5G Technology and Capabilities

5G isn’t just a fatter pipe. 5G leads a major transformation from a two-dimensional voice and data service to a multi-dimensional networking platform. 5G is built to touch most operational points of a business — from immersive applications to vehicles to IoT. This transformation includes three services, three spectrum layers, and diverse infrastructure.

The mobile network operators and standards bodies have chosen to roll out 5G technology in increments. This means rather than waiting years for one very disruptive change, organizations can participate in the incremental technology benefits as they roll out. It also means businesses and agencies need to choose enterprise-class 5G solutions that will align with the network operator rollouts for a seamless transition experience.

5G Capabilities and Services

The 5G NR standard offers three categories of services. Most focus on the enhanced mobile broadband service that promises to deliver more than 10X speeds of 4G LTE and will rival most wired WAN services. 5G mobile broadband services started rolling out in 2019.

The 5G NR standard also has been designed to provide ultra-low latency for applications from autonomous driving to robotics to health services. With the well-recognized explosion of IoT, the 5G NR standard includes built-in ability to handle massive amounts of lower-power, low-bandwidth sensors and devices. The ultra-low latency and massive IoT capabilities will be introduced with the new standalone 5G core and will begin rolling out in 2022.

Business Implication: Organizations can immediately deploy the enhanced mobile broadband element of 5G — taking advantage of many 5G capabilities and business benefits — while planning for applications that will take advantage of low-latency and IoT capabilities.

5G Spectrum Layers

Unlike prior wireless generations, 5G adds two spectrum layers to the current layer. Each category of 5G spectrum has tradeoffs between propagation and performance. For decades cellular communications have occurred in what is now being called the “coverage layer.” The coverage layer operates in sub-2 GHz spectrum, providing great propagation but comparable low data capacity.

The first of the two new layers introduced with 5G is the “high-capacity layer,” also called high-band or mmWave, operates in the 24 GHz + spectrum range. As the name denotes, this layer promises to deliver between 1 and 3 Gbps speeds when fully mature. Because of its low propagation characteristics, this layer will take some time to fully build out.

The second of the two new layers introduced with 5G is the “capacity layer,” or mid-band, which operates in the 2 GHz to 7 GHz spectrum range. As many believe this is the ideal layer, most countries have started rolling out in this spectrum layer. In the U.S., T-Mobile offered 5G mid-band spectrum network (2.5 GHz) in 2020 and Verizon and AT&T began offering mid-band services based on their purchases of spectrum (3.7-3.98 GHz) known as C-Band.

Business Implication: When organizations buy edge networking solutions today, they need to plan the 5G technology needs of tomorrow. The wireless broadband routers and adapters are those that can support multiple spectrum layers and use cases.

Coverage Layer
Sub-2 GHz Low-Band 5G Gigabit-Class LTE 4G LTE
Capacity Layer
2 GHz to 7 GHz Mid-Band 5G C-Band (3.7 GHz - 3.98 GHz)
High-Capacity Layer
24 GHz + High-Band 5G (mmWave)

Diverse Infrastructure for Different Types of 5G

Because each spectrum layer has different radio properties, the towers and antennas vary accordingly. In the low-band layer, the infrastructure and placement are relatively similar to current 4G deployments. In the mmWave range, towers are shorter, discrete, and more densely placed. The antennas are designed for short distances and use techniques like beamforming to overcome propagation shortfalls. Yet other antennas are designed to support new technologies like massive MIMO that produce greater capacity out of the same spectrum.

Business Implication: Choosing the right 5G partner and network operator for each situation will help organizations optimize their performance by taking full advantage of 5G capabilities.

Find where and how 5G fits your organization

As 5G is built out across spectrum layers, some high-bandwidth applications can be deployed now. Low-band 5G or Gigabit-Class LTE can run applications ranging from agricultural autonomous driving to medium-traffic failover. As the rollout advances, the capacity and high-capacity spectrum layers in the diagram below will expand outward, offering exciting opportunities for organizations.

Find your 5G edge networking solution

Whether your organization has a fleet of tech-dependent vehicles or a growing number of distributed locations, Cradlepoint has a 5G wireless edge solution that is designed to meet your unique needs. Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Service and 5G-enabled routers help you join the future of business — today.

Explore 5G Routers and Adapters

Interested in 5G for business? Learn how organizations are using a wide range of 5G solutions today and planning for tomorrow.