Tesla\u2019s \u201cMaximum Plaid\u201d speed mode rockets its new Roadster from 0-60 in 1.9 seconds. If you think that\u2019s fast, go ahead and Google \u201c5G.\u201d\n5G is Plaid for cellular networking \u2013 a next-generation mobile network that promises not only ten-times the available spectrum, for ten-times the download speeds, but across ten-times the devices and with a fraction of the latency.\n\nThe move from 1Gbps to 10Gbps speeds will support bandwidth-intensive applications like high-definition video and virtual reality, and near real-time connections will enable ultra-low latency applications like autonomous cars, remote surgery and specialized applications within the Internet of Things (IoT).\n5G is impressive, but \u2013 spoiler alert \u2013 it isn\u2019t entirely new. The road to 5G runs through 4G wireless infrastructure, and improvements to 4G technologies like carrier aggregation, small cells, massive multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) and beamforming will satisfy our need for 5G speed. \u00a0\n5G networks\nIDC forecasts that by 2025 the global datasphere will grow to 163 zettabytes. For the folks at home, that\u2019s 163 trillion gigabytes. Much of this will be mobile data, transmitted in real-time between phones and IoT devices.\nAs demand for mobile data increases, mobile carriers and manufacturers face a conundrum. There is a finite amount of radio frequency spectrum at any given time, but they must increase capacity and offer faster data speeds to meet user demand. The key is squeezing the most out of existing RF spectrum \u2013 and for that, there\u2019s carrier aggregation (CA).\nCA is a technique that combines multiple carrier signals \u2013 or \u201cchannels\u201d \u2013 to increase network performance. As consumers, we love CA, because we hate buffering. CA accelerates downloads and uploads, allowing cellular networks to move more data, faster.\nGamers and Instagram influencers, rejoice!\nCA is already used to combine multiple 4G LTE-Advanced frequency bands. As we approach 5G, cellular service providers will seek to squeeze even more bandwidth out of existing spectrum by combining as many as five channels.\nSmall Cells\nCellular base stations connected to cell towers carry signals over the river and through the woods to the dinner table at grandma\u2019s house. Because 5G builds on the 4G foundation, carriers can simply upgrade these towers to support higher 5G frequencies, like 28GHz and 39GHz.\nBut there\u2019s a catch. These millimeter wave (mmWave) frequencies cannot penetrate walls or buildings. Thick walls, frame and cement impede mmWave signals, turning downtown into a dead zone. Plus, being far from a base station is a drag \u2013 on your battery life, that is.\nThis is where small cells come in: mini base stations that act as a relay team to transmit around objects, improve battery life and deliver an extra boost in densely populated areas, like sports stadiums, airports and urban centers. Small cells also help service providers avoid satellite dish syndrome, eliminating expensive rooftop systems while extending coverage.\nMassive MIMO\nI say, \u201cmassive,\u201d you say, \u201ctiny antennas!\u201d\nMaybe not, unless you\u2019re an RF engineer familiar with massive MIMO. Massive MIMO is a fancy term for equipping cell towers with more antennas to extend network capacity without requiring more spectrum. Sound familiar?\nWe\u2019re not talking an antenna or two. Massive MIMO systems have ten times more antennas than traditional MIMO systems to connect to multiple devices at once. At Mobile World Congress this year, Nokia and Sprint demonstrated massive MIMO technology with 64 antennas each for uplink and downlink. According to CIO, this increased capacity by as much as eight times for downloads and as much as five times for uploads.\nMassive MIMO has been called the backbone of 5G. Without it, operators could not handle the bandwidth and capacity requirements for the next-generation network. Tiny antennas, massive impact.\nBeamforming\n\u2026 but tiny antennas also cause massive interference problems.\nEnter beamforming, and no that\u2019s not a teleporter. Beamforming technology drives signals directly to the point of use. We see this with many new Wi-Fi routers, where beamforming is used to focus the Wi-Fi signal and improve signal strength and range.\nBeamforming is used similarly in base stations. With this technology, base station antennas focus data streams as they leave the tower, improving speed and reliability for consumer devices.\nSo, whether you\u2019re video chatting across the country or sharing cat memes across the table, take a moment to thank these 4G technologies for the speed.\nOh, and buckle your seatbelts. We\u2019re going to Plaid.