Close this search box.

What Actually Is 5G?

By Skylyr VanDerveer

After five years with my loyal and somewhat broken iPhone 8, I made the decision to take the leap and upgrade my phone this past summer. Switching from an older model to the-then newest version came a lot of changes. There are the obvious ones like battery life, display, camera quality and for me, losing the home button. But there was a new upgrade that I did not hear many people talk about, and that was 5G data.

I’ll be honest, before writing this blog I knew nothing about what 5G was or how it worked. Working at Colliers Engineering & Design means I have access to learn from leading Telecommunications experts. What better way to learn than interviewing someone who has worked on these upgrades?!

So… What is 5G?

I spoke with Michelle Kang, Geographic Discipline Leader of Telecommunications at CED’s Nashville office to learn how we stay connected. Essentially, 5G stands for Fifth Generation mobile network.

There have been five generations of wireless communications the first two generations, 1G and 2G, were more focused on talk and text communication. It wasn’t until the deployment of 3G in 2004, that data started to become readily available, especially with new smartphone devices becoming popular.

Then, in 2010, 4G was rolled-out, while laying the foundations to the future of Long-Term Evolution, or more commonly known as LTE. With this generation of the mobile network, communication became more widely accessible thanks to broadband technologies, alongside the boom of social media and video chatting apps like FaceTime.

With the deployment of 5G beginning a few years back, Kang says that the future generations of mobile connection are being considered as we upgrade!

“What I find really fascinating, is that as we implement these upgrades to 5G, we are laying the foundations for 6G and beyond,” she explained. “As telecommunications become more accessible and advancements in technology are happening more rapidly than we have seen in the past, our networks need to keep up with demand. 5G is not only multiple times faster than 4G LTE but has a more expansive bandwidth for everyone to stay connected to our large world.”

What can get confusing for us not in the know, is the differentiation between cellular data and internet speeds. Just recently, Xfinity from Comcast announced its latest 10G network! With the help of Google, I learned that 10G is often used by cable TV and internet providers and holds a different meaning compared to cellular data. According to Telecompetitor, 10G is an industry term companies used to group initiatives aimed to bring 10 gigabits-per-second (GBPS) speeds to consumers when downloading and 6 GBPS when uploading. It’s not the huge jump ahead into Tenth Generation mobile network you might have thought.

Introducing the Next Generation of Connection

Keeping up with the demand of consumers has been a driving force in all versions of the mobile network. Each vital upgrade we have seen to our network has been driven by the trends carriers have seen. For example:

  • 1G to 2G: Saw an increase of demand for text messaging, so the network upgrade drove faster messaging.
  • 2G to 3G: Saw an increase demand for internet access, as it transformed into what we know today, so the network upgrade created data.
  • 3G to 4G: Saw an increase demand for faster, more reliable internet access, so the network upgrade developed mobile broadband.
  • 4G to 5G: Technology is rapidly developing, calling for higher quality and faster speeds, so the network is now faster, more reliable and lays the groundwork for the next generation of technology.

Each of these vital upgrades were designed to provide more connectivity than we have ever seen before. As we come off the heels of a global Covid pandemic, Kang says that 5G will be used in almost every aspect of our daily life, much like how the Internet of Things (IoT) connects us to smart devices of every shape and size.

“With the way that 5G is being deployed, it will enable the ability to connect more devices and allow us as a society to do things more efficiently,” she explained. “I believe this will have a massive impact on a majority of industries in the United States – healthcare, agriculture – every industry we interact with will be impacted in some way or another for the better.”

Upgrading Infrastructure

Unlike what I originally thought, upgrading to 5G takes more than just a phone upgrade! Phone manufacturers are now integrating 5G capabilities in their newest phone designs. Our team of telecommunications technicians work with our cell phone providers to get us that 5G on our phones.

Currently, there are four major cellphone providers – AT&T, Dish Wireless, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. There are other wireless services around, but those smaller companies borrow the service from one of the big four.

When it comes to getting the magical letters on our phone’s screen, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to make all these upgrades appear to be seamless. Kang explained that there are several possible locations for where the cellular equipment can be installed. They can be mounted on telecommunications towers, rooftop sites, water towers, billboards or even street poles located within a sidewalk easement. Whether starting from scratch from a new site that’s hasn’t been built yet or an existing site, each type must be analyzed for potential configuration, type of cell being installed, structural load and permitting.

CED has grown its services along with wireless growth and today offers Site Acquisition; Cell Site Modification Design; New Site Build Design; Small Cell and Distributed Antenna System (DAS) Design; Structural Analysis & Design; and Fiber Construction Network & Design.

Something else I learned, most telecommunications towers in the US are owned by vertical real estate companies, rather than a cell phone provider. The providers lease the space on the towers for their equipment, and that is where we come in!

“We can mount telecommunications equipment on almost any structure,” Kang said. “Different service providers will have different goals when it comes to what areas they want to strengthen or grow their reach. That’s why your services can be better or worse than someone who is with another service provider.”

Keeping Connected

With download speeds multiple times faster than the last generation, 5G is already making an impact on our lives. I love listening to Audiobooks online, and since I upgraded my phone, I feel like I can gain access to them instantly!

As we continue to depend more on the internet, social media and just maybe augmented or virtual reality, 5G will be there to keep things moving faster and paving the way for all the exciting developments to come!

Thanks again to Michelle Kang for opening my mind to the world around me and I will see you the next time I learn something new and exciting about the work we do at CED!

Share this:

Comments are closed.