Evolution of 5G

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5G is the 5th generation mobile network, the latest global wireless standard. It enables networks that are designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together, including machines, objects and devices, with not only faster speeds and more reliable connections, while maintaining its large network capacity. [1]



How does 5G Work?

The signals of 5G will run over new radio frequencies that require updating radios and other equipment on cell towers. In terms of methods for building a 5G network, there are mainly three types of assets a wireless carrier has. [2]

Similar to other cellular networks, 5G uses a network system which separates the territory into different sectors, sending and receiving encoded data through radio waves. Every cell site has to connect with a specific network backbone, which is referring to wired or wireless backhaul connection devices.

The structure of 5G is based on OFDM[1], which is the Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing. OFDM refers to a method to modulate a digital signal across different channels to reduce interference. It uses the 5G NR [3] air interface alongside OFDM principles, and it also uses the wider bandwidth technologies.

However, new 5G NR air interfaces deliver a higher degree of flexibility and scalability. As a result, more 5G access will be provided and will benefit more different use cases.

To carry out a high capacity and low-latency of 5G, the carriers building superfast 5G networks must install tons of small cell sites, that is the size similar to a pizza box, to light poles, walls and towers.[2]

Advancement from 1G to 5G

GSMA:5G will Support Low Latency an High Throughput Services [4]

1G Network

1G was introduced in the 1980s which enabled voice-only calls through analog signals. [5]

2G Network

In 1991, the first 2G network was introduced in Finland allowing mobile phones to communicate through text and multimedia messaging. It further enhanced 1G’s voice call capability by providing better quality and encryption for voice calls and text messaging. [5] As the 2G network standard used digital signals instead of analog, it opened the door for mobile phones to access the internet via cellular networks. However the slow speed made mobile internet access through 2G impractical as it would take 3 minutes to load a typical web page and 7 minutes to download a single song. [6]

3G Network

3G network, introduced in 1998, allowed mobile phones to comfortably use mobile internet for use cases that are not too demanding. Specifically, it allowed mobile phones to conduct video calls, although limited to one on one calls, through cellular networks. [5] In comparison to 2G, 3G’s faster speed allowed the same website that 2G took 3 minutes to load to be loaded within 4 seconds and take only 10 seconds to download the song that 2G required 7 minutes to download. [6]

4G Network

While 3G made mobile internet access practical, the introduction of 4G in the late 2000s enhanced mobile internet to support many more high demanding use cases. The enhanced speed evolved the video calling capabilities in the 3G era to support video conferencing (many-to-many). [5]

One of the use cases that was made possible by 4G is video and audio streaming. As 4G became widely available from the 2010s, 4G’s capability to deliver fast and reliable audio and video streaming boosted the popularity of services such as Netflix and Spotify. Furthermore, many other mobile services such as real-time messaging apps (Line, WeChat, WhatsApp) and Sharing Economy type apps (Airbnb, Uber) were also popularized as 4G became the industry standard of mobile telecommunication. [4]

Evolution of Mobile Telecommunication Standards
Generation of Cellular Network Use Cases Top Speed First Offered In (year)
1G Analog Telecommunication Voice calls only 2.4 kbps 1980s
2G Digital Telecommunication Text Messaging (SMS)
MultiMedia Messaging (MMS)
Call/Text Encryption
50 kbps 1991
3G Mobile Internet Access Mobile Internet
1-M Video Calling
384 kbps 1998
4G Enhanced Mobile Internet Video Conferencing
Audio/Video Streaming
400,000 kbps
(400 Mbps)
late 2000s

4G vs. 5G

Remote Orchestra Demonstration for 5G Low-Latency [7]

5G has the capability to provide three main advantages over the existing 4G network standards; Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC), Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC) [7]. The combination of all three of these advantages 5G has over 4G allows high demanding use cases that are pushing 4G to its limits to comfortably run, and open up new use cases that were impossible to support with 4G. [4]

Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) - Faster Speed

Enhanced Mobile Broadband or eMBB indicates the faster speed that 5G networks provide compared to 4G. 5G has already achieved speeds up to 100 times the current 4G speeds [8] and it is peak data transfer speed is expected to reach a couple Gbps. Network providers such as Three in the UK has stated that they expect to reach top speed of 3 Gbps by the end of year 2020.[7].

Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC) - Higher Capacity

Massive Machine Type Communication or mMTC refers to 5G’s ability to support a greater number of devices at once. The capacity of 5G is far superior than any Wi-Fi standards currently available. The current standard of 5G can only handle up to 50 people wearing VR headsets, streaming video while providing menu options and captions in multiple languages. However, 5G’s mMTC is expected to support up to a million devices per square kilometer. [7]

Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC) - Low Latency

Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication or URLLC refers to 5G’s ability to transfer data with minimal latency. While latency was already very minimal in the 4G standard, 5G’s latency is so small that it is virtually negligible. This was showcased in a performance at the “Orchestrating the Orchestra” demonstration at the Bristol 5G Smart Tourism event. At this event they had 2 violinists, a pianist and a vocalist perform in sync through a video conferencing app run on 5G. Although the performers were located in distant locations throughout Europe, they were able to play in sync as if they were right next to each other due to 5G’s URLLC capabilities. [7]

Expected Benefits of 5G

5G is expected to create a massive IoT (Internet of Things) ecosystem where networks can serve communication needs for billions of connected devices, with the right trade-offs between speed, latency, and cost. [4] 5G is designed to not only deliver faster, better mobile broadband services compared to 4G LTE, but also expand into new service areas such as mission-critical communications and connecting the massive IoT. Also, better performance and higher efficiency empower new user experiences and bring new opportunities for people, society, and businesses.

