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The Journey to 5G

Find the right path forward for your unique networking requirements – today and tomorrow

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Your 5G Planning Starts Here

5G networks are part of a major digital transformation trend that is impacting consumer and commercial spaces. New devices and applications are emerging on the market that take advantage of the dramatically reduced latency and much higher throughput that 5G offers. It's an exciting time. Like with previous generations, consumers are leading the 5G adoption, followed by commercial, industrial, government and medical markets.

Partner with Digi to evaluate your needs and migration plans to make the best possible choice for your use case. At any time, if you have a critical decision to make to support your network device planning, IoT application development or long-term deployment plans, contact us. Our team of IoT and IT experts can help you find the right solution for your needs, to ensure your device deployment is perfectly suited for your application, supports an optimal return-on-investment, and has the extended life you expect of your deployment.

How Does 5G Deliver Higher Speed and Lower Latency?

How Does 5G Deliver Higher Speed and Lower Latency?

5G is the fifth generation of cellular network technology, and is currently under deployment globally. It runs on radio frequencies ranging from below 1 GHz all the way up to very high frequencies, called “millimeter wave” (or mmWave). The combination of these frequencies provides nationwide coverage, massive capacity and multi-Gigabit peak rates, along with ultra-low latency. The lower the frequency, the farther the signal can travel. The higher the frequency, the more data it can carry. Here are the three frequency bands that are the foundation for 5G networks:

The 5G high-band, also called mmWave, describes the highest frequencies of 5G, ranging from 24 GHz up to 100 GHz. 5G mmWave coverage is limited, because these high frequencies cannot readily move through walls, windows, or foliage and therefore are short range in nature. They do require significantly more cellular infrastructure to provide coverage.

The 5G mid-band is new spectrum in the 2-6 GHz range that was more recently opened up for 5G communication. The mid-band provides a capacity layer for urban and suburban areas, with peak rates in the 100's of Mbps.

The 5G low-band is existing spectrum below 2 GHz that is used today for 4G LTE. It provides a nation-wide coverage layer, and multiple carriers have announced availability of low-band 5G networks. However, since the spectrum is used for 4G LTE today and the available spectrum is very limited, the performance will be similar to 4G LTE, and initially it may actually be lower. However, it offers an opportunity for eager adopters to try out 5G devices.

How Can Your Business Prepare for 5G?

Digi supports enterprises, municipalities and industrial outfits today with Gigiabit-Class LTE – the stepping stone to 5G that optimizes their investment today while helping them to prepare and seamlessly migrate to future technologies. Not only will LTE and 5G operate together on the same networks, but Digi solutions are designed with your upgrade path in mind, so you never have to fear that an investment today will be obsolete tomorrow.


When will 5G be fully deployed?

Like 4G LTE, 5G is an evolution. Deployment is underway and will be ongoing for many years. Network infrastructure will continue to evolve from a Non-Stand-alone (NSA) to a Stand-alone (SA) infrastructure. Devices will evolve as well to support the new capabilities of the evolving network. In some cases, evolution means just a software update. In other cases it means to augment or replace the hardware.

You want to start planning for 5G now, but depending on your application, you may deploy 5G devices as early as 2021. For many applications operating well on LTE networks, it may be another 5-10 years before it makes sense to upgrade. Digi operates in the commercial space, serving commercial, industrial, medical and government entities and developers. For this reason, information on this page is geared toward these customers. See your mobile phone vendor or carrier for updates on the timeline for handheld 5G devices.

Will 5G be the right solution for every application?

The right solution for any specific application depends upon the business case. Not every application is ready – or right for 5G. The key considerations include:

  • Analysis of the application’s network speed and throughput requirements.
  • Analysis of 5G availability in the application’s deployment area.
  • Analysis of 5G costs, based on the deployment scope and scalability requirements.

As an example, if the application deployment will move outside a 5G-enabled area, 5G will not be feasible at this time, but evaluation can continue as 5G is rolled out. You can still deploy today with many of the available protocols and be 5G ready. Gigabit-class LTE and 4G LTE can meet many application requirements today, and Digi can help you make the journey to 5G.

When will 5G be a standard?

5G is already an official technology standard, via 3GPP Release 15, which was released in December 2018.

The "million dollar question" is really about when will 5G be everywhere, with the carrier-promised speed, latency and density. Our prediction is that by 2025 enough 5G infrastructure will be deployed nationwide for the majority of applications to fully benefit from 5G. The Ericsson Mobility Report predicts that by 2025, 29% of mobile subscriptions will be 5G.

