Why is 5G called 5G?

Why is 5G called 5G?

I know you’ve probably heard a lot about 5G already.

But, did you ever actually stop for a moment to consider the simple question – why is it called 5G?

Simply put, 5G stands for the fifth generation, and we could stop there, however…

It’s interesting to note that there have been many technologies that have gone through 4 generations, such as industry going through mechanization, steam power, electricity, and electronics to reach industry 4.0. Computer hardware and programming languages, as other examples, have gone though 4 generations, as well.

But one vital technology is now actually entering its 5th generation! Namely, mobile communications, which is consistently ranked as one of mankind’s breakthrough technologies.

  • 7 billion people (about 88% of the world’s population) own at least 1 mobile phone, and over 6.4B (81%) of these are smartphones.
  • Over 55% of all Internet usage is from smartphones.
  • Annual worldwide mobile service provider revenue exceeds $1 trillion dollars (about the same revenue as that of the entire agricultural market).
  • Mobile-enabled services generate about 5% of global GDP.
  • New services enabled by 5G are predicted to generate revenue on the order of the entire economy of India.

But, how did we get here?

The following table will help clarify the chronology:

A table showing the chronology of mobile technology - from 1G to 5G

Although the evolution of mobile communications can be understood through a comparison of services, data rates, latency, and other factors, I’d like to suggest a different perspective.

In fact, it’s somewhat easier to understand each generation’s innovation in a negative way:

  • 1G mobility – it’s not about wires!
  • 2G digital – it’s not about analog signals!
  • 3G packets – it’s not about a constant flow of bits!
  • 4G Internet – it’s not about voice conversations!
  • 5G IoT – it’s not even about people!

We really have to admit that fourth generation is really really good. We’re able to receive up to one hundred megabit per second, which is a lot more than what I used to get on my home Internet connection.

4G made possible for the first time:

  • fast Internet access (on the order of DSL)
  • download and upload of high resolution video
  • always-on behavior (with batteries lasting the entire day)
  • apps relying on location and identity

even if it does suffer from a few limitations:

  • delay too high for special applications
  • too few simultaneous connections
  • coverage too low (put differently, drop rate too high)
  • QoS guarantees too weak (if there are any)
  • poor support for new applications/markets (e.g., IoT, AR/VR, connected cars)
  • insufficient security/privacy

Regarding 5G, it’s interesting to mention that it wasn’t developed, like 3G and 4G, to be a breakthrough technology. When researchers started thinking about 5G, they first looked at the use cases and vertical markets of interest. The thinking was not about what the technology can do for us, but, rather, “let’s design 5G based on what we need.”

In addition to improving applications already addressed by 4G, such as mobile broadband, residential broadband, downstream video, upstream video, and AR/VR, 5G is designed to enable all sorts of new things, including:

  • Smart home
  • Smart utilities (CI)
  • Smart city
  • Industry 4.0
  • Business services
  • Connected vehicles
  • eHealth

We’ll be sharing more information about some of these use cases later. In the meantime, you can read more about Allot’s unique perspective on 5G on our 5G Security, Service Assurance & Monetization page.

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