GSMA:The 5G Era Will Begin Fully From 2020 [4]
GSMA:5G Is At The Centre Of The Heterogeneous Network Of The Future [4]

Is 5G Available Now

As of July 2020, 5G is already available. Global operators started launching new 5G networks in early 2019. Also, 5G mobile networks will be available nationwide by 2020. Majority of the phone manufacturers, especially Android, have started commercializing their 5G phones and side products. What is more, 5G will be deployed in more than twenty countries all around the world [1] with a faster rollout and adoption compared with 4G.

Goals of 5G ERA

GSMA:Mobile Industry Goals for the 5G ERA [4]

The mobile industry is developing and preparing to deploy 5G into their upcoming products and services. 5G ERA networks [4] will become the centre of an ecosystem that powers society’s continued digital transformation.

The first goal is to provide boundless connectivity for all. 5G networks will coexist with 4G networks and alternative network technologies, as well asnd deliver a boundless, high-speed, reliable, and secure broadband experience to support a plethora of use cases for society. [4]

Second goal is to deliver sustainable network economics and innovation. The mobile industry will strive to cost-effectively deliver better quality networks either independently or through sharing and partnerships. 5G era networks also rely on a combination of established and innovative technologies, or use both licensed and unlicensed spectrum across different spectrum bands.[4]

The third goal is to transform the mobile broadband experience, and also provide the platform for cloud and artificial intelligence (AI). 5G networks will provide an enhanced broadband experience with speeds of up to 1 GB/sec and latency of <4 ms. [4]

Next, the fourth goal is to drive growth in new use cases for massive and critical IoT. 5G era networks will support the massive rollout of intelligent IoT connections for a multitude of scenarios. As well, it will also provide an enhanced platform to support the widespread adoption of critical communications services .[4]

The last goal is to accelerate the digital transformation of industry verticals. The mobile industry provides the networks and platforms. It will also accelerate the digitisation & automation of industrial practices & processes . [4]

Where Is 5G Being Used

In general, 5G is used across 3 main types of connected services. 5G is used to enhance mobile broadband. 5G can also be used in new immersive experiences, such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). It has faster and more uniform data rates, lower latency, and lower cost-per-bit.[1]

Also, 5G is for mission-critical communications. 5G enables new services to transform industries with ultra-reliable/available/low-latency links. For example, remote control of critical infrastructure, vehicles, and medical procedures.[1]

What‘s more, 5G is used for Massive IoT. Because of the ability to scale down in data rates/ power/mobility, 5G can provide lean and low-cost connectivity solutions. 5G can also seamlessly connect a massive number of embedded sensors virtually at the same time. It is more important that 5G is designed for forward compatibility, and it has the ability to flexibly support future services which are unknown today.[1]

Qualcomm: Expectations of 5G [9]

Evolution of 5G from 2017 to 2020


IHS: 5G will enable $12 trillion of global economic activity in 2035 [10]

In 2017, a report from IHS Market [10] estimated that 5G will enable $12 trillion of global economic activity in 2035. Global real output of the Information and Communications industry was estimated to increase with the highest percentage of 11.5%, and an increase ofnd 4.6% is expected in all other industry sectors.

There is significant pre-commercial work underway by the entire mobile ecosystem, from chipset and device suppliers to network infrastructure players. Some carriers have already made public announcements about when they expect to field test 5G networks. However, the public had certain health concerns about 5G. People are concerned about billions of connections to the 5G network and the subsequent increase in RF-EMF exposure [11] affecting the global populace constantly.


2018 was a year where companies started testing the applications of 5G across different industries. Samsung powered Verizon’s first 5G commercial services in Sacramento, California. The tech company provided Verizon with commercial 5G home routers as well as radio access units and radio frequency planning services. These radio access units were important because they helped develop the world’s first fixed wireless access commercial service. Essentially, this FWA service uses radio signals instead of satellite signals which means the signal does not have to leave the earth like satellite signals do. These radio signals result in faster internet and connectivity.[12]

The application of 5G on autonomous vehicle safety was also tested in 2018. Samsung partnered with Harman International to create roadside and control units for autonomous vehicles. The company tested the control units with 5G and discovered that 5G would greatly reduce the delay autonomous vehicles have for detecting hazards. With 4G, the vehicle could have already moved one metre before a vehicle detects a hazard or potential collision. With 5G’s 1 millisecond delay, that distance could be reduced to only a few centimeters. [13]



Based on Qualcomm’s presentation about 5G at the 2018 Snapdragon Tech Summit, customers were puzzled due to the different network coverage maps presented. At the 2019 Snapdragon Tech Summit, 5G was viewed as the most noteworthy advancement within the area of mobile technology in the last decade. Here, Qualcomm’s President stated that 5G will become prominent in 2020 with expectation of over 200 million smartphones that are compatible with 5G to be shipped in 2020. [14]

In 2019, 5G promised to pave the way for greater stability, give the ability to accelerate the movement of data, and connect more devices concurrently. It was estimated that mobile 5G speeds would be faster than the fibre connections that are currently hardwired for fast speeds. While 4G gave capacity for download speeds that were around 20 Mbps, 5G is predicted to give capacity for downloading at speeds of around 500 Mbps to 1500 Mbps.[15]

Consultations and Predictions of 5G

During this time frame, there were many different companies that have made positive predictions about 5G and 5G potential. In particular, Gartner’s advisory company stated that 66% of businesses have intention of establishing 5G by 2020 due to the potential of 5G [15].

