Every decade or so, the wireless industry rolls out a brand new cellular communications standard that may transmit more data more quickly. Already under development is the next round, called 5G because its the 5th major generation of those standards for encoding and transmitting data over radio waves. The first generation, retroactively called 1G, was a completely analogue system for transmitting voice. Subsequent generations, 3G in 2000 and 4G in 2010, made technical improvements that brought data rates up from 200 kilobits per second to hundreds of megabits per second. With 2020 approaching, 5G is likely to transmit 1 gigabit per second and perhaps as much as 10. 

Data rate increases in mobile data – From the eighties to what is expected for 2020, each generation of wireless transmission has sent and received more data in less time, with important improvements in latest years. Having the ability to receive and send that much data so rapidly opens new opportunities for augmented and virtual reality systems, as well as automation. For example, self driving vehicles could communicate with one another, road signs, traffic signals, guard rails along with other elements human drivers simply see. That would require a further technical leap reducing what’s called latency, or the delay between when a signal is sent and once its received, to 1 millisecond. 

– Achieving high data rates with low latency requires a number of technical changes, including sending data using higher radio frequencies and designing arrays of antennas to reduce interference between many devices all communicating at the same time. Together these add up to a 5G network with lots of more base stations each of which is physically smaller compared to a current cellular tower and places much more closely together. 5G base stations might be placed every 250 meters, as opposed to the every 1 to 5 km needed for 4G. Additionally, 5G systems offer the ability to provide reliable connections to massive numbers of wireless devices simultaneously. This could enable a big expansion of the number of internet of things devices in use, monitoring nutrients in soil for farmers, package positions for shipping companies and vital signs for hospital patients, for example. Early 5G networks are being rolled out now in some U.S. The Tokyo Olympic games in 2020 are supposed to present the first showcases of the full range of what 5G technology can offer.