5G FAQ

5G FAQ: answers to your most important 5G questions.

From understanding its impact on enterprise collaboration and IoT to learning how it’s accelerating digital transformation, find answers to frequently asked questions about 5G.

5G overview.

5G is the fifth-generation cellular network technology that is becoming increasingly available around the world. 5G is faster, more reliable, and has greater capacity and lower latency than 4G/LTE and earlier generation technologies. And it has been designed to support massive fleets of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. With all of these capabilities, 5G unlocks a wave of innovation for enterprises. And because it is engineered with security and privacy protections in mind, 5G can help organizations reduce vulnerabilities to cyberattacks.

Wi-Fi 6 is the latest generation of Wi-Fi. Like 5G—the latest generation of cellular network technology—Wi-Fi 6 is much faster than earlier generations of Wi-Fi, along with a host of other improvements. Wi-Fi 6 is a wireless standard used for local area networks, while 5G powers a growing number of wide area networks across the globe. 5G is faster and can enable wider geographic coverage than Wi-Fi 6. While each of these wireless technologies offers enhanced capabilities, understanding how they can be used together can bring even greater advantages to businesses.

Many organizations use 5G and Wi-Fi 6 in tandem to take advantage of their complementary capabilities. Together, they can provide more seamless connectivity wherever people or machines need it. Public 5G is used for wide area network (WAN) connectivity in outdoor, off-campus, and other mobile-dependent environments, while Wi-Fi 6 is used for local area network (LAN) connectivity for indoor, fixed, or on-campus usage. “Adopting the technologies in parallel makes sense,” notes the professional services firm Deloitte.1

1www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/technology/global-5g-transformation.html

Public 5G is the far-reaching network that any cellular customer has access to, also called the macro network. Private 5G employs the same technologies—5G Radio Access Networks and other infrastructure equipment—as public 5G. The main difference is that the owner of a private 5G network (i.e. a business with uniquely demanding connectivity needs in a specific location) can specify how the network is tailored and used. Some organizations employ private 5G in factories or critical infrastructure facilities that require performance beyond what Wi-Fi can deliver, and public 5G for remote offices and mobile employees.

A 5G Standalone network leverages 100 percent 5G network architecture from end to end, consisting of a 5G Radio Access Network on a 5G network core. On the other hand, a 5G Non-Standalone network leverages a 5G Radio Access Network on an existing 4G network core. This configuration provides many of 5G’s performance benefits but not all of its capabilities. T-Mobile launched the world’s first nationwide 5G Standalone network in 2020 and continues to expand it.

5G delivers the network speed, reliability, and bandwidth that organizations require to start realizing the promise of many other emerging technologies. For example, greater capacity means the network can handle millions of IoT devices and the data streams they generate. Also, private 5G can be employed to create smart factories, where artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are used to automate processes, analyze data, and drive efficiencies. And 5G’s low latency enables new user experiences with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

Network slicing is a way to carve up 5G cellular bandwidth to create independent, virtual networks that segment designated traffic. Network slicing gives network operators flexibility in configuring and provisioning 5G network resources, which in turn can lead to new value-added services for business customers. Essentially, network slicing can ensure that devices get the performance they need for the associated use case. A network slice can also provide enterprises and other organizations with a more secure, end-to-end service.

Ultra-Reliable, Low-Latency Communications (URLLC) opens a range of possibilities in areas such as smart factories, autonomous guided vehicles, and advanced telemedicine. As URLLC services become available, they promise to bring advanced wireless connectivity to industrial robots, drones, and other technologies on the cusp of mainstream adoption. In time, URLLC may enable traffic management that is augmented by sensors and cameras, bio-connectivity of wireless-enabled medical devices, hologram-based training, and automated industrial controls in manufacturing plants.

Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC)—a 5G service that has been defined but not yet widely implemented—is designed to connect large numbers of devices that intermittently transmit small quantities of data. Massive sensing will entail millions and even billions of sensors that generate data from buildings, factories, or farm fields. mMTC will allow for more far-reaching IoT networks and Industry 4.0 scenarios, where AI, ML, cloud, and edge technologies are used to modernize industrial processes and distribution. Other potential use cases include fleet and asset management, inventory optimization, and health monitoring.

Security.

5G is secure by design. Known security gaps in 4G and previous generations have been fixed and network gateways have been tightened. 5G Standalone capabilities that contribute to stronger defenses include network slicing, encrypted interfaces, subscriber identities, network control plane, and user control plane. In addition, 5G Standalone employs a software-defined architecture, which allows for more fine-grained control of applications, signaling, authentication, and more.

5G's ability to create virtual networks gives organizations another way to protect sensitive operations and data. With network slicing, which is a feature of 5G Standalone, organizations can keep priority data and applications separated from other network traffic. Each slice has its own rules and protections that have been tailored for particular devices.

Voice, data, and text messages are protected using the strongest encryption algorithms. Other areas of security improvement in 5G include access authentication, subscriber privacy, a service-based architecture, and integrity protection.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming increasingly advanced. But those advancements can raise potential security challenges, with so many sensors, cameras, and other devices connected to a network. 5G has built-in security protections, buttressed by T-Mobile’s multipronged approach to securing IoT devices. The company imposes rigorous security standards and strict platform requirements on equipment manufacturers, which agree to periodic audits conducted by accredited third parties to test for compliance. T-Mobile also works with business customers to ensure they follow best practices and offers a fleet management capability that lets organizations deploy enhancements to many devices simultaneously rather than individually.