In September 2019, Ericsson predicts 18 billion units will be connected to IoT by 2022 for the reasons including greater data rates, larger system volume, reduced latency levels, lower costs and energy savings.[16] In December 2019, Ericsson predicted 1.9 billion 5G connections by 2024. As well, it is predicted that 74% of data traffic on mobiles will be used for video streaming. Furthermore, Ericsson predicted 5G to be used by 45% of the global population in 2024. [17]

The Ericsson Mobility Report predicted the United States to lead 5G adoption during the next five years. It also predicted China and Europe to lead behind. On the other hand, Ericsson predicted 3G and 4G LTE will still be used by East Europe locations, Latin America locations, and the Middle East in 2024. The initial wave of 5G will focus on smartphones and will take place in mid-2019, while the second wave of 5G will focus on more phone and laptop compatibility in the later of 2019 and early 2020 time frame.[18]

On the other hand, Cisco has forecasted that triple the current traffic of 4G will be generated by 5G by 2020 [15].

Usage and Adoption Rate

There is a competitive race between major carriers to launch 5G infrastructure as everyone wants to be the 5G leader.

Status of Implementing 5G Infrastructure


In 2019, China has administered 5G networks two months in advance of the original planned launch date. Commercial 5G networks were available during this time through their three major telecom providers. The availability of 5G was given to major cities, for example, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, and Shanghai. China’s target is to have implemented 5G in over 50 cities by the end of 2019. [19] By November 2019, 50 cities had access to 5G commercial services at central areas outdoors. [20]

Use Case: Healthcare Industry - Robotic Surgeries Testing and Usage

In 2019, 5G was used for testing robotic surgeries in China. A surgeon in China successfully completed a liver transplant for a test animal remotely, and this was the world’s first remote surgery done using 5G. This was done by the surgeon controlling a robotic arm remotely which was powered by 5G technology. In the absence of 5G technology, robotic surgeries will be prone to mistakes due to latency in current 4G speeds. As of September 2019, 5G was used by hospitals to complete remote surgeries in China. [21]

United States

All main four US wireless carriers have implemented limited 5G networks, including Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T. Although the 5G network has been rolled out, the availability of 5G is limited. Signals for 5G drop when indoors and results in spotty service levels, transitioning back to 4G when 5G signals drop. This imperfect service makes it obsolete for home usage, school usage, and office usage. [22]

Verizon’s mobile 5G officially launched in April 2019 in Chicago, and slowly rolled out to select areas in cities, for example, Minneapolis, Denver, Providence, St.Paul, Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis, Washington, Phoenix, Boise, Panama City, NYC, Dallas, Omaha, Boston, Houston. In 2019, Verizon is expected to roll out 5G to at least 30 cities by the end of the year. [23] Verizon offered 5G home internet in select cities, which essentially converts 5G into wifi for usage (Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Sacramento).[24] As well, Verizon originally offered 5G in 13 NFL stadiums in September 2019. Overall, according to OpenSignal and DigitalTrends, Verizon’s 5G speeds are fastest globally due to using only mmWave technology where average speeds are around 506.1 Mbps for their customers. [25]

By May 2019, Sprint has launched 5G in downtown cores of 9 major cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Washington, and New York. [26] As well, Sprint’s merger with T-Mobile pushes toward reaching a goal of providing nationwide 5G coverage by 2020. [14]

T-Mobile launched nationwide 5G network in December 2019, and became the first mobile provider to have nationwide 5G in the USA by offering 5G coverage to over 5000 cities as well as over 200 million people. At this time, T-Mobile claims that their 5G network coverage works indoors as well compared to their competitors 5G coverage that gets blocked by walls and only works great outdoors [27]

In December 2018, AT&T launched 5G to limited parts of 12 dense urban cities which included Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Dallas, N.C, Houston, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, San Antonio, Waco, Texas. [28] In 2019, AT&T also launched 5G in multiple areas for the NBA season which moved connected experiences live for the sporting event. [29] As well, AT&T and University of Miami collaborated to roll out both 5G and Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) to foster innovation and research in education. [30]

South Korea

South Korea launched 5G at the same time Verizon (USA) has launched their 5G networks. Within a six month timeframe, South Korea had an immense growth of 4 million subscribers to their 5G network. [31]

Status of Current Consumer Hardware

5G compatible Smartphone: Galaxy S10[32]

In March 2019, Samsung’s first 5G compatible phone was announced with the Samsung S10 series and Verizon. Throughout this year, Samsung launched more than one 5G compatible phone. [33] In April 2019, Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G was released and their Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G was released 4 months later. In May 2019, the Oppo Reno 5G was released as well as the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 and the OnePlus 7 Pro. In September 2019, Samsung released their Galaxy A90 5G. Although only a handful of 5G compatible devices were released in 2019, it is expected that the number of 5G compatible devices will increase in 2020 [34]

Qualcomm’s latest chip Snapdragon 865, integrates 5G with phones to allow download speeds up to 7.5 Gbps. One caveat is that it must be used alongside the Qualcomm X55 modem and with two modems, the cost for phone makers is driven up while draining the phone battery. On the other hand, Qualcomm’s X55 modem will allow 5G phones to be built unlocked to allow users to switch carriers and run on 4G when 5G signals are unavailable [14].

