What Data Speeds Can We Realistically Expect from 5G?

landscape of 5G
5G comes with several attributes that supercharge connection speeds for end users. src

5G data speeds will kick technological advancements into higher gears

With billions of smartphones and connected devices serving us in innumerable ways, internet speed has become critical to life in modern society. And with more new devices deployed by the day, we’re edging closer to maxing out the capacities of existing generations of mobile networks. But 5G promises to facilitate internet connection for a gazillion more devices at even faster speeds compared to current network generations.

The anticipation of 5G grows stronger by the day, even though the wireless network technology is already here. This is not only because of the exciting improvements it will bring to the mobile experience but also because it’ll give life to myriads of new applications that will usher in the 4th industrial revolution.

5G is designed to enable instant transmission of huge volumes of data between connected devices. Currently, the fastest mobile technology available to the mainstream is 4G LTE – A, which operates with peak data rates of up to 1Gbps. However, figures of 5G speeds floating around range from 1Gbsp on the conservative end to up to 10Gbps and higher peak speeds.

Also, 5G could reduce network latency – the time it takes to transmit data from one device to another – from around 50 milliseconds of existing generations to just 1 millisecond.

A breakdown of 5G data speeds

Comparison between network speeds

A Comparison between network speeds: 5G vs previous wireless network generations. src

Data speed indicates the volume of data transmitted between connected devices through a specific network within a given period. It’s generally measured in bits (binary digits) per second or bps. To put things into perspective, 3G data speeds are measured in kilobits, 4G in megabits, 5G in gigabits.

Going by the results of a 5G network test undertaken by Deutsche Telekom and other researchers, an average data speed of 3Gbps can be expected from the network under normal conditions. Theoretically, we can expect 5G technology to grant network speeds of up to 10Gbps or more. Experts believe this theoretical speed will become the norm across the network in a few years from now.

Multi Gbps speeds can translate to remarkable increases in download speeds. What normally takes 10 -20 minutes to download on LTE networks will only take a few seconds on 5G.

Low Latency: Another critical factor for 5G’s fast connection speeds

Latency is another key determinant of connection speeds. Latency refers to the time it takes for digital data to be transmitted from one device to another through a specific network. This can be decisive to the efficiency of certain technologies. For instance, high latency can lead to dangerous delays in the activation of actuators in self-driving cars on the go, which could lead to accidents. Even a fraction of a second can make a difference in a self-driving car’s ability to avoid accidents.

5G’s latency is only a fraction of that of previous generations. With latency as low as 1 millisecond, 5G can enable autonomous vehicles to react more quickly than humans to avert accidents. It takes an average human 1 second to press the brake pads after noticing an obstacle. With components exchanging data with a latency of just 1 millisecond, a self-driving car is 1,000 times faster than humans in reacting to hazards.

Similarly, the single-digit latency of 5G will facilitate real-time communication between connected devices in IoT systems. The phenomenally higher responsiveness of devices on 5G networks will bring remarkable improvements to AR, VR, cloud gaming, robotics, and a host of other technologies.

5G’s high traffic capacity

Another crucial factor that determines connection speeds is the traffic capacity of a network. The higher the number of people connected to a network per time, the slower the network’s connection speeds. By utilizing a host of new spectrums such as mmWaves, 5G can handle traffic 100 times the capacity of existing mobile networks.

Experts believe that even in heavily-packed arenas like stadiums and event centers with tens of thousands of people, everyone can still enjoy data speeds equivalent to the peak rates of current networks.

Summing up

5G has displayed speeds of up to 10Gbps with latency as low as 1 millisecond in many trial runs. But while the ideal conditions of these experiments will not become available to the mainstream any time soon, we can still enjoy 5G connection speeds faster than those of current mobile technologies as we await full rollouts that will result in 5G at its best.

 

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.