Owning a 5G device might be exciting, but if you have a need for mobile 5G — for example 5G tablets for point-of-sale by service personnel — you don't want to have to utilize that device in a limited fashion. Early adopters can purchase 5G devices in the consumer space now. They are expensive, and have certain limitations on utility as the networks are building out. For commercial applications, 5G devices are now emerging on the market and we expect to see this market grow exponentially throughout the 2020's.

When will 2G and 3G be phased out?

Carriers are currently in the process of phasing out 2G and 3G networks, as they need to replace them with more up-to-date networks, rather than maintain everything from 2G to 5G, which is costly and labor-intensive. See our article, Upcoming 2G and 3G Global Cellular Network Sunset Dates, for a roadmap of projected shutdown dates by region and carrier.

Will 4G LTE be sunsetted as well?

For those who have made investments in 4G LTE technology or are preparing to deploy devices now, there is very good news. 4G LTE networks and devices will migrate to 5G over time, without the requirement to replace all of your equipment. As LTE stands for Long Term Evolution, this infrastructure has a long life ahead, thanks to a new technology called Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS). DSS allows 4G and 5G devices to share the same band, resulting in a faster rollout of 5G and long-term availability of 4G, as spectrum does not have to be taken away from 4G to support 5G.

Digi International works with customers who are ready to define their path to 5G to ensure they can sort through the massive amounts of information, perform a careful needs assessment, and identify the right solution. Contact us for a consultation to learn more about 5G planning and 5G technology selection.

How can I prepare for 5G?

Digi proposes that customers who are certain they want to migrate to 5G as soon as possible plan for a three-phase approach:

Phase 1: Prepare for 5G

Replace old 2G/3G equipment with 4G LTE.

If your 4G LTE router is a couple years old, consider replacing it as well to benefit from future 5G speeds.

Look for 5G-ready routers from Digi with Gigabit Ethernet port(s).

Phase 2: Deploy 5G
Option 1Add a 5G Extender to 5G-enable your existing Digi or 3rd-party router using an Ethernet port. Existing 4G LTE service can remain for redundancy or be transferred to the 5G Extender.
Option 2Replace your older 4G LTE router with a 5G indoor router (4G + 5G sub-6 only) or 5G outdoor router (4G + 5G sub-6 + 5G mmWave).
Phase 3: Optimize 5G

Add a 5G Outdoor Extender for redundant 5G mmWave connectivity to multiple carriers.

What services and use cases will use 5G technology?

In general, 5G use cases can be broadly categorized into three main types of connected services:

  1. Enhanced Mobile Broadband: 5G will not only make our smartphones better, but it will also usher in new immersive experiences, such as VR and AR, with faster, more uniform data rates, lower latency, and cost-per-bit. This will be especially important for field service technicians, for example, who have to repair sophisticated systems and machines.
  2. Mission-Critical Applications: 5G will enable new services that can transform industries with ultra-reliable/available, low latency links—such as remote control of critical infrastructure, vehicles, and medical procedures.
  3. Massive Internet of Things: 5G will seamlessly connect a massive number of embedded sensors in virtually everything through the ability to scale down in data rates, power and mobility to provide extremely lean/low-cost solutions.

A defining capability of 5G is also the design for forward compatibility—the ability to flexibly support future services that are unknown today.

How fast is 5G?

In the future, 5G is expected to deliver theoretical peak data rates of up to 20 Gbps. Today, 5G speeds depend significantly on the type of 5G connection (Sub-6 or mmWave) and the bandwidth the carrier has allocated to 5G. Some 5G Sub-6 speed tests show speeds similar to 4G LTE, or lower. Speed tests over 5G mmWave show up to 2 Gbps.

5G is more than about just how “fast” it is. In addition to higher peak data rates, 5G will provide much more network capacity by expanding into new spectrum, such as millimeter wave (mmWave). 5G will also deliver much lower latency for a quicker immediate response, and an overall more uniform user experience so that the data rates stay consistently high even when users are moving around. Moreover, the new 5G NR (New Radio) mobile network will be backed up by Gigabit LTE coverage foundation, which will provide ubiquitous Gigabit-class connectivity.

How much does 5G cost?