Potential Use Cases and Impact Areas

During this time, there were many ideas around the potential impact areas for 5G technology:

Impact Areas

Health Care

  • Remote healthcare [16]
  • Precision surgery [17]


  • Analyze weather conditions and data (e.g. crop health, yield, minerals, moisture, plants) [16]

Smart Cities

  • Traffic, energy consumption, air quality [16]

Transportation and Automotive

  • Self-driving cars such as autonomous vehicles which can communicate with each other to eliminate car accidents and provide greater safety for everyone [16]

Industrial Manufacturing and Logistics

  • Smart Factories aka. Industry 4.0 and E2E automation [16]


  • Drones for search and rescue missions [17]

Job Creation

The introduction of 5G technology will increase jobs related to 5G deployment (e.g. tower climbers and technicians for the 5G equipment). It has potential to create a new economy to mirror the surge of jobs when the internet launched. It is forecasted that 3 million jobs will be created in the United States across multiple industries (e.g. Smart City development). [35]

Feedback from Audiences


During 2019, consumer demand didn’t justify the cost of building new 5G infrastructure. There was minimal reason for consumers to upgrade from 4G to 5G as they are able to complete everything they want with 4G and 4G was less costly. At the same, 5G capacity exceeded the capabilities of current technology. For example, TV with 5G-enabled will deliver more pixels that are currently supported by 4K TVs [16]. While 5G technology was the strongest outdoors without obstructions, the public population did not want to have to go outside to use 5G and were not interested in paying a premium for 5G if that was the case. [32]

On the other hand, all wireless carriers wanted to gain the title of being the first to launch 5G technology. [36] A research report by Accenture in 2018 predicted 5G will create $40 billion towards the national GDP as well as 250,000 new jobs in the economy. However, at the same time, Huawei’s hardware to build 5G is surrounded by controversy and debate as countries are concerned about potential political problems that may arise and national security risks. [17]

General Outlook

Overall, it is difficult and challenging to test the capabilities of 5G in 2019 due to having to find the 5G connection to obtain maximum speed that is possible. A major drawback is the transmission of 5G within obstructions like building walls.[35] There was an ongoing requirement to build more transmission points to obtain 5G signals within buildings to support the 5G rollout and take the reliance of 5G off of 4G.[17]

Another point is that 5G towers are generally smaller in size than 4G towers. This in turn helps to bring this technology to places that previously were not compatible with 4G towers which helps to push the technology to a greater audience. [15]



At this point in time, consumers are able to get 5G signals and see a better performance over 4G LTE speeds. However, 5G speeds were not consistent across different service providers due to usage of different bands, therefore, creating confusion for consumers. Current smartphones do not get 5G signals, therefore resulting in consumers investing in 5G compatible devices should they wish to use 5G. [36]

2019 was the year where 5G became commercialized from launch. With that, 2020 is seen to be the year where 5G will be used in the mass market by the end of the year [37]

In April 2020, Sprint completed its merger with T-Mobile, focusing on providing 5G nationwide in the USA. [38] Canadian mobile providers have also begun to launch 5G. [39] At this point in time, 5G is seen as the next generation of mobile broadband that is to eventually take over or augment the connection of the current 4G LTE. 5G helps with 4G LTE capacity at the high points during the day. [40]

Consultations and Predictions

There have been multiple rumours of iPhone launch in 2020 with 5G and Qualcomm’s modem [14].On the other hand, Qualcomm predicts 200 million 5G subscribers at 2020 year end and 2.8 billion 5G subscribers by the year end of 2025. However, it is also predicted that 4G and 5G will both coexist where 5G will fall back to 4G speeds when 5G signals are not available. [36]

Usage and Adoption Rate

South Korea

As of February 2020, South Korea has 5 million 5G users. [31]

United States

During 2020, many US carriers increased their 5G coverage. By the beginning of 2020, T-Mobile offered a nationwide 5G network.[27]

For AT&T, they offered a nationwide 5G network in July 2020. [37]

For Verizon, it’s current network as of May 2020 is not as widespread as AT&T or T-Mobile as it is still only available in select cities. [38]

On the other hand, Sprint’s merger with T-Mobile is growing its 5G network coverage nationwide [40]


China is currently growing the number of 5G base stations across the country. They have a goal to finish 2020 with more than 600,000 base stations built, and there are predictions for 28% of mobile users to be on their 5G network by 2025. [41]


By June 2020, individuals residing in Canada have the option to sign up for 5G service with Telus, Bell and Rogers. On the other hand, these 5G plans in Canada began at least with 10 GB data and were priced at $75/month. Since this is still new, there is still limited coverage within select regions. [39]

Current Hardware Providers


World's First 5G Compatible Laptop: Lenovo 5G Flex 2-in-1 Laptop [42]

This year saw the first computer to be 5G-enabled. The Lenovo 5G Flex 2-in-1 laptop launched in June 2020, supporting 5G technologies by working with wireless carriers. While it currently only works with Verizon for it’s first limited roll out, its specs allows it to with any carrier offering 5G technology. As well, its processor has phenomenal power as the laptop can run for 24 hours offline on one charge. [42]

5G Compatible Mobile Devices

Most phones released in the year 2020 were 5G enabled.

