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Fifth-generation (5G) of wireless data networks

Basic concepts, applications and services
October 10, 2019
By Seyed Mohammad Mirjalili

Fifth-generation (5G) of wireless data networks

These days you hear a lot about the 5G technology, and you may ask yourself what the big deal is with 5G? Is it only a faster internet or does it have fundamental differences from previous generations?

In this blog, I will briefly answer this question and look into this powerful technology and its services.

The fifth-generation of wireless data networks, or 5G, is an evolutionary upgrade of the current generation of cellular networks. This upgrade will revolutionize the technology by eliminating limitations in bandwidth, performance and latency on connectivity worldwide. The 5G wireless data network facilitates the connection of billions of devices by providing improved coverage and higher capacity than those of the previous generations. In addition, it supports ultra-reliable communication, as well as machine-to-machine communication.

Further, 5G has the capability of enhancing signaling efficiency and can significantly reduce latency compared to the 4G LTE network.

The functional performance criteria for the 5G network are defined as follows.1,2


Parameter Value
Latency in the air link <1ms
Latency end-to-end (device to core) <10ms
Connection density 100x compared with LTE
Area capacity density 1Tbit/s/km2
System spectral efficiency 10bit/s/Hz/cell
Peak throughput (downlink) per connection 10Gbit/s
Energy efficiency >90% improvement over LTE

Major features of 5G networks

5G technology provides three key abilities:3

High bandwidth: 4G could only download data with a speed of around 200 megabits per second. With 5G, you can have a download speed of up to 1 gigabit or more.

Low latency: 4G supports a latency or delay around 100 milliseconds — 5G’s reaction time can be as low as one millisecond, which makes everything happen almost instantly.

Dense connections: In a given square kilometre, 5G technology’s coverage includes 10 times more devices than that of 4G.

The fifth-generation of wireless data networks uses a higher band of radio frequencies, part of which is also used by current 4G LTE. These higher frequencies provide much higher data rates. Although these radio waves can carry more data with higher performance, they cannot transmit over long distances.

Therefore, 5G will use many small cells all around cities to establish a connection. In these small cells, beamforming technology will be used to transmit and receive the radio waves efficiently. In order to take advantage of the 5G network, you will need new phones, tablets and portable hot spots which can connect to this new technology. Also, it provides a faster internet connection to access data and computing resources with low latency.

While current networks struggle to deliver wireless broadband services with higher capacity and faster network, 5G will provide appropriate infrastructure for several types of applications, which requires instantaneous communications with high data-rate, low latency and massive connectivity. Some Internet of Things (IoT) applications, consumer, business virtual and augmented reality services, and vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure transportation systems are some examples in this case.

Future internet-based applications and services

In the following, I will briefly introduce some of the cutting-edge services and applications that 5G will provide us in the near future:

Remote surgery: Remote surgery, also known as telesurgery, is an exciting application for doctors in which they can perform surgery on a patient who is not physically in the same location with the surgeon. Although the idea of telesurgery was proposed years ago, 5G can make a significant difference in resolving its communication challenges and provide e-health to millions of people who need help in remote locations.

Self-driving cars: Self-driving car applications, also known as autonomous cars or driverless cars, is another interesting area that can benefit from 5G wireless networks. An autonomous car that is equipped with a variety of sensors can perceive its environment to move safely without any human input.

In this sense, 5G will provide machine-to-machine communication for self-driving cars untill they can exchange all the required information such as location, speed, acceleration and direction of all the surrounding cars without any latency. These information exchanges allow the car to move safely.

Drones: Drones are widely used for many services in industrial applications, agricultural and logistics deployment, news gathering, mapping and inspection. Like how 5G allows accurate communication for autonomous cars, it can also provide ultra-reliable and low-latency communication for drones to make sure they are flying in the right direction without any incident.

Augmented and virtual reality: As its name suggests, virtual reality is the creation of a virtual environment that does not actually exist. Rather, it makes you feel like you are physically and mentally there. In this way, you experience a computer-generated world full of artificial sounds and images by using a head-mounted display.

Augmented reality adds virtual experiences to the real-world environment. In another way, augmented reality enhances the digital details of the real world by adding new digital information. Pokémon Go is a well-known example of an augmented reality game. Such technology requires a very fast network to transmit a lot of data with minimum latency, which the 5G network is supposed to provide.

Although most people think of virtual reality only as video games and immersive films, this promising technology can lead to exciting discoveries in the areas of art, virtual travel, healthcare, professional sports and entertainment.

Given the applications mentioned above, we can prepare ourselves to be amazed by these services, which will finally become a reality with next-gen wireless data networks.


1. IEEE, “IEEE 5G and Beyond Technology Roadmap White Paper,” 2017. Available:

2. GSA, “The Road to 5G: Drivers, Applications, Requirements, and Technical Development.” Available:

3. CNET, “How 5G works and what it delivers.” 2019. Available:

About the author

Seyed Mohammad Mirjalili is a PhD candidate in Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Concordia. He received his Bachelor and Master's degrees in Electrical Engineering from Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, Iran. Seyed Mohammad is internationally recognized for his contributions to the fields of Evolutionary Algorithms and Photonics. He has published 29 journal articles with over 4000 citations in total, with an H-index of 15 from Google Scholar Metrics.

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