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5G vs 4G – what is the difference

From the initial 2G to 3G to 4G to the current 5G, The development of communication networks has brought great convenience and richer life to society. What exactly is 5G, and how is it different from 4G? Today, let’s briefly understand the relationship and difference between 5G vs 4G.

Table of Contents

From 1G to 5G

Before talking about 5G vs 4G, let’s first understand what has changed from 1G-5G.

1G vs 2G vs 3G vs 4G vs 5G
1G vs 2G vs 3G vs 4G vs 5G

1G: This refers to the first generation of wireless telephony technology, ie mobile communications. It uses an analog signal with speeds up to 2.4kbps. At that time, mobile phones had no screens and could only be used to make calls.

2G (GPRS): This refers to the second generation of mobile technology, which uses digital telecommunications standards. The data rate is between 56-114kbps. 2G has realized the digitalization of voice communication, and the function phone has a small screen to send text messages.

3G (WCDMA/CDMA 2000/TD-SCDMA): It refers to the third generation of mobile phone technology. It offers a data rate of 384kbps, so it’s easy for you to browse websites and stream music.

4G refers to the fourth generation of mobile technology, known as LTE (Long Term Evolution). Compared with 1G-3G, it is the best among them, and it is as stable and fast as Wi-Fi at home or the office.

5G is the 5th generation of mobile communication technology and an extension of the 4G system. On June 13, 2018, the 3GPP meeting in San Diego set the first international 5G standard. Compared with the former, the 5G network has three main characteristics, extremely high speed (eMBB), extremely large capacity (mMTC), and extremely low latency (URLLC). Then we will talk about the difference between 5G vs 4G through these three specific features.

5G vs 4G

5G vs 4G
5G vs 4G

What are the advantages of 5G?

High speed
We all know that communication relies on electromagnetic waves, and the frequency resources of electromagnetic waves are very limited. Different frequencies have different speeds. Frequency resources are like carriages. The higher the frequency, the more carriages and the more information can be loaded in the same time. So the higher the frequency, the greater the bandwidth and the faster the speed.

At present, our 4G uses low-frequency bands. Its advantages lie in its good performance and wide coverage, which can effectively reduce operators’ investment in base stations and save money. But the disadvantage is that if there are many users, the “road” for data transmission will be congested. Although the existing technology has been optimized, the rate provided is still limited. However, 5G uses high-frequency bands. The use of high-frequency bands can not only alleviate the tension of low-frequency resources, but also make the “road” wider and increase the bandwidth rate because there is no congestion phenomenon.

5G offers peak data download rates of up to 10Gbps. The peak rate of 4G is about 100Mbps, which is 100 times faster. Ideally, users would be able to download a 1G HD video in seconds. 4K video requires a minimum download speed of 25Mbps, which 4G falls short of. Therefore, 4K video live broadcast becomes possible in the 5G environment. In addition, VR/AR has a huge demand for bandwidth, and 5G makes virtualization such as VR possible.

High capacity
High-frequency millimeter waves can increase the transmission rate, but it is difficult for high-frequency signals to pass through solids. As the transmission distance increases, the transmission rate will drop faster than the low-frequency band of 4G.

5g communication
5g communication

In order to ensure an efficient and stable transmission rate, more base stations are needed for a stable signal transmission effect. 5G technology introduces micro base stations with small sizes and low energy consumption. This kind of base station can be installed anywhere in the city, and can be installed in street lights, signal lights, shopping malls, houses, etc.

Each base station can receive signals from other base stations and transmit data to users anywhere. The signal reception is even and the carrying capacity is large, forming a ubiquitous network, which solves the shortcoming of poor long-distance transmission in high-frequency bands.

This also makes the Internet of Things a possibility. In the 5G network, in addition to common 3C products such as smartphones and PCs, more terminal devices can also be included in the network, such as smart furniture products that can be controlled through the network, smart sockets, smart air conditioners, smart refrigerators and smart wearable devices, etc.

In the field of the Internet of Things, different application scenarios have different network requirements. Some terminal devices need a large amount of real-time data to process feedback quickly, while some terminal devices only need a small amount of data or a few bits of data transmission, such as the display of water meters and electricity meters.

Therefore, in the 5G network, it is necessary to automatically identify the network requirements of the device terminal and use different network bandwidths respectively. When a small amount of data is transmitted, 5G intelligent identification uses a narrowband network with less energy consumption to transmit data, thereby effectively reducing energy consumption and use, and ensuring the usability of low-consumption and long-term operation of terminal equipment.

Low latency

Compared with 4G, 5G has been greatly optimized and adjusted on the existing technical architecture. In order to achieve ultra-low latency, 5G starts from all aspects of the access network, bearer network, core network, and backbone network.

The 4G network application server is concentrated in the central computer room, far away from the terminal, and needs to pass through multiple transmission nodes in the middle.

5G will deeply integrate the access network and Internet services through edge computing technology, deploy cloud computing equipment with computing, processing and storage functions at the edge of the access network, build a mobile convenient cloud, and provide an information technology service environment and cloud computing capabilities. It can reduce the forwarding and processing time during data transmission and reduce the end-to-end delay.

Low latency makes unmanned driving possible. A car is at a speed of 60Km/h. The braking distance of 50ms is 1m, that of 10ms is 17cm, and that of 1ms is 17mm. In 4G network delay is about 50ms. The approximate braking distance is 1m in 50ms. This may be the difference between life and death. But the 5G network delay as low as 1ms makes it possible for autonomous driving to ensure driving safety on the road.

What are the disadvantages of 5G?

advantages and disadvanges of 5G
advantages and disadvanges of 5G

5G also has disadvantages, such as the need to deploy many more base stations than 4G, and the investment will be huge. It is predicted that while 90% of the UK population will be using 5G by 2027, although its coverage is unlikely to match 4G coverage due to exponentially higher costs. Another potential problem could be that 6Ghz is already a crowded radio frequency because it transmits satellite and other radio signals. This may affect the sending and receiving of communication data.


4G has greatly increased the data rate, entered the era of mobile broadband, made the Internet, and changed people’s way of life. 4G changed life, and 5G will change the whole society.

From VR/AR and other virtual items, virtual characters, enhancing situational information and other ways, 5G gives people a new media experience. It will also enter the era of the Internet of Things and penetrate into all walks of life, such as Internet of vehicles, intelligent manufacturing, global logistics tracking system, intelligent agriculture, etc. When 5G arrives, it will also be a time of social subversion, leading to a digital and information-based intelligent world.


4G refers to the fourth generation of mobile technology, known as LTE (Long Term Evolution). Compared with 1G-3G, it is the best among them, and it is as stable and fast as Wi-Fi at home or the office.

5G is the 5th generation of mobile communication technology and an extension of the 4G system. Compared with the 4G, the 5G network has three main characteristics, extremely high speed (eMBB), extremely large capacity (mMTC), and extremely low latency (URLLC).

  • Extremely high speed (eMBB)
  • Extremely large capacity (mMTC)
  • Extremely low latency (URLLC)

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