Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of 5G technology and how it could change our lives forever. 5G is the next-generation cellular data network and is slated to drastically improve wireless connections and data transfer rates. It will also be far more capable to power some of the most advanced technologies used in smart cities and autonomous vehicles among others.

Experts predict that 5G technology could have a huge impact on several sectors including manufacturing, defence and medical. In this article, we take a closer look at some of the most FAQs on 5G. Find out how it works, how fast the connection speed really is and whether 5G is safe.

What Is 5G Technology?

Put simply, 5G refers to the “fifth generation” of cellular data technology but it’s important to note that it is not a single technology in itself. The fact is, 5G is a collection of technologies that work in collaboration to form a specific technology that devices connect to for internet access.

“5G wireless technology is meant to deliver higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability, and a more uniform user experience to more users. Higher performance and improved efficiency empower new user experiences and connect new industries.” (Source: Qualcomm)

Why Is 5G Technology Better Than 4G, 3G and LTE?

The greatest benefit of 5G is that the data transfer rates are significantly higher than previous technologies. As such, it opens the door to a wider variety of new consumer technologies that aren’t possible with the current 4G LTE network infrastructure.

The most promising involves “smart city” infrastructure which refers to autonomous bus lines, improved monitoring and management of traffic, electricity and water systems to name a few. Since the radio spectrum that 5G uses is unused, there is less congestion and that results in faster connections and the ability to connect more devices than ever before.

How Does 5G Work?

The 5G network is a cellular network that uses a system of cell sites to divide each region into sectors and transmit encoded data through radio waves. Each of these locations must be linked to a network “backbone,” which is generally a physical wired connection, and the encoding varies depending on the kind of network.

In terms of infrastructure, 5G is pretty similar to previous cell sites, but the new 5G networks will allow those cell stations to access a much wider range of frequencies than previously possible. A core benefit of 5G is that cell sites will have access to short-range, “high-band” airwaves that were previously out of reach with 4G LTE.

What Is OFDM Encoding?

According to Wikipedia, in the world of telecommunications, “orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) is a type of digital transmission and a method of encoding digital data on multiple carrier frequencies”.

5G networks use OFDM encoding similar to the type used in 4G LTE networks but it provides an “air interface” with lower latency and access to more airwaves than 4G LTE.

Are 4G and Low-Band 5G Frequencies The Real Thing?

The old 4G LTE networks enabled a device to combine up to seven x 20 MHz channels or 140 MHz of total spectrum usage. Low and mid-band 5G allows a device to combine up to three x 100 MHz channels with several 20 MHz channels from the 4G LTE network to dramatically improve network speeds.

Now, some providers can also stitch together 4G and low-band 5G frequencies using dynamic spectrum sharing. This is based on the network traffic to try and get the most out of their existing 4G network. However, this is mostly just a slight improvement to the current 4G network and not something new, like actual 5G technology.

How Fast is 5G, Really?

A lot has been said about the speed of 5G technology but how does it compare to 4G LTE? The 5G technology standard calls for significantly faster speeds than at a theoretical peak of 10 Gbps maximum download speed with a latency as low as one millisecond.

However, these kinds of data speeds won’t be available for some time to come and will likely also depend on network coverage and certain circumstances. That said, a base speed of 50 Mbps should be the minimum which could eventually be more than 100 times faster than average 4G network speeds.

Is 5G Technology Safe?

In short, 5G is safe for humans as most 5G signals use the same kind of radio waves of TV and radio networks. They have been using this for decades without any issues and the same applies to mobile and Wi-Fi networks.

Since the new technology in 5G, the millimetre frequency signals of the mmWave technology, are effectively microwaves, it’s no surprise many people have misunderstood the concept.

Not only are these signals extremely weak but they don’t travel very far and they can’t even penetrate leaves on nearby trees. Even when standing next to a transmitter, the signals can’t even penetrate your skin much less the walls of your home.

Can The Radiowaves “Cook” People’s Brain?

Since the radiowaves of 5G’s mmWave technology are very weak, contrary to some popular conspiracy theories, these transmitters won’t “cook” our brains. Older UHF television signals are actually much stronger than anything 5G towers are generating but those signals have been in use for more than 50 years so they have become heavily congested as a result.

There are also clear safety guidelines on 5G technology with one example being The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). The global scientific body has determined a norm for the non-ionizing radiation put out by mobile phones and telecom antennas and continually monitors their thermal effects.

Could 5G Impact Aircraft Systems?

Since we’ve established that 5G technology is safe for humans, what about aircraft? Like all radio signals, even 5G will be subject to interference and may interfere with other radio signals in an unsafe way. Two of the most serious issues involve radar equipment many aircraft use and some weather monitoring satellites.

A major concern about 5G is interfering with an aircraft’s radar altimeters to measure altitude. Airlines in America recently protested that 5G emissions in the 3.7 GHz to 3.98 GHz C-band frequency risk interfering with the proper functioning of an aeroplane’s altimeter, which uses radio frequencies between 4.2 GHz to 4.4 GHz.

While there are still some kinks to iron out, it seems one short-term solution is to not deploy any 5G technology near key airports. Government regulators are continuing efforts to find a workable solution.

Will 5G Technology Benefit Manufacturing?

The increased capabilities of 5G make it ideal to support manufacturers in transforming productivity levels. Since the low latency, manufacturers will be able to support thousands of devices on the factory floor at once, not to mention connecting in real-time.

Then, there is the fact of enhanced security through private networks. You can securely store data locally and manage it on-site rather than in the cloud. This opens up so many possibilities for advancements including predictive maintenance, virtual reality and augmented reality.

Related: Augmented & Virtual Reality In Manufacturing


We’ve been promised the deployment of 5G technology for some time and after nearly two years of delay, some major 5G networks are being activated in major cities around the world. However, it will still be a while for the networks to mature and for coverage to expand to more rural areas.

With all the benefits of 5G technology, we can’t wait to see the transformational speeds and technological advances in action. Just think of how much it could help global communications not to mention the medical and educational sectors.

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