What will your phone get from one more G?

Beyond faster wireless speeds, 5G could further the growth of data-dependant technologies like autonomous vehicles and robotic surgery.
A 5G antenna at Deutsche Telekom stand on the first day of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) on February 26, 2018 in Barcelona. (PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)

Canadian Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains recently announced that the federal, Ontario, and Quebec governments will be investing $200-million into 5G research over the next five years. The news comes as tech and telecom companies around the world are racing to test and develop the latest generation of high speed wireless service. 

Amy Nordrum is a science journalist with IEEE Spectrum. Her work focuses on communications technology. Nordrum said 5G promises to increase wireless speeds and capacity while furthering the growth of data-dependant technologies like autonomous vehicles and robotic surgery.
Amy Nordrum (

Although there already is a lot of talk about 5G, there is still much work to be done in building the network infrastructure, she said.

"There's this big idea about small cells, which are smaller base stations, which telcos are hoping they will be able to install every 250 meters or so throughout cities or towns. And that will give much more focused coverage, and create a lot more capacity," she said.

"They'll be able to reuse a lot more bandwidth that they are currently using to serve a bigger group of customers all at once."

The need for more base stations has to do with the technology's use of millimeter waves, which occupy a higher frequency range on the radio-frequency spectrum.

"They [millimeter waves] don't propagate as well, so they don't go as far, and they can't get through things like glass and walls like the microwaves signals we use today. And they can get absorbed by things in the air like rain or foliage."

Though there is much talk about developing 5G technologies for 2020, Nordrum isn't confident that it'll be for everyone.

"Depending on what we use it for, there may or may not be a lot of consumer demand for it, if 4G LTE is found everywhere and that's generally serving people's purposes."