5G Mobile Network

Pros and Cons of the Next Generation of Mobile Technology

Taba Zimmerman

Mobile technology has evolved exponentially over the last four decades from the bulky brick phones of the 1980’s to the sleek touch screen smartphones of the 2010’s. However, the style of these devices is not the only thing to have evolved. With each generation of devices, the network they rely on has evolved as well. The first generation (1G) network that the brick phones depended on was an analog system, which was not very secure and poor call quality, by today’s standards. In the 1990’s the second generation (2G) network was introduced and was comprised of a digital network, providing a more secure and reliable communication channel. The third generation (3G), released in the early 2000’s, set the basis for the standard of most wireless technology we have today, allowing for greater voice and data capacity and increased data transmission for a lower cost. Currently, networks depend on the fourth generation (4G) network, which was established in the 2010’s, and provides users with high quality, high speed and high capacity while improving security and lowering the cost of voice and data services, multimedia and internet over IP.

Currently under development is the fifth generation (5G), which promises significantly faster data rates, higher connection density, lower latency and various other improvements. With this being most likely the network of the next decade, we should take a deeper look at the possible advantages and disadvantages a network like this could have.

Advantages:

  • Faster speeds: If you are close enough to one of the 5G towers with your 5G phone, you will be able to download entire episodes of HD programs in a manner of seconds. Buffering when viewing a video will no longer be an issue.

  • Reduction in tower congestion: With the current 4G technology, towers tend to get congested and reach capacity when large crowds attempt to connect at once. On 5G, this will no longer be an issue. This means that people won't feel like they are competing against each other for the tower using their cell phone on internet-based activities. With more bandwidth available, people will also be able to use this bandwidth to do more with their devices, making them more versatile than before.

  • New technology options: As network speeds have increased, more and more tasks are being transitioned from the world of computers to the world of smart devices. With the increasing network speeds, this could open new doors for smart device technology that may not have been available. 

Disadvantages:

  • Broadcast distance/building penetration: One catch is that these frequency waves can only travel a short distance. Just like 5 GHz Wi-Fi doesn't travel as far as 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, and 5G cellular will not travel as far from the tower as 4G. Also, the millimeter 5G waves will only travel well in the line of sight (a straight line with the ability to see the tower). Meaning trees, buildings, walls or other obstacles will block, disrupt or absorb the high-frequency signal. Some have predicted that even rain could potentially be a problem for 5G connections.

  • Battery drain/heat: Phones running on 5G will experience a huge battery drain. Better battery technology will be needed if the object is to run your phone a full day on a single charge running a 5G connection. Users are also reporting that phones are almost hot to the touch while running 5G.

  • Upload speeds: With the current technology, users see download speeds as high as 1.9 Gbps; however, rarely are the upload speeds seen over 100 Mbps. Granted, this is far superior to 4G LTE. However, the current upload speeds seen by actual 5G users are not as groundbreaking as the download speeds. Also, the ping speeds seen by users on 5G phones are currently not in the anticipated low latency of 1ms or less; the actual speeds are being seen in the 15 ms range.

  • Lack of widespread coverage: Currently, 5G coverage is limited to narrowly defined areas in specific cities. As a rule, the carriers will be expanding their network in areas with the greatest population. For everyone else, especially in remote areas, it will be some time before it arrives. Carriers are more likely to spend their network upgrade dollars where the greatest number of their users reside or work.

On top of these pros and cons of the network itself, we still need to look at the security of the network. How secure will it be? Will it be more secure than the current 4G network? 5G could actually pose an elevated security risk partly because there would be more vectors available through which attackers can penetrate, since the technology is set to enable a large number of connected devices known as the Internet of Things (IoT). 

Another security risk is posed by the protocol designed to allow 4G or 3G connections when a dependable 5G signal isn’t available. When a 5G device switches to 3G or 4G, it’s exposed to the vulnerabilities that haven’t been addressed in the previous generations’ protocol. Altogether, it appears there is a large amount of thought, planning and implementation that still needs to be done before the 5G network can be established across the world.


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