Dawn of the 5G Era

The symbiotic relationship between the two most transformative technologies, wireless communications and the Internet, has fuelled a phenomenal growth in the demand for mobile data. Unprecedented number of devices now connect, autonomously or user-driven, to the Internet using wireless technologies. 4G technologies and network architecture, which were primarily conceived in the pre-smartphone age, are simply overwhelmed and are unable to scale and keep up with this growth.

As shown in Figure 1, the number of connected Internet of Things (IoT) is estimated to reach 50 Billion by 2020 [1], while the mobile data traffic is expected to grow to 30.6 Exabytes per month by 2020 [2].

In addition, the end-user data rate requirements due to emerging new services such as Ultra-High-Definition (UHD) multimedia streaming and extremely low latency requirements for cloud computing and storage/retrieval stretch the 4G systems severely and render them too thin to deliver the quality of experience (QoE) necessary to support these services adequately.

The 5G Era has dawned. Industry efforts and investments to define, develop and deliver the systems and specifications for the fifth Generation (5G) mobile system and services are now well under way. 5G technologies promise to deliver the exceptionally high speed connectivity necessary to support immersive applications, a fully-realized IoT services framework, and lower latency with both spectrum and energy efficiency. To realize these benefits, 5G systems will differ fundamentally from their predecessors fuelling a series of ground-breaking innovations. Let’s look at the scope of services and the requirements that 5G is expected to address.

Figure 1 Growth in Mobile Traffic and Connected Devices

Figure 1 Growth in Mobile Traffic and Connected Devices

1. UMTS, "Mobile Traffic Forecasts 2010-2020 Report," UMTS Forum, Jan. 2011.

2. Cisco, "Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2015-2020," Cisco, Feb. 2016