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Kevin Williams

5G and What You Should Know

Kevin Williams

  • Jun 25, 2020
  • 7 Min read
  • Jun 25, 2020
  • 7 Min read


This guide provides you with a first look, as we see it today, at how 5G operates differently than earlier generations of mobile networks. At this time, many of the component's parts are yet to be built out and are merely concepts. This guide is aimed at those with an interest in how implementation of this new technology could be integrated into their business processes.

What You Should Know

5G will offer the opportunity for everyone to access a quality, high speed, low latency mobile network. It is also possible that it will be more efficient and use less electricity, meaning lower power bills for carriers as well as less impact on the environment.

As this is a completely new technology it requires the use of new end user devices, such as handsets, and a new infrastructure to transmit and receive signals. There will be a need to deploy large numbers of new cellular transmitters, such as small cells, to provide 5G service coverage over wide areas.

Users will have a greater ability to create large quantities of data such as pictures, movies, or sensor data, which can be transferred at speed onto a local network or the internet. A task that could take 10 minutes on 4G LTE, such as downloading a high-definition film, could take seconds on 5G.

Imgur 5G utilizes millimeter waves, which use higher frequencies than the radio waves that have long been used for mobile phones. They are called millimeter waves because they vary in length from 1 to 10 mm, compared to the radio waves that serve today’s smartphones, which measure tens of centimeters in length. Source

Previously, only satellites and radar operators used millimeter waves for real-world applications. Some cellular providers have previously begun to use them to send data between stationary points, such as two base stations. Using millimeter waves to connect mobile users with a nearby base station is an entirely new approach.

The drawback to utilizing millimeter waves is that they can’t easily travel through buildings or obstacles, so indoor coverage is limited. That’s why 5G networks will augment traditional cellular towers with small local cells. Source

5G’s Three Distinct Capabilities


It is intended that over time 5G will offer three distinct capabilities:

Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) Source

eMBB is defined as an extension to existing 4G broadband services and will be the first commercial 5G service enabling faster and more reliable downloads. This will provide hugely increased data rates, high user density, and very high traffic capacity for hotspot scenarios, as well as seamless coverage and high mobility. The threshold defined for eMBB is set at a minimum of 20Gbps for downlink and 10Gbps for uplink. This will improve video conferencing and advance new services like augmented and virtual reality.

Ultra-reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC) Source

URLLC promises to deliver ultra-reliable and low-latency communication for 5G wireless networks. URLLC is designed to support businesses on mission-critical communication scenarios, such as emergency situations and autonomous systems operations, among others. Examples include public safety services, operations of mining, autonomous vehicles, oil and gas pipelines, robots, medical services, and entertainment.

Machine Type Communications (MTC) Source

For Internet of Things (IoT), which requires low power consumption and low data rates, MTC is intended for use with very large numbers of connected devices. MTC has been further classified as massive machine‐type communication (mMTC) and ultra‐reliable machine‐type communication (uMTC). While mMTC is about wireless connectivity to tens of billions of machine‐type terminals, uMTC is about availability, low latency, and high reliability. The main challenge in mMTC is to deliver scalable and efficient connectivity for a massive number of devices sending very short packets, which is not done adequately in cellular systems designed for human‐type communications. Furthermore, mMTC solutions need to enable wide area coverage and deep indoor penetration while having low cost and being energy efficient. MTC will offer the following opportunities:

  • High density of devices (about 200000 in 1M sq. km) Source
  • Low data rate (approx. 1-100 Kbps, esp. uplink)
  • Asynchronous access (accessing the network sporadically)
  • Low-cost Internet of Things (IoT endpoints with long life batteries)
  • Cost efficiency
  • Low power consumption
  • Long time availability

What Should I Be concerned About?

Mobile devices and their installed apps disclose a large amount of private information, both personal and device-related, mostly through misbehaving apps, PUAs (potentially unwanted applications), adware, and ransomware. Nefarious activities such as deployment of malicious software, unauthorized activities, and interception of information are all privacy violations. Potential solutions include a means to protect the user’s privacy at the app layer. These include:

  • On demand, user-driven device and app privacy controls
  • A service that checks the privacy risk of devices and their installed apps
  • A tool to declare a human-readable privacy policy
  • An app-level service that provides privacy policy analysis. Imgur 5G creates different trust domains. Examples include the Radio Access Network domain, the Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) component, and the core network. The significance point is the handoff between the domains. Whenever you have traffic crossing the trust boundary, you have to look at how the recipient is going to authenticate the senders of the message. You need to consider how you are going to validate the integrity of the message so that you can both be assured that you know the sender is not being spoofed and the message has not been tampered with.


What are your next steps? Identify the relevance of 5G for your organization, pay attention to the 5G rollout in your area, and conduct research on the different technology components that are relevant for your particular use cases. Then run each use case through a threat model. This will help influence your procurement process and design a strategy for continuous control, testing and monitoring.

If you are interested in a high level technical overview of the technologies that are driving the need for next generation mobile networks you can view our course, 5G Networks: Executive Briefing. I also recommend our course entitled Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC): Executive Briefing.