Phones Released[43]

  • Xiaomi Mi 10 - February 2020
  • Samsung Galaxy S20/S20 Plus - March 2020
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra - March 2020
  • Nubia Red Magic 5G - March 2020
  • OnePlus 8 Pro - April 2020
  • OnePlus 8 - April 2020
  • Motorola Edge Plus - April 2020
  • Sony Xperia 1 II - May 2020
  • Oppo Find X2 Pro - June 2020

Industry-specific use cases in the near future


As discussed earlier, many wireless service providers were in the race to be the first to provide 5G coverage.[36] 2019 was when 5G coverage really started to begin and has increased dramatically over 2019 and into 2020. Slowly after 5G coverage became available, 5G compatible devices started to roll out by various companies. In 2020, Nokia reveals the first global 5G phone with Nokia 8.3 which can be used around the world due to the widest support of 5G bands on the phone. On the other hand, the majority of phones that are already in the market currently only support a subset of 5G bands. [43]


Currently, 5G service is only available in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. More areas will be receiving coverage by the end of the year. On the other hand, there will be an upcoming decision to be made by the Canadian government about the usage of Huawei hardware by Canadian telecommunication companies. [44]

Big 3 5G CSP in Canada [45]


Rogers has launched 5G with towers in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Their 5G is also used for research at UBC Vancouver and University of Waterloo in Ontario. [46]


In June 2020, 5G became available in five different cities including: Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. [47] As well, Bell has partnership plans with the Western University in London, Ontario to create a campus with 5G network and help increase 5G innovation. [48]

It is important to note that Bell uses Telus’s airwaves in Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver. Therefore, Bell’s 5G network performance will be quite similar to Telus’s initial launch of 5G as both companies are sharing towers. [49] Furthermore, Bell’s 5G uses fibre, resulting in maximum download speeds of upwards 1.7 Gbps. This is 6x faster than current 4G LTE speeds. [47]


Telus has Samsung as its network infrastructure partner for their 5G rollout. [50] Their peak 5G speeds are upwards to 1.7 Gbps. [51] Telus first rolled out 5G to Vancouver, Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, and will be adding 5G coverage in 26 more cities by the end of the year. [50]


Potential Outlook with 5G Implementation

Currently, there are small margins and greater need for more efficiency within manufacturing companies in order to maintain competitiveness. 5G will allow manufacturing to be enhanced by greater flexibility with automation using robots and build Smart Factories [52]

Smart Factories

It has been more than two centuries since the Industrial Revolution and Industry 4.0 will be the biggest transformation since the Industrial Revolution with the use of 5G technology. With 5G technology, engineers at headquarters will be able to guide Level 1 Technicians using 5G-enabled headsets and 3D animations. That being said, only Level 1 Technicians will have to travel to sites to fix technical issues. [53] With the usage of 5G, low latency and speed will be the greatest factors for instructions to be streamed in real time with quality and this will help factory workers to complete difficult maintenance tasks and learn new skills safely. Furthermore, factory inspections can be done remotely and machines can be controlled through the cloud as data gets streamed in real-time for real time control. [54]

What is more, Smart Factories can shift workers away from dangerous tasks and boring tasks.[54] While AI can help workers to identify mistakes and improve product quality, troubleshooting can be done with AR to identify issues quickly and free time to fix issues. [55] Value will be evident in higher productivity, decreased up-times, lower inventory levels, increased worker safety and greater agility in supply chains. [56] A Gartner Study states that Smart Factories is an opportunity area for 5G because select use cases can be done with current 4G LTE technology but the majority of use cases do require lower latency levels and better speeds for stronger reliability in success. Decreased latency and greater reliability is found with 5G technology. [56]

Specific Use Cases

Use Case: Tallinn Factory → Augmented Reality Troubleshooting (ART) [57]
Use Case: 5G Smart Factories - Nanjing - The Connected Screwdriver [58]

Use Case: Tallinn Factory → Augmented Reality Troubleshooting (ART)

Background Technicians spend 50% of their time on non-value added activities. These include finding and linking files, finding defect information, and finding instructions for troubleshooting issues. [57]

5G Usage and Results Using Augmented Reality Troubleshooting Solution with an Android tablet or Microsoft HoloLens, the identification of faults and issues can be done faster by technicians. This is because a layer of digital information is placed with the real image for technicians to better understand the pieces they are working with. Therefore, this frees up technician time to solve issues in addition to sharing valuable information among different production sites. As a result, productivity is increased by 50%. [57]

Use Case: 5G Smart Factories - Nanjing - The Connected Screwdriver

Background In Nanjing, Ericsson Panda Communication Company’s factory has 1000 high precision screwdrivers that require regular calibration due to utilization times. Currently, this is a manual process that is documented manually by handwritten paper logs. [58]

5G Usage and Results Using connected screwdrivers that leverage the Industry 4.0 and IoT, the factory is able to make automatic calculations with insightful analysis of their data and remove the previous manual tracking. This automated solution has also reduced human errors in previous handwritten paper logs. [58]

Cloud Gaming

Nokia:Future Business Model of Bundling 5G offerings with Cloud Gaming Subscriptions [59]

Challenges of the Cloud Gaming Industry in mid-2020

The cloud gaming industry is struggling to take over the gaming industry as the average household does not have sufficient network connectivity to support the highly demanding cloud gaming activities.

