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5G is the fifth iteration of cellular network technology. Prior versions had limited use for voice over IP and associated unified communications purposes. But it looks like 5G VoIP may be a different story.
5G isn't just an incremental improvement over 4G. The technological underpinnings are different, and the benefits are dramatic. VoIP and other mobile apps can face density issues where too many devices in an area are connected to a cellular network. 4G has a limited capacity of 100,000 devices per square kilometer, but 5G is an order of magnitude greater with a capacity of 1 million devices per square kilometer.
5G uses a larger number of smaller cells to provide better coverage. Some of the techniques already used in Wi-Fi 5 and 6 are also used in 5G, including multiple input, multiple output and beamforming techniques that turbocharge performance.
Ultimately, VoIP applications require low latency, and 5G VoIP provides that. In fact, one mode of operation defined by 5G is ultrareliable low latency.
5G targets an air latency, which is the time it takes for data to transmit from a device to a cell tower, of 1 ms to 4 ms; however, it isn't quite that fast yet. Early 5G deployments show air latency between 8 ms and 12 ms, and Verizon measured 30 ms in its deployment. While latency is slower than expected, progress is encouraging for 5G VoIP.
A single VoIP conversation doesn't require a lot of bandwidth and, therefore, doesn't require high throughput. But applying 5G can benefit other unified communications applications, such as file transfer, video or multiuser apps, via increased bandwidth. 5G brings bandwidth capacity not available previously.
Generally, 4G would be considered as a backup VoIP path when an internet connection is unavailable. Some analysts say 5G is a viable alternative to the internet. At least early on, 5G will be less crowded, and its performance characteristics could make it a viable alternative to the internet. Of course, billing and metering plans will determine whether the economics make sense.
Rollouts for 5G are underway but will take time. 4G will continue to be supported as 5G rolls out. You'll need to pay attention to rollout plans for geographies that are important for you. Check benchmarking figures for latency and throughput specific to your geographic location of interest.
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