-peak hours drop to barely 5% consumption against 4G. The operators will save on their electricity bill. This is why the promotional speech of Bell and Rogers 5G+ remains vague, announcing the excellent performance of 5G, without saying how the games or content will be better. Bell does mention speeds up to 3Gb/s, but saying that the speed can eventually reach that rate doesn’t mean that Bell is committed to providing 3Gb/s. We’ll have to wait for user feedback and tests to verify the reality of the 5G+ network in Canada, which has a transfer rate of around 1 Gb/s.

An accuracy of 1cm for GPS

The other improvement that 5G+ customers will notice is the accuracy of GPS. From a few dozen centimetres currently, it should increase to 1cm. If this will be practical during your travels, it is the professional community that can rejoice. This precision will open the way to new applications, for example in the field of storage in warehouses.

Operators and financial transactions, big winners of 5G+

With networks that work all the time and efficient management of consumption, operators will be able to sell the know-how they acquire to other companies.

In the financial transactions sector, on the other hand, if operators can provide subscriptions ranging from 1 to 3Gb/s with a latency of 0.1 seconds, the robots used by banks to manage stocks will be able to place their orders even faster. High-frequency trading would also be a big winner by extension, but this decried practice harms companies far too much and they are seeking to have laws put in place to outlaw it.

Waiting for 6G

If 5G+ is already coming, it will stay in place for a few years. It is not expected to evolve, while improvements are likely to be seen mainly on the side of operators who will better control consumption. Just as 4G gave way to 5G, 5G and 5G+ will one day have to give way to 6G to support future 8K and 12K content speeds. However, 6G is not expected to arrive until 2030 at best.

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