4G vs 5G: Unveiling the Generation Gap
Now that we have covered the basics of 4G LTE networks, how exactly does 5G differ and what can we expect from this new generation of connectivity? We analyze the technical differences across five key metrics – speed, latency, capacity, reliability, and security.
4G: A Stepping Stone to 5G
Arguably the most touted feature of the next generation network, 5G delivers exponentially faster speeds compared to 4G LTE. 5G operates on high-frequency bands such as sub-6GHz and mmWave which have far more bandwidth compared to the frequency bands leveraged by 4G. This coupled with advanced antenna technologies like MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) enables vastly improved data transfers.
5G networks boast peak download speeds of 20 Gbps, with typical speeds of 100 Mbps expected. In contrast, peak 4G LTE speeds top out at 1 Gbps with actual experience of 2-10 Mbps. This is a massive boost – enabling 5G users to download an HD movie in seconds compared to minutes on LTE. Advances like beamforming technology also allow 5G signals to be directed precisely to devices, enabling consistent and uninterrupted connectivity.
Latency refers to the time it takes for data to get transmitted from one point to another on the network. Slow latency results in lag, buffering and delays. With 4G networks, latency is typically between 20 to 30 milliseconds. However, 5G brings this down to an ultra-low 1-5 milliseconds owing to optimal network architecture and signal frequencies.
This near real-time responsiveness is critical for next-generation applications. Use cases like industrial automation, virtual reality gaming, video conferencing and even self-driving vehicles require quick command execution with little room for delay. The low latency of 5G will spur innovations dependent on real-time data exchange.
Cellular capacity refers to the number of users and devices that can simultaneously connect to the network at optimal speeds. This is an area where 5G vastly outperforms 4G networks. Owing to its high-bandwidth fiber infrastructure coupled with a larger quantity of cell sites due to mmWave antennas, 5G effectively expands capacity by 100x compared to 4G.
With the onslaught of IoT devices and sensors that comprise smart city infrastructure, we need networks that can match this massive scale. 5G is designed to support up to 1 million device connections per square kilometer – something not feasible in a 4G setting. Its versatile connectivity will pave the way for large-scale device ecosystems.
A frustration you may have experienced with 4G networks is intermittent drops in connectivity when moving across locations. Or experiencing weak signals while indoors. This variability impacts reliability. With 5G, techniques like network slicing ensure more consistent throughput tailored to specific applications – being able to smartly route data based on parameters like speed and latency. 5G also leverages technologies like small cells and mmWave to intelligently penetrate obstacles like walls and buildings.
Moreover, the 5G core network adopts an entirely virtualized architecture as opposed to 4G’s reliance on physical hardware. This cloud-based infrastructure offers more flexibility and stability. With 5G, users can stay reliably connected in nearly all environments and conditions.
With increasing reliance on network connectivity coupled with growing cyber threats, security has become paramount in modern cellular networks. A number of security vulnerabilities still persist in the architecture of 4G that expose networks to attacks. However, enhancing protection and mitigating risk are focal points in the design of 5G ecosystems right from the ground up.
5G employs mutual authentication between the user and the network using unique permanent identifiers to prevent impersonation attacks. All communication channels are also fully encrypted. Network slicing allows network functions and data streams to be logically segregated for different applications – restricting lateral movement in case of a breach. These multilayered security protocols will serve as safeguards as our connectivity needs intensify in the coming years.