With possible new use cases and demanding requirements of future 5th generation (5G) and beyond cellular networks, the future of mobile communications sounds promising. However, the propagation medium has been considered a randomly acting agent between the transmitter and the receiver. With the advent of the digital age of wireless communications, the received signal quality is degrading due to the uncontrollable interactions of the transmitted radio waves with the surrounding artifacts. This paper presents a comprehensive literature review on reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RISs) and assisted application areas. With the RIS, the network operators can control radio waves’ scattering, reflection, and refraction characteristics by resolving the harmful properties of environmental wireless propagation. Further, the RIS can effectively control the wavefront, such as amplitude, phase, frequency, and even polarization, without requiring complex encoding, decoding, or radio wave processing techniques. Motivated by technological advances, the metasurfaces, reflectarrays, phase shift, and liquid crystals are potential candidates for implementing RIS. Thus, they can be considered the front runner for realizing the 5G and beyond network. Furthermore, the current research activities in the evolving field of wireless networks operated by RIS are reviewed and discussed thoroughly. Finally, to fully explore the potential of RISs in wireless networks, the fundamental research issues to be addressed have been discussed.
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