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5G vs 4G: what’s the difference?

By 2021 there will be up to 438 million 5G connections.

But beyond faster speeds and lower latency, what do we know about 5G technology, and how does it differ from 4G?

Connectivity has evolved from providing access to the internet to powering complex infrastructures.

For example, smart cities connect everything from smartphones, homes, and cars to traffic and garbage collection systems using the Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

However, with a growing number of devices and an explosion of data come a need for new network performance levels.

Wireless technologies, from Bluetooth and WiFi to 3G and 4G LTE, rely on performance trade-offs with the IoT devices on their networks.

Things are different with 5G.

5G up to 100 times faster than 4G

With 5G reaching 10 gigabits per second – up to 100 times faster than 4G – 5G networks can deliver the level of performance needed for an increasingly connected society.

The result?

Downloading a high-definition film over a 4G network, for example, takes 50 minutes on average – on 5G, it takes just nine.

Connectivity requirements vary based on what the network is being used for.

Streaming a film on your smartphone and driving your connected car demand different connectivity levels that aren’t always available with 4G.

5G and network slicing

The rollout of 5G can solve this because ‘network slicing’ becomes much easier – when the network is split to tailor speed, capacity, coverage, encryption, and security by reassigning resources from one ‘slice’ of the network to another ‘slice’ that needs it.

In other words, just as each flat in a building has a specific key to let only authorized people enter, each slice will rely on a specific ‘slice SIM,’ also known as the ‘sSIM,’ which will be stored in your 5G SIM

Latency: 5G is the winner

Better performance with 5G also means a lower latency rate (the delay between sending and receiving information).

For 4G, this is 200 milliseconds, not far off the 250 milliseconds it takes for humans to react to visual stimuli. The 5G latency rate is significantly lower: at just 1 millisecond

Using 5G networks to send and receive information quickly will help develop new services and devices, particularly connected cars and vehicle-to-vehicle information, virtual-reality gaming, remote surgical operations, and translation software. 

In other words, IoT and 5G create a perfect combination.

5G also means more security and regulations

But with increased opportunity comes increased risk, so the deployment of 5G must come with the correct security level to enable trust.

5G will see the wider deployment of private mobile networks and increased network access on the part of third-party suppliers, all of which increase the number of opportunities for hackers.

Therefore, the EU is calling for a dialogue between vendors, network operators, and regulators to find and implement solutions to mitigate these risks.

Following the EU’s GDPR, which set itself as the reference for data protection worldwide in 2018, the EU is preparing the ePrivacy Regulation (ePR).

The GDPR aims to protect personal data, and the ePR focuses specifically on individuals' privacy as it relates to electronic communications.

This can be achieved, for example, by the pseudonymization and encryption of personal data. Again, the 5G SIM plays the role of protector of the user’s privacy.

So, as consumers look to the future, 5G will be about more than faster mobile internet as it delivers new connectivity levels – and enhanced trust – across a wider ecosystem. 

5G also means opportunities and challenges for telecom operators.

Read more on 5G and telcos.

Discover how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is shaping 5G.

Click here to download our infographic.

4G versus 5G