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Need to Know: 5G

By Jeff Baumgartner. New platform will accelerate wireless speeds, connect the Internet of Things—and drive competition.

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Need to Know, a monthly feature where we explain complex topics and demonstrate how they apply to each industry we serve. Need to Know stories appear on our websites and in our magazines. Keep coming back for future topics, to include cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.

The race to build out “fiber in the sky” is on.

The next-gen mobile standard known as 5G, the fifth generation of the technology, is poised to create a new platform that is not just faster, but much more agile than today’s state-of-the-art 4G (also known as Long Term Evolution, or LTE) networks.

Expected to debut wide in the next two years, it’s the latest in the continuum of every innovation in wireless technology, and it promises to disrupt—if not complement—many industries with lightning-fast communication speeds.

5G will roll out as a network of cell sites offering gigabit-level speeds (100x faster than today’s highest speeds) over fiber lines, and lower latency (no more hourglass or spinning beachball icons!)

The technology will also underpin a vast array of fixed (non-mobile) and mobile devices, services, and applications across an array of industries, including entertainment, education, music, and medicine. Consumers need only a modem to connect.

5G and Video Production
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But T-Mobile’s focus on the wide-area benefits of the 600 MHz band for its 5G rollout underscores a critical factor in the rollout of 5G: Not all spectrum is created equal. Millimeter wave signals don’t propagate well over long distances, have difficulty in the presence of trees and buildings, and require almost perfect line of sight.

“They hardly like air,” Robert Howald, Comcast’s vice president of network architecture, said at an industry event last year. He was making a joke, but he also makes an important point—it’s unlikely that any 5G strategy will be able to live successfully on millimeter wave spectrum alone.

There is much to be worked out, but 5G is poised to be a game-changer for anything streamed or downloaded.

Jeff Baumgartner is senior content producer—technology at Multichannel News.

Need to Know More?
Do you have a burning question about 5G? Or maybe there’s a particular topic you’d like to see us tackle in future installments of Need to Know. Email us at and we’ll put our top minds on it!

Other Industries

5G and Television [TV Technology]

5G and Cable [Multichannel News]

5G and ProAV [AV Network]

5G and CE Retail [TWICE]

5G and Education [Tech & Learning]

5G and Pro Audio [Pro Sound News]

5G as a Platform [Sound & Video Contractor]

5G and Residential Integration [Residential Systems]

5G and Radio [Radio World]