5th generation mobile networks

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Jason D. Rowley
Jason D. Rowley edited on 3 April, 2020 9:10 pm
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5G is the fifth generation of data networking hardware and data standards for mobile networks. The technology aims to deliver high-speed, low-latency data transmission and is viewed as an enabling technology for industries ranging from mobile devices to autonomous vehicle systems, augmented and virtual reality, edge computing, and the internet of things, among other application areas.

5G standards

5G, as a term, is used to collectively refer to a constellation of mobile networking technologies and standards.


One of the first standards for 5G technologies was proposed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2015. The ITU's requirements, known as the International Mobile Telecommunications-2020 (IMT-2020) standard, are slated to be finalized by 2020, but parts of the standard were finalized earlier. Its minimum requirements, finalized in 2017, specify:

  • Peak data rates of 20 gigabits/second downlink and 10 gigabits/second uplink
  • Peak spectral efficiency of 30 bits/second/hertz down and 15 bits/second/hertz
  • User experienced data rate (the transmission rate in dense urban environments 95% of the time) of 100 megabits/second down and 50 megabits/second up
  • User plane latency of 4 milliseconds for "enhanced mobile broadband" (eMBB) and 1 millisecond for "ultra reliable low latency communications" (URLLC)
  • Connection density of 1 million devices per square kilometer, aimed at "massive machine type communications" (mMTC) which are the small packets of data passed between IoT devices
  • Maximum speed for handoff is 500 kilometers per hour. The ITU states that this requirement is to deliver service on high-speed trains
  • Area traffic capacity of 10 megabits per second, per square meter


The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a wireless communications standards body, proposed additions to IMT-2020. 3GPP regularly issues releases to its standards.

In April 2019, the organization published Release 15, a specification for the first phase of rolling out 5G NR, an implementation of the 5G standard. In Phase 1, 5G NR and LTE share common elements, such as both using orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM).But there are differences:

via IEEE Spectrum

Release 15 also sets forth new nomenclature for device connection compatibility.

Companies working on 5G technologies

Further reading


5G Devices Ecosystem Report with Devices Annex. March 2020


April 2, 2020

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