5G network: deployment, operation, uses and compatible smartphones

5g network

WHAT IS 5G Network?

5G network, or 5G NR (New Radio) is, as its name suggests, the 5th generation of mobile communications which will therefore succeed 4G LTE, and before it 3G and 2G. Among the flagship promises of 5G we find first a speed multiplied by 10, but also a greatly reduced latency which would be divided by 10.

Above all, 5G should make it possible to manage the growing number of connected devices. We are no longer just talking about smartphones, but also about computers, cars and a whole ecosystem of connected objects, especially in the professional world. Behind this last notion lies above all the idea that more and more autonomous machines will be connected to the mobile network: smart city, security, connected home, etc.

The deployment of 5G has already started in some countries, but should become more democratic from 2020 and in the following years.


5G incorporates technologies already used with 4G LTE, but differs in several very important points. First, 5G is a technological update to 4G LTE and can reuse the same frequency bands as the latter. Thanks to this update, a 5G smartphone can benefit from a better speed than a 4G smartphone, yet connected to the same antenna and using the same frequency.

5G also uses new frequency bands divided into two groups. The first includes the 5G Sub-6 frequency bands. The second, the millimeter wave group, significantly increases throughput at the expense of range.

In addition to this, 5G offers new technologies: the use of massive MIMO, the transition from an EPS core network to 5G, the use of SDN (software-defined networking) to manage certain functions such as software. Network Slicing, which allows the network to be separated according to real-time needs, and radio transmission techniques (generalization of 256 QAM modulation and OFDM coding for the downlink and uplink connection).


Millimeter waves, or mmWave, are a new frequency range used for 5G located in a spectrum between 30 and 300 GHz and between 24 GHz and 30 GHz, in the case of 5G. They allow much better throughput at the expense of range and the ability to pass through walls.

To understand the name of millimeter waves, we have to go back to the very definition of a radio wave. While we are often used to talking about frequency (in hertz) when we talk about electromagnetic waves, we must not forget that they are above all defined by their length. Wavelength simply represents the distance traveled by the wave during a period of oscillation as it propagates in a given space. The longer the wavelength, the shorter the frequency.

This length can vary from the femtometer (one millionth of a billionth of a meter) for gamma waves (a frequency above 15 exahertz) to radio waves located between 1 meter and 100 km (from 300 MHz to 3 kHz). Recall that against intuitively the famous “microwaves” are not of a length of the order of a micrometer, but are rather located between 1 mm (300 GHz) and 1 meter (300 MHz).

The millimeter waves, or mmWave, of 5G are quite simply waves with a wavelength of the order of a millimeter, that is to say much smaller than the wavelengths in meters or kilometers conventionally used. for radio waves.


DSS, or dynamic spectrum switching, allows on-the-fly switching directly from the antenna between 4G and 5G for each frequency band. This makes it possible to adjust the network in real time according to demand and gradually switch from 4G LTE to 5G, as the installed base of 5G devices increases.


The deployment of 5G can be done in several phases. Some countries have started to deploy their network using 5G NSA, or 5G Non-standalone. The idea is to continue using the operator’s 4G LTE core network while gradually adding 5G antennas, and in particular allowing the use of high frequencies in 5G NR.

In contrast, 5G SA, or 5G Standalone, represents the ideal deployment of 5G, where a device can use 5G technologies on both low and high frequencies, with a core network fully migrated to 5G NR . In this situation, the device no longer relies on 4G LTE technologies. This requires much larger investments, and will therefore only be available in the long term.

A 5G SA network. The core network has completely switched to 5G and offers new services. Credit: Qualcomm.
A 5G SA network. The core network has completely switched to 5G and offers new services. Credit: Qualcomm.


The 5G sub-6 designates the frequencies used in 5G and below the 6 GHz bar. These are frequencies allowing a better range than millimeter waves, but a lower maximum throughput. They include both the middle bands, which are new, and the low-frequency bands, which reuse frequencies used by 4G LTE.

We can more precisely distinguish the medium bands, in particular between 3.4 and 3.8 GHz in Europe which are new for 5G, from low frequencies, which have an even greater range and are used by 4G LTE.
Beamforming is a network technology also used by Wi-Fi and sometimes by 4G LTE. It filters the signal to create a direct connection between the device and the transmitting antenna, in other words to have a directed signal. This improves the stability of the transmitted signal and its strength, especially in saturated places, such as public places.

Read also ? Internet Speed ​​Test | What Is Your Internet Speed?


One of the new features of 5G is the use of massive MIMO, or massive MIMO. It provides better coverage of overcrowded areas such as stadiums, shopping centers or airports. Massive MIMO helps improve reliability, reduce latency, and increase throughput. Unlike traditional MIMO, which uses a few antennas per tower, massive MIMO relies on a hundred antennas to send the signal to connected devices.

Do not confuse 5G Dual Mode with the possibility of using two SIM cards, dual SIM, whether in 4G or 5G. 5G Dual Mode simply means that the device is compatible with both 5G SA and 5G NSA.