5G doesn’t have a price tag yet. A key 5G objective is to lower the cost-per-bit (data cost) compared to 4G LTE, by leveraging new and wider spectrum in higher bands including the mmWave range. This could potentially allow mobile operators to continue to offer unlimited data plans even with increasing data consumption. This can also enable new use cases and make more applications economically viable for broader adoption in a 5G network. For example, 5G can help to proliferate immersive augmented and virtual reality, which is possible today with 4G LTE but may be limited by network capacity and data costs. In the near term, due to the costs of rollout and the high cost of new technology, 5G adoption will be more expensive than current technology.

4G to 5G product evolution

Today there are multiple ways to prepare for 5G. In the commercial, industrial and government spaces, the full rollout will be a lengthier process than in the consumer space. Therefore, it is important to plan carefully. Here are a few key points we regularly share with customers to arm them with the best possible knowledge:

4G LTE is the current generation of cellular technology that is widely deployed. LTE stands for Long Term Evolution, and describes a technology that has evolved and will continue to evolve since it was launched over a decade ago. It is affordable and safe to invest in now, as the supporting devices and networks are proven and the networks have at least a 10-year lifecycle ahead.

5G is the next generation of cellular technology and while first 5G networks and devices are available, they will continue evolving over many years to come.

For customers who feel they need the greatest possible speed and bandwidth that can be reliably obtained today, Digi supports these use cases with Gigabit Ethernet solutions now, as well as modular solutions that can be migrated to 5G when it make sense. Contact us for help with your procurement and deployment plans.

5G Use Cases

The use cases for 5G range from applications requiring high throughput to those needing high speed, beyond what current LTE networks offer. These include:

High availability, low latency use cases (Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication or uRLLC applications):
These include applications that require near instantaneous communications, such as autonomous (self-driving) vehicles, connected vehicle – an application that will automatically brake cars to prevent accidents and injuries – and industrial automation, in which emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning will be utilized for electronic object recognition and decision making.

Massive IoT use cases (Massive Machine Type Communication or mMTC applications):
These include applications that can rely on small data packets, which include smart wearables, connected fitness bands and home automation use cases. These are applications you can see today, enabled by network technologies such as NB-IoT and LTE-M, which are the forerunners of 5G for mMTC, and which will be enhanced with the development of 5G over time.

High speed use cases (Enhanced Mobile Broadband or eMBB applications):
These applications include anything where a faster connection supports the desired performance, including streaming and high definition video, 360 degree video and other data-intensive and image-intensive use cases. We will see highly interactive applications in a range of use cases from gaming to flight simulation and training to precision medical applications, as well as enhanced mobile broadband services to support the needs of users in public transit.

