Digital Economy: What telecoms consumers should know between 4G, 5G Networks

*Experts say 5G technology is becoming ‘humongous’ with over 60 countries worldwide, but the 4G Networks will be the ‘workhorse’ of coverage and capacity till 5G gets fully implemented in the global digital ecosystem

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

Over 60 countries across the world, including Nigeria, have activated the Fifth Generation (5G) technology to substantially improve the consumer network experience in the digital ecosystem.

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Recall in the West African country, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had licensed three mobile telecoms operators, including MTN Nigeria, Mafab Communications Limited and Airtel Networks Limited, for the deployment of 5G networks.

5G Consumer experience in Nigeria

The country’s telecoms sector regulator has stressed the 5G technology is designed to advance digital services and enhance quality communications and/or infrastructure for the benefit of telecoms consumers and the Nigerian economy.

ConsumerConnect had reported that MTN and Mafab Communications had won the first two 5G Spectrum licences in line with the Information Memorandum (IM) of the 3.5GHz spectrum auction that the Commission earlier conducted December 13, 2021, in Abuja, FCT.

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The MTN already activated the technology via the provision of 5G services to its consumers as of August 24, 2022, in selected cities across Nigeria, while Mafab Communications is reportedly performing a test-run of the network.  Airtel is equally set for nationwide deployment of similar services soon, report said.

Airtel Networks also, has paid the NCC $316.7million for 100 MHz of spectrum in the 3500MHz band for the deployment of 5G networks, and 2x5MHz of 2600MHz to boost its existing 4G network coverage in the country.

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Despite the launch of the new technology in Nigeria, and  tens of other economies around the globe, millions of telecoms consumers still use 4G technology in their countries’ digital ecosystem.

Wireless Broadband, streaming, gaming and heavy data consumption became feasible with 4G Networks, according to report.

Introducing the 5G technology

Now, experts say 5G Networks add more capacity, speed, and processing power to previous networks, stated the India Spectrum Holding Timeline 2022 in its Spectrum Holdings and 5G Rollout Timeline report.

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The report said it was worth noting that the network technology also plays a vital role in the battery consumption of consumers’ devices.

Mobile network consumers

From smart devices to Industrial Robots, 5G Networks can cater to every use case, it stated.

How 4G boosted the digital world

It was learnt that the 4G era of the Internet actually boosted the digital world, and made it integral to every aspect of human life.

5G becoming ‘humongous’ worldwide

“The 5G network is becoming humongous with around over 60 countries worldwide.

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“5G is designed not just for smartphones and is more than a network,” the report said.

As regards the 5G consumer experience in India, for instance, the report stated the country is fast witnessing the rollout of 5G, and the 4G technology will be the workhorse of coverage and capacity till 5G gets fully implemented.

Fundamental differences between 4G and 5G Networks

While consumers still use 4G Networks, and they are going to stay and work along with 5G Networks in tandem, 5G is the buzzword now, source stated.

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But what’s that unique thing you can do with 5G that you cannot on 4G?

As of now, it is said that it is “somewhat difficult” to give a specific use case from a consumer perspective.

However, it is noted that there are differences between 4G and 5G, and how exactly 5G can change the connected lives and experiences.

Who actually created 5G technology?

The 5G technology was developed in “cooperation between many different companies and organisations across the globe, through the 3GPP organisation.”

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It was gathered that companies across the world with expertise in many fields and technologies came together to build it.

This global standardisation and compatibility will ensure that a mobile device manufactured in India can be used while you are travelling to any other country on a different cellular network.

5G is the modern solution

Wireless Broadband, streaming, gaming and heavy data consumption became feasible with 4G, thanks to 4G Networks. Nonetheless, 5G adds “more capacity and speed”.

Experts, in the report, also stressed there is a limit to how much information radio waves carry, depending on the frequency band and technology used.

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If a large number of users get connected to a specific cell site, for someone the experience may be better, and someone experiences a degraded network.

