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Differences between 4G and 5G

Uday Parida

At present, over 90% of end-users in many countries use the fourth generation of mobile phone technology (4G). The subscribers are keen to switch to the fifth-generation wireless technology (5G) to boost their video and gaming experience. Many telecom companies are working on facilitating and accelerating 5G implementation. Analysts believe that 5G will start transforming the mobile network experience in 2020. Likewise, several market research studies predict that most end users will soon switch from 4G to 5G.

According to a market forecast report released by Allied Market Research,

“The global 5g technology market is anticipated to be at $5.53 billion in 2020, and is projected to reach $667.90 billion by 2026, registering a CAGR of 122.3% from 2021 to 2026. Asia-Pacific would be the highest contributor to the global market, with $2.20 billion in 2020, and is estimated to reach $329.09 billion by 2026, registering a CAGR of 130.7% during forecast period.”

The telecom companies across the world have started 5G field trials to switch to next-generation wireless technology. But 5G networks are much more complex than 4G networks. The telecom companies have to address many challenges to implement 5G successfully. Also, they need to switch from conventional radio access network (RAN) to open radio access network (OpenRAN) to accelerate 5G implementation. Hence, it is time for both individual and enterprise users to understand the important differences between 4G and 5G.

Differences between 4G and 5G: How Does 5G Differ from 4G?

Enhanced Speed

5G will transform network experience by providing much higher bandwidth and capacity than 4G. It improved bandwidth delivery using much wider bandwidth technologies like mmWave and sub-6 GHz. The maximum speed of 4G is limited to 1Gbps. But 5G will deliver high speed mobility up to 500 km/h and increase the user experienced data rate to 100mbits/s. The ultra low latency delivered by 5G will further contribute to speed up the next generation wireless telecommunication.

Lower Latency

According to the 3GPP Release 15 specification, ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC) is one of the most prominent application scenarios of 5G technology. Latency refers to the amount of time required to process a request made by the end user. The 5G spec emphasizes on reducing latency to just 1 millisecond. The lower latency and ultra-high reliability will make 5G effective in supporting a wide range of mission-critical applications and solutions – remote surgery, smart grid, industrial internet, and intelligent transportation systems. Also, users can take advantage of the reduced latency to boost real-time video calling and streaming experience.

Network Technologies

4G delivers better network experience than 3G using advanced technologies like Single Carrier FDMA, Multi-carrier CDM, and Interleaved FDMA. Also, it improved data transmission speed using OFDM as the basic signal format. 5G will operate based on the existing 4G LTE mobile networking principles. But it will complement OFDM with 5G NR Air Interface and sub-6 GHz and mmWave. The advanced network technologies will make 5G effective in driving various mobile devices and IoT devices.

New Generation Architecture

The 4G architecture is still primarily driven by traditional radio access network (RAN). But 5G networks will be much more complex and dynamic than 4G networks. The telecom companies have to upgrade their existing infrastructure by switching from RAN to cloud RAN (C-RAN) and virtual RAN (vRAN). Also, they will take advantage of OpenRAN to boost network performance and reduce infrastructure cost by integrating software and hardware components produced by various vendors.


4G technology often struggles to maintain network performance during peak hours. The internet speed keeps reducing as more and more users connect to the same network simultaneously. 5G technology maintains and boosts network experience despite a surge in the number of concurrent users reducing latency and network congestion. The enhanced speed of the 5G technology will even enable many users to stream videos without any buffering at a time.

Machine Type Communication

According to the 3GPP Release 15 specification, massive machine type communications (mMTC) is a key feature of 5G. The feature aims to make a large number of connected devices transmit various amounts of traffic internally. The consistent increase in the number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices will make enterprises upgrade from 4G to 5G to facilitate seamless machine-to-machine (M2M) interactions.

Device Intelligence

4G lacks the capability to differentiate fixed devices from mobile devices. Hence, it does not customize network experience according to the device. But 5G differentiates between fixed devices and mobile devices using cognitive radio techniques. The cognitive radio techniques make 5G to customize internet connection by choosing the most appropriate delivery channel according to precise device capabilities.

Optimal Video Experience

As highlighted by a recent survey, “More than 40% of respondents stream video on their mobile devices daily, while over 25% said they do so at least weekly.” 5G is expected to be over 100 times faster than 4G. The enhanced speed will enable users to download and stream HD videos in a few seconds. For instance, an individual user can reduce the amount of time required to download a two-hour movie from seven minutes to 10 seconds by switching from 4G to 5G. Many end-users are expected to switch from 4G to 5G by 2021 to boost video experience.

New Challenges

Both device manufacturers and telecom companies will switch from 4G to 5G in the near future. But they have to address a variety of new challenges to adopt and implement 5G technologies. For instance, experts expect 5G to impact the battery life of devices by consuming more power. Hence, manufacturers have to explore ways to build devices that deliver 5G performance without draining batteries. Likewise, the telecom companies have to upgrade their existing infrastructures to acquire more customers and retain existing customers by delivering richer network experience consistently.

4G is currently the most preferred mobile network of both individual and enterprise users. Many analysts and bloggers believe that 2020 is the year that 5G will begin transforming the mobile network experience. 5G will not going to make 4G obsolete in near future. But the end-users will gradually switch from 4G to 5G. Hence, they should know the major differences between the fourth generation and fifth-generation wireless technologies before switching from 4G to 5G.

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