An analysis conducted by Deloitte on the network environment of US households indicated that only 30% of the household has access to high-speed fiber internet, leaving the rest of the household with internet speed that is nowhere near sufficient to support cloud gaming. Network capacity is also an issue with an average house having an average of 11 devices competing for internet bandwidth. One or more of the devices competing for bandwidth are TVs, tablets, computers and smartphones streaming videos from services such as Netflix. The study has also shown that 60 percent of downstream internet consumption in 2019 consisted of video. [60] With the current situation of internet access in an average household, there is no capacity or sufficient speed to run cloud gaming.

Network Requirements of Cloud Gaming vs. Video Streaming
Use Case Downstream Internet Speed Upstream Internet Speed
4K Video Streaming 1.5 - 25 Mbps not required
4K Cloud Gaming 10 - 35 Mbps 5+ Mbps

5G and Cloud Gaming

Many of the network requirements that makes cloud gaming impractical on average home internet connectivity can be satisfied by a stable 5G network. 5G’s network speeds of up to 1Gbps can comfortably support both the downstream and upstream connectivity requirements and its high capacity will ensure a stable internet connection even when there are multiple devices on the same 5G network competing for bandwidth. 5G’s low-latency can further enhance the gaming experience as it will minimize delay between input and action on the screen. In their case study on 5G and its potential in the Cloud Gaming industry, Nokia discussed how they expect Communication Service Providers to partner with Cloud Gaming providers to bundle their services. They expect, “Virtualized portions of the network that third-party companies can use to support enterprise and consumer services that depend heavily on consistent, high-performance connectivity” [59]. Such partnership is expected to benefit both parties by ensured connectivity for users on cloud gaming platforms and allow CSPs to reach a new customer segment aside from their traditional 5G network offerings.

Media AR/VR Industry

By 2028, 5G is forecasted to bring $1.3 trillion in revenue to the media and entertainment industries. There are so many possibilities for more immersive and data intensive experiences when using 5G. A lot of new opportunities will be realized in the world of Augmented and Virtual Reality.

Augmented Reality

For Augmented Reality (AR) to have an immersive experience, a bandwidth that can process at least 200 megabytes per second is required. The required bandwidth is just too demanding for 4G networks, which limits how users can experience Augmented Reality. Once AR becomes more reliable, there are potential uses in a vast array of industries. According to an Ericsson Consumer Lab Reality Report, 7 out of 10 early adopters of AR expect the technology to change everyday life in six different areas: media, education, work, social interaction, travel and retail. [61] As just one industry example, industry analysts predict the AR market within healthcare to grow at a sizable 23 percent compound annual rate from 2017 to 2023. Already, AR is used in areas such as patient and doctor education, surgical visualization, and disease simulation. AR has the potential to go beyond the entertainment industry and unlock possibilities everywhere. [62]

Virtual Reality

Unlike Augmented Reality, Virtual reality (VR) is already more established for the average consumer. 78 percent of North Americans have either tried or are already familiar with Virtual Reality. [63] 30 percent of early adopters of VR also expect 5G to play a role in creating more complex experiences. The experiences of VR usually center around entertainment, with gaming and movies being a large target in the near future. It seems that VR is less of a novelty and experiences continued use after purchase. 76% of VR users have only had positive experiences with VR and 76% of users have at least one game for their VR device.[63]

5G has many potential applications to Virtual Reality as well. The new network creates a lower data cost per bit. This is important because it will make both AR and VR much more affordable for users. 5G can also improve battery efficiency and decrease nausea while using VR. Any nausea from VR is caused by a difference between what the user feels and what they see. This stems from latency, which delays any reaction to user movements. This nausea is comparable to reading in the car. What you see is a still page, but your body experiences movement, which causes sickness for some people. Similarly, if the VR experience does not align with how the user’s body feels, similar nauseous feelings can arise. For an immersive VR experience, the device requires at least 200 megabytes per second of bandwidth.[63] 200 mb/s results in a delay of 20 milliseconds, which is the point at which any more delay means a dizzying experience. 5G can bring the delay in VR down to 5 milliseconds, generating a more smooth and pleasant experience than 4G.

Giving Power to the Cloud

Due to 5G’s higher bandwidth, it gives more power to cloud storage, especially with VR. Local storage is still popular now due to slower download speeds. Currently any VR that is streamed from cloud storage will not have a smooth experience. However, with 5G, VR can be streamed smoothly from the cloud, opening the floodgates of possibilities for personal VR use. Any program or film does not have to be downloaded first, allowing users to watch anything they want instantly. [64]

Industry-specific use cases in the distant future

Autonomous Vehicle

In recent years, the automobile industry is experiencing exponential growth of developing self-driving features. Under this trend, 5G will influence the development of self-driving cars by making the self-driving vehicles faster, smarter and safer. [65]

The goal of deploying 5G in self-driving cars is to make them become much safer than human-controlled vehicles. This requires a large-scale adoption of 5G in which 4G is not supportive enough.