5G Terminology

Acronym Full Name Description
3GPP 3rd Generation Partnership Project The 3rd Generation Partnership Project is a collaboration between different groups of telecom standards associations. It was originally set up to set the standards of 3G. It has since evolved to 4G and is now working on 5G standards.
5G 5th Generation 5th-generation of cellular network technology, providing a single network that can offer high speed, low latency communication and support a massive number of devices.
Beamforming   Beamforming uses an increased number of antennas to aim signals directly toward a specific device, group of devices or location. That means no more sending them out broadly into the ether (saving energy), and it also helps to avoid unintended signals being received (less interference). It’s the most intelligent way yet to deal with demand from millions of devices. The result: every device gets what it needs, when it needs it.
CA Carrier Aggregation Cellular data is sent using radio frequencies. The wider the channel bandwidth, the more data can be sent. Carrier aggregation combines multiple channels of spectrum together to create one super channel, meaning greater capacity and faster speeds. This is an important concept, as spectrum is often fragmented and a single channel may not able to deliver high speed data.
eMBB Enhanced Mobile Broadband One of the three subsets of 5G use cases, focusing on faster data speeds and better coverage. It’ll be perfect for data-hungry functions while on the go, like virtual or augmented reality. And a huge opportunity for businesses with new use cases built for 5G’s ten-times-faster data speeds.
eNB / eNodeB Evolved Node B E-UTRAN Node B is the base station. It connects the phone or cell modem to the LTE network.
FR1 Frequency Range 1 Frequencies below 6 GHz. Sometimes also called Sub-6.
FR2 Frequency Range 2 Frequencies above 24 GHz. Sometimes also called mmWave.
gNB / gNodeB   Is the next generation base station for 5G networks
High-band   The 5G high-band, also called mmWave, describes the highest frequencies used in 5G, ranging from 24 GHz up to 100 GHz. The benefit of 5G mmWave is that it offers a massive amount of bandwidth, which in turn can provide multi-Gigabit peak rates. The downside is that coverage is very limited, because these high frequencies cannot readily move through walls, windows, or foliage and therefore are short range in nature. They do require significantly more cellular infrastructure to provide coverage. You will typically find 5G mmWave in dense urban environment or public venues, like sport stadiums or shopping malls.
Low band   The 5G low-band is existing spectrum below 2 GHz, that is used today for 4G LTE. It provides a nation-wide coverage layer, and multiple carriers have announced availability of low-band 5G networks. However, since the spectrum is used for 4G LTE today and the available spectrum is very limited, the performance will be similar to 4G LTE, and initially it may actually be lower.
LTE Long Term Evolution LTE (or Long Term Evolution) describes the concept of ongoing cellular technology evolution towards a shared vision, such as 4G communication. Rather than waiting several years until the standards, technology and devices are perfect, 3GPP and the cellular industry have decided to take an incremental approach to make standards, technology and devices available as early as possible, and then do incremental improvements with new Releases - like software releases, but at a much larger scale.
Mid-band   The 5G mid-band is new spectrum in the 2-6 GHz range that was more recently opened up for 5G communication. The mid-band provides a capacity layer for urban and suburban areas, which peak rates in the 100's of Mbps.
MIMO (MU-MIMO) Multiple-input, Multiple-output MIMO stands for multiple input - multiple output. In wireless communication, this refers to using multiple independent data streams, which requires multiple antennas both at the transmitter and at the receiver. These data streams can be shared by multiple users (MU). Today, 4x4 MIMO is common, meaning that each side of the communication is using 4 antennas to send data in parallel. Massive MIMO will scale this concept to 16, 64 or even 256 antennas. This is how we’ll get the dramatic increases in network speed and capacity.
MME Mobility Management Entity Checks authorization and determines if and where the eNB can send data from the UE.
mMTC Massive Machine-Type Communication One of the three subsets of 5G use cases. This deals with the greater number of sensors collecting data to be turned into actionable information. This’ll be important for the rise of the Internet of Things, with applications like smart homes and even smart cities.
mmW / mmWave Millimeter-wave Frequencies above 24 GHz. Sometimes also called FR2.
NR New Radio (5G) New Radio is the new set of standards the industry has agreed on to make 5G possible. The standards relate to things like using different kinds of spectrum frequencies, enhancing coverage by using Massive MIMO and advanced beamforming, reducing latency, and improving how capacity is allocated across devices.
NSA Non-standalone One of two major 5G network architectures. In Non-standalone mode, 5G devices connect to the 4G LTE infrastructure for voice and data communication, and then use the 5G-NR infrastructure for additional data bandwidth. This architecture is predominant today, as it allows devices to use 4G and 5G seamlessly while carriers are building out their 5G networks.
QAM Quadrature Amplitude Modulation Quadrature Amplitude Modulation is the means by which a carrier signal, such as an LTE waveform, transmits data and information. Two carriers (two sinusoidal waves) are shifted in phase by 90 degrees (a quarter out of phase) are modulated and the resultant output consists of both amplitude and phase variations. These variations form the basis for the transmitted binary bits. 16-QAM, 64-QAM, and 256-QAM stand for the number of bits that can be differentiated. The higher this number, the more data can be sent. But it is more difficult to decode the transmission, so higher QAM only works under near-perfect signal conditions.
RAN Radio Access Network A radio access network (RAN) is part of a mobile telecommunication system. It provides the radio access that wirelessly connects the User Equipment (UE) like a phone or a router to the carrier's network core.
SA Stand-alone One of two major 5G network architectures. In Stand-alone mode, 5G devices connect directly to the 5G-NR infrastructure for voice and data communication.
Sub-6   Frequencies below 6 GHz. Sometimes also called FR1.
UE User Equipment Cellular device (phone, modem, router) that connects the an LTE/5G NR network.
uRLLC Ultra-reliable, Low-latency Communication One of the three subsets of 5G use cases. This is for applications that need immediate responsiveness, and almost no latency. It might not be a lot of data, but often it needs to be sent in as close to real time as possible. Imagine self-driving cars or robots in a factory – they need instant feedback from their environment (and vice versa) to make split-second decisions.
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