Enhancing operations.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, advances what began in an earlier era, when manufacturers started integrating computers and network connectivity into their daily operations. Industry 4.0, with its emphasis on digital manufacturing, promises to revolutionize the way businesses make and distribute products. This will be made possible, in part, by 5G’s reduced latency, faster speeds, and increased capacity—all of which are essential to the autonomous systems in a smart factory. 5G also provides the reliable, high-speed connectivity needed for edge computing, predictive maintenance, and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs).

5G enables businesses to operate more nimbly and efficiently. Additional efficiencies are possible when 5G is combined with edge computing, AI, and IoT. The possibilities include predictive maintenance, which translates into less downtime for a production line, and optimization enabled by the analysis of sensor data on a factory floor. Two of the big advantages of 5G are its higher speed and lower latency compared to other forms of wireless connectivity, which enable faster responses and business processes.

Enhanced automation becomes possible when businesses use 5G with edge computing, bringing processing power closer to where data is generated. The ability to process data locally provides the low-latency connectivity and bandwidth needed to operate production-line and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that can handle sequential and highly precise tasks. For example, AMRs can transport raw materials, sort finished products, and handle other tasks throughout the manufacturing process.

IoT is used to monitor utility meters, smart home appliances, warehouse inventory, and other distributed devices. With 5G, IoT networks become even more powerful and pervasive, extending to millions or billions of devices and generating vast amounts of data. Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC), a new standard being folded into 5G, allows for massive sensing. These next-gen IoT networks will extend faster, more reliable connectivity to fleets of vehicles, wearable technologies for sports and everyday activities, virtual healthcare, and much more.

Mobile devices, sensors, IoT, automated factories, edge computing, and autonomous vehicles are just some of the many sources driving exabytes of data across 5G networks. All of this raw data has potential business value if it’s aggregated, analyzed, and acted upon. To take advantage of this opportunity, a growing number of organizations are applying AI and ML to sift through these vast data stores and generate insights that can lead to new efficiencies and process improvements.

5G connectivity can help establish smooth-running business operations by enabling predictive maintenance, where sensor data is used to anticipate and address potential issues before they happen. Here’s how it works: Sensor-enabled IoT devices generate data, which is then used to identify trends and predict when an asset will require maintenance. Dozens of cameras can monitor the automated assembly of a product, then share data with an edge server for analysis, making it possible to recognize defects or potential quality problems.

The deployment of 5G can help manufacturers, consumer goods companies, and other businesses get a better handle on their supply chains and optimize operations based on real-time information about the status of the goods they buy and sell. Sensors, IoT platforms, and track-and-trace technologies give organizations greater visibility into everything from raw materials to finished products, from suppliers all the way through the distribution network. The low latency and speed of 5G allow businesses to track tagged items in transit and know their location, temperature, and other vital information.

5G and extended reality (XR)—which includes augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality—promise to transform the way people are trained. Immersive training via XR can help workers learn hands-on skills faster without the need for in-person instruction. Automotive companies, airlines, manufacturers, and companies in other industries stand to benefit from immersive training, which can reduce employee attrition, cut costs, and minimize mistakes. Immersive training also promises to enhance education by providing remote students with a learning experience that more closely approximates the classroom.

Employee empowerment.

Employees today expect the most-up-to-date technologies so they can be productive and successful at work. 5G’s lower latency, faster speeds, and greater capacity allow organizations to use the latest applications and collaboration tools to improve teamwork and efficiency, wherever employees may be located. Advanced networking can also be coupled with AR for training and to provide a safer work environment, both of which contribute to employee retention.

5G can help employers adapt to the tectonic shifts in the workplace. Organizations adopting the work-from-anywhere model will be more successful if employees are equipped with the bandwidth and tools that make physical proximity less necessary. 5G facilitates productivity whether an employee is in the office, at home, or on the road. 5G enables remote training and skills development and allows decentralized teams to send and receive data and digital assets in fractions of a second from just about anywhere.

5G implementation best practices.

Because 5G is a wireless technology, the same engineers who tend to an organization’s Wi-Fi and other network technologies can probably manage the upgrade to 5G. However, for those that need help, T-Mobile 5G Advanced Network Solutions offers a fully-managed service that entails planning, deployment, and maintenance. Beyond networking, the additional skills and talents an organization requires will depend on the other technologies and applications it deploys along with 5G.

A well-conceived 5G implementation plan balances today’s growing demands for advanced wireless capabilities with a long-term vision for new efficiencies and other business opportunities. Initial steps include:

  • Identifying potential use cases for 5G
  • Determining locations and early adopters
  • Evaluating 5G deployment options and network partners
  • Establishing objectives and a timeline for rollout

Following successful pilot projects and early-stage implementations, businesses can begin to deploy 5G to more users and locations. The process includes evaluating user requirements, assessing organizational data demands, considering business processes, and mapping out additional applications and use cases. As businesses begin to roll out 5G more widely, the entire organization, or large parts of it, stand to benefit from 5G’s impressive performance characteristics.

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