The level of safety and smartness of autonomous vehicles depends on the speed of the message transmission between sensors and the computer in each car, and the time needed for computer decision making as well. Moreover, the high capacity and speed of 5G allows the computer of the car to handle, process, and analyze the data received from hundreds of sensors. It is possible to be used for Vehicle-To-Vehicle (V2V) & Vehicle-To-Everything (V2X) connectivity. [65]

V2X is a technology that allows vehicles to communicate with moving parts of the traffic system around them. Also known as connected-vehicle-to-everything communication, it has several components. V2X revolutionizes the mobility ecosystem by changing the way vehicles and drivers interact with the world, including vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. Also, it is a stepping stone for the ongoing digitization of transportation by providing real-time, highly reliable, and actionable information flows. [65]

In order to enable road safety, traffic efficiency and environmental progress, the auto and telecom industry collaborate under 5GAA (The 5G Automotive Association) [66], which was created to connect the telecom industry and vehicle manufacturers to develop end-to-end solutions for future mobility and transportation services. It supports the idea that 5G will further enable mission-critical enhanced V2X communications, and form the ultimate platform to enable impactful cooperative intelligent transport system services. [67]

Other than the common autonomous vehicles, a company called Starsky Robotics [68] planned to commercialize automated truck technology. They created a 36-truck regular trucking company to provide autonomous truck services. [69] As well, they planned to deploy 5G technology into their auto truck development to improve not only worker safety and reduce fatalities, but also create efficient logistics.

Deploying 5G into their service, the enhancement of real-time data gathering and alerts will help advance the cross-sectoral data sharing. Also, higher accuracy and efficiency on object detection and response can be achieved. [69]

MachineDesign: Estunated Glocal Installed Base Of Cars With Self-Driving Features[69]
Original Source: Business Insider
Huawei: Vehicle-to-Everything Model [70]

Smart Cities

Statista: 5G Internet of Things (IoT) endpoint installed base forecast worldwide in 2020 and 2023, by segment(in 1,000 units) [71]
Original Source: Gartner [72]

Smart cities is an ideology to connect vehicles, buildings and the surrounding infrastructures in the city with the power to IoT to allow decisions to be drawn from the large collection of IoT device data points. Below are some examples of specific smart city projects:

  • Connecting traffic volume data from traffic lights and individual vehicles to adjust cadence and timing for traffic lights in real time [73]
  • Providing real-time navigation of buildings and structures via VR headsets to firefighters at a scene of a fire through collecting up-to-date building plans allowing them to maneuver through flame or smoke [74]

Smart cities projects are expected to provide various benefits such as reducing environmental footprint by efficiently allocating resources and effective decision making driven by the increase of data inputs and real time processing. However, mass implementation of smart city IoT devices is not expected to come in the near future yet. A study conducted by Gartner predicted that while there will only be 3.5 million 5G IoT endpoints at the end of 2020, the total is expected to grow up to 49 million by the end of 2023. [72] While government involvement and regulations are one major challenge for smart cities projects, these projects often face technological challenges to achieve successful implementation.

To begin with, current 4G network standards are not fast enough for some smart cities use cases such as connecting autonomous vehicles and traffic infrastructure. [74] In addition, as smart cities projects span throughout an entire city or community, it requires enough capacity to connect a large number of IoT devices simultaneously. [75]. Lastly, for specific use cases such as using drones equipped with video cameras to monitor traffic conditions of the city, devices must be connected through low-latency networks. [75] 5G’s main advantage of connecting massive numbers of devices with lightning fast speed with virtually no latency at all is best-suited to support the boost of IoT and smart city projects. [76] Furthermore, the use of 5G allows smart cities projects to utilize additional features of 5G such as network slicing. Network slicing is a 5G network capability to dedicate a portion of the network bandwidth to a specific purpose or group of devices. This allows the dedicated bandwidth to be unaffected from other network loads preventing connection from outages and networks slowing down. Network slicing would bring reliability to smart infrastructure which is crucial as it must support the public at all times. [77]


Nowadays, most of the healthcare providers face data management issues related to patients, equipment, operations, maintenance, personnel and supplies. Healthcare services also continue to evolve through digitization and analytics. Vast amounts of data are generated, which include data management, storage, transfer, and some of them are even related to security and privacy issues. The goal of the healthcare industry is to efficiently manage and process the data to advance the quality of care. [78]

With the roll-out of 5G, the healthcare industry can improve their performance in different areas. One of them would be remote diagnosis. A study by Market Research Future found that the telemedicine market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 16.5% from 2017 to 2023 [79], parallel with the emergence and roll-out of 5G. This means that faster network speeds and the quality of care will allow doctors to remotely engage with patients without the worry of network blackouts, disconnections and lag time as well.

5G technology will essentially eliminate patients needing to make as many trips to their doctor. For patients who can’t easily travel to their healthcare providers, 5G will allow the healthcare provider to visit them via natural-feeling telepresence systems [80].

