What is 5G New Radio (5G NR)?

November 1, 2021

In this article, we’ll break down what exactly 5G New Radio and 5G revolution mean for cellular networks, service providers, and end-users. 

Is there a difference between 5G and 5G NR?

The term 5G simply means the fifth technological generation of cellular networks, which is the successor to 4G LTE. 5G New Radio, on the other hand, refers specifically to the radio access technology (RAT) developed for 5G networks. It’s the radio standard for 5G deployments.


This new standard was introduced in 2016, but the first commercial deployments didn’t begin until 2019. With their new capabilities and vastly improved parameters, 5G networks open the door for numerous further applications. The improvement in terms of latency and data throughput is incredible compared to the previous generation.


What are the key differences between 5G NR and 4G LTE?


  • Improved latency from ~50 ms down to as little as 1 ms
  • Improved data throughput from a maximum of 80 Mb/s up to as much as 20 Gb/s
  • Better energy efficiency
  • Higher radio frequencies


The level of service that 5G NR networks can provide brings countless opportunities for new businesses, governments, and, of course, users. Vastly improved data transfer can be the backbone for numerous applications including VR/AR, 4K Ultra HD, 360-degree and 3D streaming, massive IoT solutions, cloud-based services like cloud rendering, and other businesses that want to deliver even gigabytes per second to their users. Additionally, ultra-low latency can be utilized for many infrastructural and mission-critical applications such as tele surgeries, autonomous driving, and automated industrial production. 


The next few years will undoubtedly be decisive for projects that expect widespread popularization of 5G networks. The more 5G NR networks are implemented, the more businesses will thrive on their capabilities. But, of course, it works both ways. The wider availability of apps and platforms that require 5G NR capabilities will increase the demand for new network deployments in a continually growing number of areas. 


This tendency is already happening on a concept level. The modern approach to network planning puts the level of service at the forefront. First, planners need to establish the purpose of a network and then plan the network accordingly. But more on that later. 

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5G NR deployment modes

Depending on the phase of 5G development and the service that’s supposed to be provided, there are two primary deployment modes.


Standalone (SA) is a mode in which the 5G network uses only 5G cells connected to a 5G core network that assures the high parameters required for highly demanding applications and systems. Those deployments are considered the most challenging to plan, but they also enable networks to deliver the best parameters and the highest level of service. 


Non-Standalone (NSA) means that the 5G NR deployment will rely on an existing 4G LTE network infrastructure for control functions. Only 4G services can be supported in this mode, but the network can still offer the increased data throughput and better latency that come with 5G NR. It’s often considered an early-stage version of 5G, and some operators criticize it as a slowing-down mechanism for mmWave-based Standalone deployments.

5G NR Frequency ranges

There are two established frequency range bands in 5G NR, namely FR1 and FR2. 


Frequency range 1 (FR1) is between 410 MHz and 7125 MHz. It predominantly uses sub-6 GHz frequencies that were previously utilized by 4G/LTE networks. Unfortunately, those frequencies in the 5G New Radio non-standalone model won’t enable such revolutionary improvements. They can, however, still provide a significant upgrade to 4G networks.


Frequency range 2 (FR2) is between 24.25 GHz to 52.6 GHz, which means it’s the millimeter wave (mmWave) range. These frequencies have higher capabilities in terms of network parameters, bringing much greater potential for users, companies, and service providers. Networks that use these frequencies are much more challenging to plan, though, due to the characteristics of mmWaves.

The challenge of 5G NR for network planners

5G networks that are based on mmWaves bring many challenges that didn’t exist with 4G networks. Millimeter waves between 24.25 GHz and 52.6 GHz have a much shorter range and their transmission is more greatly affected by environmental aspects such as snow, heavy rain, vegetation, or car traffic. You can read more about the many challenges of 5G network planning here.

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Deployment models

There are three “clean” 5G network deployment models: eMBB, URLLC, and MMTC. Each model has different requirements in terms of data throughput, latency, reliability, and network architecture. Of course, real-life 5G NR deployments still won’t comply with those models entirely for the next couple of years. They merely represent the ideal set of parameters for certain applications.


eMBB (Enhanced Mobile Broadband) means that the network is able to seamlessly deliver 4K Ultra HD, 360-degree, and 3D streaming as well as enable various VR/AR applications. The data throughput requirement for this model is 10 Gbit/s.


URLLC (Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications) means that a network must be sufficient for autonomous driving, remote surgeries, and other applications that require the shortest delays (<1 ms) and the highest levels of stability.


MMTC (Massive Machine Type Communication) is a model in which a network must be able to support as many as millions of tiny, low-cost sensors, actuators, monitoring systems, and other IoT-type devices. Low energy consumption is highly prioritized in this case. 


Additionally, each of these models has different requirements in terms of hardware and network architecture. You can read more about those issues in this article.

How to plan 5G New Radio networks in a smart, energy-efficient way?

The challenges that come with mmWave propagation and the growing need for super fast and reliable cellular service require new solutions and innovative approaches. The modern method of network planning must be precise, energy-efficient, and, therefore, fully automated. Our tool is all those things and more.


In order to plan 5G New Radio networks, we create Digital Twins, which are live-updated, data-rich copies of entire areas. Besides a complete spatial recreation, they include information about weather, traffic, and many more data sets. Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, our tool can automatically test thousands of possible antennae and base station placement scenarios to find a sufficient and cost-effective configuration. Moreover, the process is entirely handled by our cloud-based system. You can read more about the tool here.

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