From 1G to 5G 5G is the fifth-generation cellular network, as formally defined by global standards agencies. New networks have emerged roughly every 10 years since 1980, when 1G came on the scene with large cellphones that only made phone calls. Later, 2G introduced messaging, 3G brought access to the internet, and 4G, which emerged around 2009, brought a leap in data download speeds, allowing users to do things like stream movies on mobile devices. The official definition of 5G specifies higher speeds and lower latency — the lag time between when a device asks for information and when it receives it, Médard explained. The network will use higher-frequency radio waves in addition to the range of frequencies already used, and will work with smaller, more closely distributed wireless access points instead of large, dispersed cell towers. 5G is also expected to include a suite of hybrid technologies that will facilitate seamless transitions between different Wi-Fi networks or from cellular networks to Wi-Fi, and allow networks to more easily take advantage of unused extra bandwidth. 5G should allow for higher connectivity — that is, more devices connected to a network — and significantly higher download speeds. Speed isn’t the only improvement, though.