5G technology: A primer

The development of 5G technology has prompted much anticipation among the tech community and the masses. 5G has been dubbed as the next revolution in cellular technology, which will bring the people of this world even closer. The technology marks an evolutionary jump in terms of connectivity speeds, utility and business use cases of 5G. In 2021, the global services market value of 5G technology was estimated to be USD 83.24 billion. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of 23% to reach USD 188 billion by the year 2025.

What is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation of cellular networks. It is the latest in a line of mobile technologies that started with the introduction of 1G in the 1980s. In theory, 5G technology aims to connect devices, machines and people who use them through high-speed and low-latency data connections. Business trends of 5G technology predict a boom of the internet of things (IoT) in a big way by creating an ecosystem of connected devices and machines.

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Evolution to 5G

  • 1G – first generation
    This technology was introduced in the 1980s and was the standard used for analogue telecommunication.
  • 2G – second generation (typical time taken to download a 30 MB file – 40 minutes) 2
    Successor to the 1G technology, it introduced digital telecommunication in the 1990s over cellular networks.
  • 3G – third generation (typical time taken to download a 30 MB file – 1 minute)3
    Introduced in the 2000s, this technology marked the advent of the internet on mobile devices as it offered improved data speeds.
  • 4G – fourth generation (typical time taken to download a 30 MB file – 8 seconds) 4 The next decade saw the rise of even faster mobile data communication with 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE).4

The next decade saw the rise of even faster mobile data communication with 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE).

This decade marks the arrival of a new technology, 5G – the latest in a line of cellular network technologies. Each generation shift has ushered in a significant change in the nature of service, technology, transfer speeds and usage. With the evolution to 5G, this trend continues by providing much more reliable and faster connectivity, offering customers and businesses a superior user experience.

The impact of 4G vs 5G will be felt in all industries that use the internet, especially in healthcare, agriculture and logistics, which were underserved due to the low speeds of the previous generations of cellular connections and expand the range of use cases of 5G.

Why is it better?

While 4G networks provide a maximum speed of 100–200 Mbps, speed of 5G peaks  around 10 Gbps – a hundred-fold increase in speed. 5G accomplishes this task by utilising a wide array of the spectrum from lower bands (frequency <1 GHz) to higher bands called millimetre wave (mmWave; frequency >24 GHz). The capacity of these mmWave frequencies is many times higher than that of existing technology, hence improving the efficiency of 5G.

5G tech has also seen communication of very minimal latency (<1 millisecond). This would mean that there would be no significant delay times associated with the network, making it much more reliable and enabling seamless real-time access to technology.



5G Impact India - PwC India

5G Impact India - PwC India

Technological trends under 5G

5G technology has a few unique characteristics which are part of the 5G New Radio (NR) standards, set up by the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project).

eMBB: Enhanced mobile broadband

eMBB is one of the use cases whereby 5G will be able to deliver its full potential to the masses. Through eMBB, 5G will be able to provide gigabits of data speed through mobile broadband. A real ‘hotspot’ situation could be where hundreds and thousands of fans are utilising limited broadband and connectivity during a sports event or a concert, and eMBB could deliver the required speeds to provide connectivity to the crowd.

urLLC: Ultra-reliable low-latency communication

Quicker response time has been an ask with each evolution of cellular technology, and 5G will be able to meet this demand in a remarkable way. Latency has been a barrier for technologies dependent on processing huge amounts of data with near to no delay. Through urLLC, 5G will empower technology to do just that. Thanks to 5G, technology like self-driven vehicles or augmented reality (AR) supported surgery will become possible in the near future.

mMMTC: Massive machine-to-machine communication

mMMTC is the 5G use case focusing on a large number of IoT-connected systems. It could help in large-scale deployment of machines that perform simple functions and have low power utilisation.

