4G and 5G are cellular network technology. The technology is used to define mobile networks that allow wireless Internet access. The potential strength of any mobile network is that it connects the user even if he/she is travelling at a higher speed.
How Mobile Network Works?
Every mobile network has three functional components – Radio Access Network, Core Network and Transport Network.
- Radio Access Network – It is one to which your mobile phone connects. These are the towers installed on the tall buildings of the city.
- Core Network – It is the central processing component that calculates and connects your call to the right person.
- Transport Network – It connects the radio access network and core network to build a cellular network.
In the section ahead, we will compare 4G and 5G technology with the help of the comparison chart. Ahead we will discuss both technologies in detail. So, let us start.
Content: 4G Vs 5G
- Comparison Chart
- What is 4G?
- What is 5G?
- Key Differences
|Basis for Comparison
|4th generation cellular network
|5th generation cellular network
|60 to 98 ms
|Less than 5 ms
|20 MHz channels
|100 to 800 MHz channels
(Number of Devices)
|200 to 400 user per cell
|100 times greater than 4G
What is 4G?
4G is the fourth-generation technology we use to create a broadband cellular or mobile network. This technology succeeds 3G and precedes 5G. International Telecommunication Union (ITU) defines the characteristic feature of the 4G cellular standard.
As 4G succeeds 3G and 2G, it obviously introduces increased bandwidth speed and better network capacity.
In 1990, 2G was introduced, and mobile phone users could only make phone calls and send text messages.
Further, in 2003 when 3G was introduced, mobile users, apart from making phone calls and texting messages, could access the Internet (browsing web pages, downloading music and video on the move) and make video calls. The 4G technology offers all services that 3G could but at a much faster rate.
How 4G Works?
The 4G cellular network divides the geographical area into cells. Each cell has a base station/cell tower that connects wireless devices to the network and Internet via radio signals. When 4G devices activate, they connect with the base stations, which relay data from the Internet to your device and vice versa.
The 4G cellular networks are based on the OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing) with MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output). OFDM offers faster speed, and with MIMO, the 4G network reduces congestion compared to the previous 3G technology. 4G is an all-IP network, meaning it uses IP for data and voice.
Types of 4G Network
The 4G technology forks into two broader categories, i.e. LTE (Long Term Evolution) and WiMAX.
When ITU defined the standards for 4G, operators needed more hardware and networks to achieve the standards defined for 4G. So, the roadmap they chose to achieve those standards was named LTE, i.e. Long-Term Evolution. At the same time, 3G design and deployment were also improving.
So, ITU decided to draw LTE networks performing better than 3G networks under the name of 4G.
On the other hand, IEEE formed a group to standardize the wireless metropolitan network (WMAN). It was numbered 802.16 and was drawn under the name of WiMAX, i.e. Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access.
Like, other 802 standards, even the WiMAX (802.16) was based on the OSI model. WiMAX is all about wirelessly connecting mobile or portable devices to the Internet. It was designed to carry IP packets over the air and connect to an IP-based wired network without any ruckus.
WiMAX is far more similar to 3G in several aspects. WiMAX has a powerful base station that can transmit weaker signals over a larger distance. It requires a licensed spectrum, around 2.5 GHz, in the US. With all these features, 802.16 (WiMAX) closely resembles 4G cellular networks.
So, WiMAX and 4G LTE are almost on the verge of collision in terms of technology and application.
What is 5G?
5G is the 5th generation of cellular networks that succeeds 4G cellular technology. As it’s an advanced technology, it offers enhanced speed and reduced latency compared to 4G. The theoretical speed of a 5G network is 20 Gbps.
5G is expected to drive the digitalization of industries and improve other digital experiences such as online gaming, video conferencing, live streaming etc. Apart from being faster, 5G has increased bandwidth, enabling it to connect more and more devices in a network.
However, there is no specific organization behind the launching of 5G; it was developed in cooperation with many different companies across the globe.
How 5G Works?
Like all cellular networks, even a 5G network divides the geographic area into sections called cells. A local antenna is installed in each cell to which all the wireless devices are connected through radio waves. This connection allows them to access the Internet.
Many cell phone companies started deploying the 5G network from the year 2019. Like 4G, even 5G networks are based on OFDM, where multiple users share one channel by dividing the available bandwidth into different overlapping, closely spaced subchannels. MIMO enables multiple transmitters and receivers to transfer more data simultaneously.
Types of 5G
The 5G network consists of three different network types where. Each type operates on a different radio signal and thereby possesses different characteristics.
1. Low-band 5G
The low-band 5G network transmits signals from 600 MHz to 900 MHz, providing nearly nationwide coverage. Although it covers a large area, it offers a slower speed of around 50 Mbps. The low-band 5G can transmit the signals to a longer distance but has a lower capacity for carrying data.
2. Mid-Band 5G
The mid-band 5G network transmits signals at 1 GHz to 6 GHz and offers a proper balance between coverage and speed. This network provides a broader coverage across suburbs and cities and offers a speed of 100 to 900 Mbps. The network can transport a larger amount of data but can’t travel as far.
3. High-Band 5G
The high-band 5G network transmits signals at the frequency of 24GHz and offers the fastest speed of nearly 1 Gbps. The high-band 5G network is deployed to cover the shorter distance in urban areas.
Key Differences Between 4G and 5G
- 4G is the fourth generation of broadband cellular networks. However, 5G is the fifth generation of the broadband cellular network.
- The theoretical speed of 4G is 1 Gbps. On the other hand, the theoretical speed of 5G is 20 Gbps which is much faster than 4G.
- The latency time of 4G is 60 to 98 ms. However, it is highly reduced to 5 ms in 5G; the lower latency leverages faster-downloading speed.
- 4G uses large cell towers to transmit signals to the wireless devices present in the cell. However, the 5G introduced small cell technology, and to promise its faster speed, the cell towers in each cell deliver higher frequency but over a shorter range. Thus, compared to 4G, the cell towers in 5G must be densely deployed.
- Both 4G and 5G use OFDM to separate different subchannels to avoid interference, but these networks use different channels. 4G uses 20 MHz channels, whereas 5G uses 100 to 800 MHz channels.
- The small cell technology introduced by 5G networks supports larger cell density, thereby enhancing network capacity. It means with a large network capacity, 5G supports more devices. However, 4G only supports 200 to 400 users per cell.
Regarding 4G and 5G networks, the 5G networks aim to exceed the 4G goal of faster speed, lower latency and larger density. However, 5G networks can only accomplish some goals on day one. Deploying a 5G network may take several years, or it may happen just like 4G, 5G also falls short and only partially meets its high goals.