What in the 5G World!


© Getty Images


5G will enable three categories of high-capacity, high-speed, low-latency digital communications
High-capacity, low-latency 5G wireless service will become the backbone for a thrilling wave of tech

Rarely a day passes that news coverage fails to reference “5G”. Headlines handicap the domestic and international race to deploy 5G. National security experts warn of significant national security vulnerabilities created by Chinese-made 5G equipment. Commentators marvel at 5G’s promise to spawn new industries and drive life-changing innovation. 

The World Economic Forum (WEF) and Accenture report that industrial sector use of 5G could boost global GDP by $14 trillion over the next decade. [i] The infrastructure buildout alone, Accenture says, will attract investment of $275 billion, creating 3 million new U.S. jobs and contributing $500 million to U.S. GDP. [ii] A report titled “The Lost Economy” authored by The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research estimates long-run consumer benefits of $1.2 trillion. [iii] Further, a major contribution to GDP growth and job creation can be produced by 5G networks properly configured to secure digital communications, including against the cyber-theft of US Intellectual Property and cyber-attacks on networked critical infrastructure.

Increased GDP means more jobs, larger tax base, and increased federal revenue that can help reduce deficits and debt, shore-up entitlement programs, and finance national needs.

What is 5G?

5G stands for “Fifth Generation” broadband cellular network technology -- a designation assigned by the International Telecommunication Union based on advanced performance and interoperability criteria. In other words, the latest in wireless communication.

Today, most mobile devices (cellphones, tablets, and laptops) are outfitted with microchips that work with 3G, 4G or 4G LTE (long-term evolution) mobile broadband networks. The network is what moves the radio signal we transmit from our mobile devices to the relay infrastructure (base stations, network core, and switches) through to our intended endpoint. These radio signals carry packets of information electronically coded into digital ones and zeros received and processed by interpretive software algorithms into meaningful voice, data, or video communications.

Interoperable broadband wireless network architecture is what enables us to make cell phone calls, exchange pictures and data with one another, use digital apps to access web-based services, and connect to  the Internet on the go -- all from our smart, mobile devices that possess millions of times more computing power than what NASA employed in sending men to the moon. [iv]

The move from 3G to 4G beginning in 2009 significantly improved the wireless network’s “pipe” (jargon for its bandwidth or signal carrying capacity) and its “latency” (fancy talk for the time lag between the transfer of a digital command and its execution).

4G improvements were evolutionary, enabling users to make clearer, more dependable calls; send and receive larger amounts of data and videos more swiftly; and better access the Internet and Internet-based services.  The transition spawned a broad spectrum of novel, web-based services like high definition mobile TV, mobile gaming, video conferencing, and GPS navigation (the basis for web-enabled ridesharing industry and so much more).

Why All the Hubbub?

The transition to 5G, on the other hand, will be revolutionary, reshaping the economy, society and, indeed, the future course of human development.  Its high capacity pipe will move information 100 times faster than previously known with latency reduced to a microsecond(s)—a barely measurable lapse of time. It means that commands and responses will occur almost simultaneously. Equally mind-blowing is 5G’s connection capacity. By some estimates, a 5G tower can simultaneously support 500,000 times more devices per square kilometer than a 4G cell tower. [v]

5G Applications 

While 4G predominantly empowered individuals, the application of these 5G-dependent technologies, will transform enterprises, systems and societies. Accenture estimates that by 2022, nearly 29 billion devices will be 5G connected. Only a fraction will be personal cellphones. Here are just a few examples:  


  • 5G-connected sensors will synch vehicles and road infrastructure enabling self-driving vehicles.
  • Smart transportation systems will move people and goods symphonically and more safely, at lower cost, and with smaller environmental impact.
  • Conveyances embedded with sensors will continuously stream diagnostic data so maintenance problems in cars, trucks, trains, planes, and ships can be detected and corrected before disaster strikes or costlier repairs are required.


  • 5G connectivity will make telemedicine work, enabling doctors to engage with, diagnose, and treat patients in real time whether they are located across town or on the other side of the world.
  • Surgeons will be able to perform complex, invasive procedures on patients thousands of miles away.
  • Medical data can move between healthcare facilities instantaneously to inform and improve patient care.


  • 5G will enable smart factories where digitally orchestrated equipment and processes will redefine the standards of productivity and efficiency.
  • Machines will be able to talk with one another and learn, yielding continuous improvements in operations and quality control.
  • Interconnected sensors will synchronize every link in far-flung supply chains, allowing digital integration of operations and management across geographies and enterprises.


  • 5G’s ability to connect more devices will generate and swiftly move massive amounts of data – feedstock for big data analytics revealing insights in every aspect of human interest.
  • Edge and quantum computing will be enabled, supporting faster, more capable and accessible computational capacity, including for small business.
  • Analytics will be able to inform response protocols where real-time action is mission critical.  


  • 5G’s support for Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will provide important new learning and skills development tools and experiences for students and trainees.
  • Instant analytics will provide vital feedback to enhance learning and skill development.
  • Faster downloads and quicker access to a broader array of research material will make class and study time more efficient and productive.


Technically Speaking!

5G will enable three categories of high-capacity, high-speed, low-latency digital communications suited to a universe of use-cases:

  • eMBB (Enhanced mobile broadband): High bandwidth internet access suitable for web browsing, video streaming, and virtual reality. This is the Internet access service we are used to with smartphones.
  • mMTC (Massive machine type communication): Narrowband Internet access for sensing, metering, and monitoring devices.
  • URLLC (Ultra-reliable low latency communication): Services for latency sensitive devices for applications like factory automation, autonomous driving, and remote surgery. These applications require sub-millisecond latency with ultra-low error rates.

This doesn’t just mean better, more reliable personal wireless service -- wonderful though it will be to download Game of Thrones in the same time it takes you to start the next sentence.  High-capacity, low-latency 5G wireless service will connect sensors and become the backbone for a thrilling wave of advanced technologies that can make everyone, everything and everyplace smarter and more functional, including:

  • Machine-to-machine communication (M2M)
  • Machine learning  (ML)
  • Deep neural networks (DNN)
  • Artificial (Augmented) intelligence (AI) and robotics
  • High-capacity data analytics
  • Mobile edge computing (MEC)
  • Quantum computing

It is this potential that drives the media coverage of 5G and the investment decisions of companies that are racing to give us access to a new technology that promises to change the way we live, work, and play.

[i] Digital Transformation Initiative, Telecommunications Industry, World Economic Forum Whitepaper in Collaboration with Accenture, January 2017