According to them, 5G solves this problem, as the new technology adds more capacity for a large number of devices to get connected simultaneously.

Hence, the consumer network experience improves.

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ConsumerConnect further gathered the 5G technology was designed to provide more capacity, enabling “a range of new types of smart devices and industry digitalisation with innovative use cases.”

Efficient battery utilisation

Do you know that network technology as well plays a vital role in the battery consumption of consumers’ devices?

As 5G Networks take care of the Internet of Things (IoT) use cases, those tiny devices with little battery capacity stay connected on 5G Networks for longer durations.

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A 5G Network antenna uses a relatively small amount of power (less than 1 W up to a few hundred watts) depending upon the type.

5G Radio frequencies

5G Networks work on High-band (26 GHz), Mid-band (3300 MHz) and Low-band (<1 GHz) frequencies.

As in the case of Nigeria, it was learnt that in India, spectrum in 5G bands had been successfully auctioned, and Telcos purchased what they have deemed good for business use cases and complement the existing spectrum.

However, 5G can also be deployed on other bands in which 4G is currently in use, report said.

The 5G and 4G Networks can also dynamically share spectrum based on the usage scenario.l, experts noted.

5G can connect far more devices

Though 4G Networks got telecoms consumers the “taste of speeds”, it is said  to take it to next level, 5G technology is needed.

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It is also observed that consumers must have already experienced congested networks in highly dense areas on 4G networks.

The video buffering and lag are a result of the congested networks on 4G, report noted.

According to expert, the core purpose of 5G Networks is to solve this problem.

5G Networks intelligently transmit to each device with much precision, enabling the Networks to handle as largely as 1 million devices per square kilometre.

5G is designed not just for Smartphones, because with 4G or lower generation Networks, it’s only the mobile devices which got significant importance, something like one-size fits all kind of connectivity.

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However, 5G focuses on “connecting everything and everyone on the wireless networks”.

From smart devices to Industrial Robots, 5G Networks can cater to every use case, expert said.

It is more than a network, as experts have always emphasised how 5G is more of an experience to telecoms consumers.

While 4G Networks made cloud services accessible to end customers and businesses, 5G Networks have processing power built-in.

The 5G network can act as a distributed data centre that performs processing tasks.

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For smart devices which use AR, VR, smart glasses, and gaming use cases – Edge computing can immensely help bring the power of processing closer to the user, thereby reducing the load on mobile devices and enhancing performance and saving battery, among others.

Latency capacity

In terms of latency, it is stated that latency measures the time taken to transfer a packet of data between two given points.

Currently, 4G has a latency of 50 milliseconds, but 5G offers a better latency of around 1ms.

Such a low latency facilitates a great streaming experience.

Network coverage

Millimetre waves (26 GHz) offer less coverage when compared to the other 5G Bands (700 MHz and 3300 MHz), and hence need extensive infrastructure deployments, report said.

Whatever theoretical coverage numbers we discuss, the practical scenario will always be different when it comes to wireless networks in real-life use cases.

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In such cases, small cell deployments can be of some help to extend coverage.

5G Low band spectrum offers blanket coverage – 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz

5G mid-band spectrum provides coverage and capacity – 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz, 3300 MHz

5G high-band spectrum delivers super-fast speeds over short distances – 26 GHz

Spectrum in the 1 GHz – 6 GHz range is a mid-band spectrum and is considered ideal for 5G because it can carry plenty of data while also travelling notable distances, thereby delivering capacity and coverage.

The millimetre wave spectrum is limited because signals can’t travel very far.

However, let’s not completely discount the wonders that 4G has unlocked for us in terms of mobile connectivity and broadband.

The digital world was significantly increased and made indispensable to every area of human life throughout the 4G Internet age.

Now, countries as India is witnessing very fast 5G rollouts that put its 5G networks on Global Maps and scale, according to report.

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