Moreover, 5G helps save lives, as the foundation of a modern healthcare service. It also increases the efficiency and effectiveness of treatments with connected healthcare. With the support of 5G, high-resolution video [81] will be commonly utilized in ambulances and hospitals, to help paramedics treat patients in transit and hospitals prepare for the patients’ arrivals.

What’s more, assistance robots [81], which are enabled by a 5G private network, will be able to deliver prescriptions and guides to the patients. Lastly, smart wearables and sensors[81] will be embedded in replacement joints to enable a more complete and timely communication with doctors and any healthcare professionals. As a result, critical healthcare services can be delivered over a network for chronically ill patients.


Use Case: 5G Enabled Drones to Enhance Agricultural Efficiency [82]


5G has the potential to impact the agriculture industry in a big way, providing more comprehensive tracking for crops, which can result in cost savings and better produce. The network allows for faster connectivity with devices and allows more devices to connect to a single cell tower. Farmers can install more sensors to track more data points without suffering from latency.

Use Cases

One example of how 5G can help farming is from company John Deere. John Deere aims to use 5G technology and Artificial Intelligence to track every single plant and determine if it is a crop or weed, allowing them to spray chemicals only on the weeds, produce healthier crops, better environmental outcomes, and cutting costs. John Deere's Director of Intelligent Solutions estimated that this would cut roughly 90% of John Deere's crop maintenance costs. These news processes are still in the early stages, but the company hopes to implement these changes by 2022. [83]

KPN, along with partners Wageningen University and Research (WUR) and Huawei, is also interesting in tackling the challenge of precision spraying in a case study that takes place in a 5G test field in Valthermond, Netherlands, which uses robots, deep learning, and a cloud-based edge solution to identify and destroy problematic potato plants. The robots used to detect the unwanted plants are fitted with cameras that capture images of the plants in the ground, which is then sent over a 5G connection to a computing server that is trained to recognize sugar beet and potato plants in images. If the server concludes the image of the unwanted potato plant, the robot receives this information and then activates its precision herbicide sprayers. This process takes approximately 250 milliseconds, which comprises 20-25 milliseconds for the communication from the vehicle to the central computer and back again, as well as 200-230 milliseconds for the cloud application to process and analyze the images. As of this past February, the project was achieving an accuracy of 95% and was covering one third of a hectare per hour (Over 3300 sq metres). This far exceeds the speed of manual workers.[84]


Negative Feedback from 5G

Security issues are one of the main concerns for deploying 5G technology. Since the security vulnerabilities of 5G are still unknown today, professionals and researchers are paying more efforts on R&D in order to estimate and predict any potential cybersecurity issues in the early stage. According to the research done by a group of researchers in 2017 [85], vulnerabilities were identified with the 5G protocols. For example, there will be risks associated with exposing 5G users’ locations, downgrading users’ service to older generation data networks, tracking calls, texts, and online activities, etc. By using inexpensive software-defined radios, there is a possibility to enable researchers to engage in service downgrade attacks. [85]

CYBERTRUST - 5G, Security, and You: The Key Security Features of 5G [85]

5G may also trigger some potential risk to 5G infrastructure:[86]

Measurements are required to secure 5G networks from a diverse set of three adversaries.

Firstly, the potential risk would be the supply chain complexity.[86] Supply chains for 5G network components are long and complex. Subcontractors located in multiple countries would be impossible to determine the national origin of a component in a short period of time. Vendors’ ability to control quality is also low at the early stage of a product’s lifecycle. Also, the potential impact of sabotage earlier in the product’s lifecycle is high since there would be many opportunities for malicious actors to infiltrate the supply chain at multiple points, either through a compromised vendor or by abusing insider access.

Secondly, 5G deployment may increase the attack surface and the attack opportunities.[86] 5G may also present new risks compared to previous generations. For example, a larger physical and virtual attack surface using RAN, physical disaggregation of network components, and also the number of devices connected to the network, etc.

Thirdly, 5G may be a lack of vendor diversity.[86] Since the 5G market has only a small number of vendors to provide for the entire network, such as Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia, there may be risk of a single point of failure and vendors may have too much leverage. Lacking vendor diversity may also increase the risk of systemic failures and hostile exploitation of the network. Also, this may lead to a situation of over-reliance on components from a single vendor, which would leave the 5G network exposed in the event of a single problem from that single vendor

Our take on 5G at the moment

The changes that 5G will bring will not happen overnight. 5G networks are a tool, and their speeds enable industries to explore new possibilities. Once 5G is fully operational, there will be no need for any cable or wire to bring communications or entertainment services to your mobile device. 5G will first be experienced in the mobile sector, for people who want to stream 8K video without delay and download feature-length movies in a matter of seconds. Use cases like cloud gaming and VR are already established, and it is only a matter of time before 5G transforms the gaming landscape as well. Further down the line, 5G will impact almost any type of industry, including agriculture, autonomous vehicles, and healthcare. This new network will constantly impact the tech landscape because industry leaders will always be looking for new ways to utilize 5G speed. The true power of 5G is not yet realized and experienced, and with new innovations requiring fast network speeds coming out every day, there may not be a limit to the potential ideas 5G can bring. [87]


Wai Yin Sun (Natalie) Irene Chung Kale Roy Hiro Nomura
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada


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