5G Comes Into Focus

4G, 4G LTE. 5G. If you’re feeling a bit confused by the ever-changing variants of mobile networks, you’re not alone. While 5G hasn’t arrived quite yet, testing is well underway and widespread rollout is expected in the 2020 timeframe. Here are some key things to know about the technology as 5G transforms from concept to reality around us.

The wireless game is about to change

5G stands for fifth generation wireless network. It is being touted as a global game changer that will dramatically disrupt the way we work, play, and live. While previous network upgrades have brought about relatively gradual change, industry experts have compared 5G’s potential impact to major technological shakeups like the introduction of the printing press, harnessing the power of electricity, and the transition from the typewriter to the computer.

The Internet of things (and way more things)

The need for this new breed of mobile network is being driven by incredibly rapid mobile data traffic growth. With the increasing number of consumer electronics, wearables, connected cars, machines, meters, sensors and point-of-sale terminals, industry analysts are predicting that there will be 50 billion devices connected to mobile networks worldwide by 2020. That proliferation of devices and how they communicate with each other is referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT) and it requires a fast, reliable network to make it run.

The down low on downloads

Life in a 5G world will usher in an era of significantly faster download speeds. How fast? For a visual comparison, picture your current mobile phone download experience as watering a plant with your garden hose. With the 5G network, your download experience will be more like watering that same plant with a fire hose. With current 4G LTE capability, it takes about one hour for a high-quality download of a short HD movie. If the signal is disrupted during that download, which is common, it can take much longer. On a 5G network, download speeds are anticipated to reach 10 gigabits per second, which means a full HD movie could be downloaded in a matter of seconds.

Lightened up latency

Network latency refers to the time it takes for data to get from one point to another. Low latency means the network experiences small delays and high latency means there are long delays. That few-second delay you currently experience before streaming begins when you press play on Netflix might not seem like a big deal, but milliseconds can be the difference between life and death in a world where autonomous vehicles rely on signals they are receiving from the wireless network. With current 4G latency, a car driving at 100 km/h would still move 1.4 metres from the time an obstacle is detected until the time the braking command is issued. With 5G network latency, that car would move just 2.8 cm before the braking command was executed, which is comparable to the standard of current anti-lock braking systems.

Slicing and dicing

Network slicing will be an important concept for 5G as it will allow different networks to be customized over one shared infrastructure. Different mobile technologies put different demands on the network. The remote operation of a machine in a factory, for example, requires a different degree of bandwidth and latency than a remote tele surgery, for example. Network slicing will segment individual networks so that they can be isolated and customized for unique applications as if they were each a physically separate network.

Towers get tiny

To deliver the required speed and capacity to an increased number of devices, 5G networks will rely on a denser collection of smaller antennas than what currently exists for 3G and 4G networks. Today’s mobile networks require large towers every few miles that can be as high as 250 feet tall. 5G networks will require a massive deployment of shoe box-sized cells. Dozens of these cells within a single neighbourhood block will be attached to existing lamp posts, utility poles and the sides of buildings.

The secret sauce for major technological change

The drastically enhanced degree of connection that 5G will drive will usher in a range of new technologies that have been waiting in the wings. Self-driving vehicles will make their long-awaited trip from the test track to the twists and turns of real-world driving. Virtual reality will transform the healthcare sector by allowing for medical assessments and surgical procedures to be performed remotely by a doctor in a city that is hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Sensors that constantly communicate with each other will create smart cities where highway lanes can be changed to quickly respond to traffic patterns, public lighting can be dimmed when pedestrians and vehicles aren’t present and garbage collection routes are created in real time to reflect actual demand.

The next generation of jobs

Analysts predict that the economic impact of 5G will reach $12.3 trillion in 2035. In the automotive sector alone, 5G will enable over $2.4 trillion of economic impact when its supply chain and customers are included in the equation. In the nearer term, the deployment of 5G wireless networks will also have a significant economic benefit. In the United States, 5G deployment is expected to create 3 million new jobs and boost annual GDP by $500 billion.


With 5G network testing already being executed, the race to source qualified talent, especially systems engineers, RF engineers, design engineers and project managers, is on. If developing your company’s 5G talent strategy is still looming on your to-do list, connect with an Ian Martin recruiter to find out how to secure the right talent more efficiently and determine if contract staffing might be a better option for your bottom line.

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