5G and its effect on the market

5G is ushering in development and revenue in industries across the world. A recent analysis shows that by 2035, 5G technology will transform industries worldwide, with the market value of 5G generating output worth USD 13.2 trillion globally and creating job opportunities for more than 22 million people.5

5G is also impacting areas like IoT, virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) due to its improved connectivity, speeds, reliability and low latency. It is opening new avenues and experiences such as instant access to cloud services, real-time collaboration, medical consultation and low-latency cloud gaming, as some of the use cases of 5G.

What’s in it for you?

5G is just around the corner and it offers a plethora of opportunities to multiple industries to better connect and engage with customers. Smart city projects are starting to realise the impact 5G will have on day-to-day tracking of the city’s law and order, traffic and other basic functions. Similarly, the manufacturing industry, which is looking at automation, stands to benefit considerably from the real-time access and control that 5G can provide through IoT. The low latency will also allow the healthcare industry to adopt AR and VR for real-time procedures. The opportunities for people to collaborate and contribute to industries are immense.

What value does it add to business? 

1. Handling growing data volumes
By facilitating the growth of AI, IoT and automation in the industry, 5G is bound to generate more data. 5G will also aid in managing the transfer of these large amounts of data through eMBB.

2. Flexible offices
5G provides the opportunity to build ‘smart buildings’ where lighting, temperature and more could be controlled through occupancy monitoring. The technology essentially helps process large amounts of real-time data and make automated decisions. This can help in creating more secure, efficient and cost-effective workplaces.

3. Remote working
5G can also aid remote working by making sure that poor connectivity does not impede either the business or the employee. AR and VR can also bring in an atmosphere of collaboration and reduce other overhead costs.


Enterprises and industries go through a myriad of aspects in order to explore and utilise the full potential of the 5G ecosystem. A tectonic shift in the business strategy and operations calls for a 5G framework that can enable enterprises understand their digital maturity. Thus, use cases, roll-out strategy and digital adoption of 5G need to be carefully assessed and gauged to derive its true value. Any vertical or industrial entity, in order to be fully 5G compliant or even have the basics ready, must weigh its potential and limitations on a standardised scale. Conceptual aspects such as cloud native, automation, edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) need to be evaluated from the strategic, architectural and governance aspects. Therefore, a holistic viewpoint regarding 5G adoption will help enterprises know where they stand in the 5G ecosystem.

Use cases of 5G


5G will quite literally be the ‘driver’ for the autonomous vehicle industry by enabling instantaneous real-time communication and response. A British telecommunications provider has announced an initiative to test autonomous cars in London using its 5G network. The company has partnered with a research organisation to create a highly advanced driverless testbed. The initiative’s main objective is to create a traffic management system that reduces commute times.


A Chinese multinational technology corporation, in partnership with a government organisation and a hospital, has spearheaded a self-driven vehicle system to transport medical supplies through 5G technology.


Drones continue to gain more momentum with emerging use cases. For instance, a company specialising in electric multirotor helicopter design is currently working on ready-to-be-used air taxis. Through 5G and IoT, the company plans to control the location, avoid collisions and improve battery life for the aircraft. This will enable fleets of air taxis to be utilised while preventing accidents and reducing fuel consumption.


A US-based remote recruitment company has come up with a hiring solution that uses gamified evaluation and video-based interviews to collect unbiased behavioural data on applicants. This solution was used by an FMCG major to recruit over 280,000 candidates. The recruitment company used low-latency technology to aid the real-time machine learning model. 5G will bolster this technology.


5G will usher in transformation for government and commercial entities in unimaginable ways, moving swiftly from pilot runs to large-scale implementation. The 5G revolution has already begun, and this technology is catering to the ever-increasing demands from a host of industries – from warehouses to ports and from manufacturing plants to smart cities. With technologies like cloud and edge computing, and IoT, 5G is set to play an integral role in Industry 4.0. It’s time to get ahead with 5G.


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Ashootosh Chand

Ashootosh Chand

Partner, Digital and Emerging Technologies, PwC India

Mohammed Ali Kizer

Mohammed Ali Kizer

Associate Director, Digital and Emerging Technologies, PwC India