The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) recently released the first version of the 5G standard, finally providing hardware designers and telecommunication providers details to prepare for 5G capable devices.

Currently, if a company is boasting that it is offering 5G services, it is not really true—most likely, they are offering a faster version of 4G. Up until recently, the definition of what 5G would be didn’t exist.

Like all other technology, the 5G standard is an adjustment to the changing and growing technology landscape: the need for greater bandwidth and capacity, less latency, and reliability. 

To be fair, the standard isn’t quite complete yet. The current version still requires the use of LTE networks for various features. The complete, standalone version is expected to be released in June 2018 and adoption of the standard isn't expected to begin until 2019. This follows the current trend of a new G standard being released every 10 years.


Major Points in the 5G Standard

Areas for Growth

When 3GPP first began discussing what needs the 5G standard would have to meet, they identified four major areas based on 70 use cases:

  • Massive Internet of Things: A massive amount of devices are now connected to the Internet, transmitting data from sensors in smart homes, smart cities, smart utilities, and wearable devices. 
  • Critical Communications: In some applications—especially industrial and health ones—the reliability, speed, and availability of network connections is important. 
  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband: For the everyday consumer, more reliable network coverage, faster speeds, and higher data capacity is becoming increasingly important, especially with rich media consumption happening on mobile devices. 
  • Network Operation: The new standard will need enhanced features on the network including security, optimization, and flexible functions.


New Features

Since defining these four areas, the group has worked on defining the high-level architecture of the 3G system, including new features and requirements. Four primary features were highlighted.

The first is the Service Based Architecture, which at first glance sounds like an API-style implementation in which network functions can offer services through a common framework to any network that is permitted to use them. 

Next, the Common Core Network allows an increase in compatibility with various Access Networks. 

Network Slicing is noted as being a particularly distinctive feature of 5G: a method of dividing up the public land mobile networks to allow specific network functions to be accessed independently on slices. 


Image courtesy of 3GPP.


Finally, Application Support will allow for more customizable data services. This will allow for the support of diverse application requirements, and more efficient use of radio resources. 


Image courtesy of 3GPP.


5G is also expected to use millimeter wave technology, providing higher bandwidth capacity, and requiring smaller antennas. The FCC made several bands available for 5G, including 28/37/39 GHz and 37-37.6 GHz. The drawback will be that range becomes worse with higher frequencies. 



Some providers will already claim to have 5G capable devices or services. Again, most products being marketed as 5G right now are enhanced version of 4G, since the 5G standard was not defined until very recently. 

In the meantime, this announcement gives hardware designers some food for thought on what to expect with smartphone communication, IoT applications, and other network-based devices, and how 5G will play a role. 


Image courtesy of 3GPP.