Deployment – Which Countries Have 5G?

South Korea is the country which deployed the first 5G network and the country is expected to stay in the lead as far as penetration of the technology goes, By 2025, almost 60 percent of mobile subscriptions in South Korea are expected to be for 5G networks.

The California-based network testing company Viavi Solutions published a report in February 2020 titled The State of 5G Deployments, which stated that 5G was at least partially available in 378 cities, in a total of 34 countries. These figures were calculated as of January 2020, drawing on data from publicly available sources, including company websites, press announcements, industry trade media, and local newspapers.

Broadly, the EMEA region (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) is top of the list with 168 cities with 5G networks. Asia ranks second with 156 cities, while the Americas in third has it in 53 cities. The 5G rollouts making the list include both mobile and fixed wireless networks.

The full Viavi list comprises:

San Marino

North and South America
Trinidad & Tobago

Middle East and Africa
Saudi Arabia
South Africa
United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Asia and Oceania
New Zealand
South Korea


As 5G networks began to be deployed worldwide before France, several brands already offer 5G compatible devices. We can especially mention the Samsung Galaxy S20 range, or the Oppo Find X2 Pro and the Sony Xperia 1 II for the year 2020. To push the adoption of 5G, Qualcomm announced that all smartphones equipped with the Snapdragon 865 or 765 will necessarily offer 5G. At Apple, all iPhone 12s are 5G compatible. However, only American models are compatible with millimeter bands.

The runoff is also much faster than for 4G and there are already 5G smartphones at a very affordable price. There are already 5G smartphones below 400 euros and even cheaper ones should be available from the beginning of 2021. We have a dedicated folder on 5G compatible smartphones that we invite you to consult to learn more.

At the software level, Android 11 will provide a better understanding of the type of network to which the device is connected, and differentiate between “LTE +”, “5Ge”, “5G” or “5G +”. For OS, 5G will correspond to 5G sub-6, while the 5G + logo will appear when connected to millimeter bands. The 5Ge logo will only be used in certain cases, notably in the United States, where operator AT&T has renamed its 4G + to 5Ge. You will understand, this is not a true 5G network at all.

But 5G isn’t just smartphones, it’s a whole new line of connected devices. We can in particular mention the Lenovo Yoga 5G or the new HP Dragonfly announced at CES 2020. We have already been able to take charge of the first 5G PC developed by Lenovo with Qualcomm and Microsoft. For Qualcomm, this is a technological weapon that will give it a strong argument for touting its Qualcomm Snapdragon chips for Windows 10 PCs against Intel.

Oppo, iPhone and Huawei have also already presented boxes capable of connecting to 5G. This type of device will make it possible to offer broadband access at home, as with 4G LTE. With the QTM527 chip, Qualcomm offers a component dedicated to future 5G boxes. Certain operators like Orange have already started experiments to one day offer this type of solution to their subscribers.


Debates on the effects of mobile networks on our health are recurrent and the arrival of 5G has of course raised these questions. Add to this the ever more fanciful conspiracy theories, such as the idea that 5G could help spread the coronavirus pandemic.

After researching the subject, the ICNIRP (International Commission for the Protection against Non-Ionizing Radiation) published its conclusions in March 2020: 5G is safe for our health as long as the recommendations of the commission are followed. The fears surrounding the new network mainly come from millimeter waves, but the committee’s recommendations are valid for the entire spectrum from 100 kHz to 300 GHz, ie well beyond millimeter waves.

5G is great, but what will be the new concrete uses of this new generation of mobile networks? How will our daily life evolve?

The promoters of 5G are making a lot of promises around the speed of this new standard. We are talking about speeds that could reach 20 Gbit / s thanks to millimeter waves. Of course, it will be necessary to see what the actual speeds offered to subscribers will be in use. We bet they’ll be somewhere between 100 Mbps and a few Gbps instead. In addition, the very gradual deployment of 5G should not allow these speeds to be reached quickly.

As we have said, 5G will allow an increase in speeds, the number of connected devices and a reduction in latency. These three segments will unlock new uses.

New uses for 5G. Credit: Arcep
New uses for 5G. Credit: Arcep

The improvement in speeds first, which will naturally increase the size of downloads of applications and games, but especially the definition of streaming videos. With 5G, streaming video in 4K, then eventually 8K, shouldn’t be a problem.

Still in the area of ​​streaming, but using latency reduction this time, the arrival of 5G should allow the emergence of cloud gaming: playing console games from the cloud directly on your smartphone. This is one of the bets of Google Stadia, but also of Microsoft with xCloud, which has partnered in South Korea with a first operator offering 5G.

The reduction in latency should also allow the creation of new applications in real time, in particular with the use of augmented reality, or critical applications such as telemedicine. These remain promises today and we will have to wait to see if they actually materialize.

Finally, the increase in the number of connected devices should allow the emergence of more and more connected objects. Not necessarily in private homes, but especially in public places with more and more connected sensors.

Sources: World Health Organization (WHO), European Commission, NCBI

Photo source: DENAN Production / Flickr


Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *