5G networks are rapidly rolling out and those who want to deploy can do so now. Full 5G deployment will take another decade, but in many urban areas 5G is already fully operational. The good news is that 5G and 4G LTE will co-exist for many years to come. So, whether you want to future proof your deployment with new 5G solutions now, or continue with 4G LTE, you can’t go wrong. For many applications operating well on LTE networks or that do not require 5G performance, it may be another 5-10 years before it makes sense to upgrade.
Digi operates in the commercial space, serving commercial, industrial, medical and government entities and developers. For this reason, information on this page is geared toward these customers. See your mobile phone vendor or carrier for updates on the timeline for handheld 5G devices.
The right solution for any specific application depends upon the business case. Not every application is ready – or right for 5G. The key considerations include:
5G is already an official technology standard, via 3GPP Release 15, which was released in December 2018.
The "million dollar question" is really about when will 5G be everywhere, with the carrier-promised speed, latency and density. Our prediction is that by 2025 enough 5G infrastructure will be deployed nationwide for the majority of applications to fully benefit from 5G. The Ericsson Mobility Report predicts that by 2025, 29% of mobile subscriptions will be 5G.
Owning a 5G device might be exciting, but if you have a need for mobile 5G — for example 5G tablets for point-of-sale by service personnel — you don't want to have to utilize that device in a limited fashion. Early adopters can purchase 5G devices in the consumer space now. They are expensive, and have certain limitations on utility as the networks are building out. For commercial applications, 5G devices are now emerging on the market and we expect to see this market grow exponentially throughout the 2020's.
Carriers are currently in the process of phasing out 2G and 3G networks, as they need to replace them with more up-to-date networks, rather than maintain everything from 2G to 5G, which is costly and labor-intensive. See our article, Upcoming 2G and 3G Global Cellular Network Sunset Dates, for a roadmap of projected shutdown dates by region and carrier.
For those who have made investments in 4G LTE technology or are preparing to deploy devices now, there is very good news. 4G LTE networks and devices will migrate to 5G over time, without the requirement to replace all of your equipment. As LTE stands for Long Term Evolution, this infrastructure has a long life ahead, thanks to a new technology called Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS). DSS allows 4G and 5G devices to share the same band, resulting in a faster rollout of 5G and long-term availability of 4G, as spectrum does not have to be taken away from 4G to support 5G.
Digi International works with customers who are ready to define their path to 5G to ensure they can sort through the massive amounts of information, perform a careful needs assessment, and identify the right solution. Contact us for a consultation to learn more about 5G planning and 5G technology selection.
Digi proposes that customers who are certain they want to migrate to 5G as soon as possible plan for a three-phase approach:
Replace old 2G/3G equipment with 4G LTE.
If your 4G LTE router is a couple years old, consider upgrading to a 5G or 4G LTE-Advanced router to take advantage of 5G speeds.
Add a 5G Outdoor Extender for redundant 5G mmWave connectivity to multiple carriers.
In general, 5G use cases can be broadly categorized into three main types of connected services:
A defining capability of 5G is also the design for forward compatibility—the ability to flexibly support future services that are unknown today.
In the future, 5G is expected to deliver theoretical peak data rates of up to 20 Gbps. Today, 5G speeds depend significantly on the type of 5G connection (Sub-6 or mmWave) and the bandwidth the carrier has allocated to 5G. Some 5G Sub-6 speed tests show speeds similar to 4G LTE, or lower. Speed tests over 5G mmWave show up to 2 Gbps.
5G is more than about just how “fast” it is. In addition to higher peak data rates, 5G will provide much more network capacity by expanding into new spectrum, such as millimeter wave (mmWave). 5G will also deliver much lower latency for a quicker immediate response, and an overall more uniform user experience so that the data rates stay consistently high even when users are moving around. Moreover, the new 5G NR (New Radio) mobile network will be backed up by Gigabit LTE coverage foundation, which will provide ubiquitous Gigabit-class connectivity.
5G doesn’t have a price tag yet. A key 5G objective is to lower the cost-per-bit (data cost) compared to 4G LTE, by leveraging new and wider spectrum in higher bands including the mmWave range. This could potentially allow mobile operators to continue to offer unlimited data plans even with increasing data consumption. This can also enable new use cases and make more applications economically viable for broader adoption in a 5G network. For example, 5G can help to proliferate immersive augmented and virtual reality, which is possible today with 4G LTE but may be limited by network capacity and data costs.