Cell phones first started out on an analog network that allowed people to communicate using brick-like mobile phones. The standards evolved to 2G, which allowed for digital service and expanded voice communication. 3G allowed for the use of data, letting us connect to the internet with our phones. 4G's main innovation was speed, allowing people to access data about 10 times faster than 3G.
5G would improve wireless networks in several areas:
Faster data transfer. The proposed 5G standards would theoretically be 10 times faster than 4G, allowing people to access items on their phone that require more data quickly. It could be useful when streaming 4K live TV or a VR application on your mobile device.
"It's not really made so your videos are going to stream better on Facebook," said Gartner principal research analyst Bill Menezes. "But to be able to stream television in addition to internet access, in that respect you'll need 5G — especially to stream 4K ultra-high-definition television."
Quicker response time. 5G would also reduce latency, or the amount of time it takes data to be transferred from device to device. This would especially be important for connected devices that need quick reaction times, like connected cars that may need to slam on breaks or robotic surgery devices where a millimeter could mean the difference between life and death.
"It could enable the 'tactile internet,' where the latency is so short when you are doing something you are filling the other end because the feedback is so quick," Gartner research vice president Mark Hung said.
More devices. The technology allows cell towers to support more devices, which means hundreds of thousands of internet of things objects could connect using cellular networks. It would also allow for 5G modems, which would allow customers to use cellular networks to connect to the internet at home instead of using phone lines or cable modems.