This is your complete guide to understanding the planet’s newest technology
Written By Lloyd Harris | 07/07/2020
It seems like every new generation of wireless networks brings us faster speeds and more functionality to our smart devices and smartphones.
For example, 1G technology brought us our first cell phone. Then came along the 2G technology that gave us the ability to text (SMS) messages for the first time.3G technology brought us online and 4G technology delivered the speed that we enjoy today. However, as more users come online, we’re maxing out our capacity for what 4G technology offers.
With 5G, users should be able to download a high-definition film in under a second (a task that could take 10 minutes on 4G LTE).
Consumers Want More Data!
The need for speed has thus brought us closer to the need for a greater technology that will be like none other. Our closest call to meet this demand is 5G technology.
As of now, it is unclear which technology will be used to harness the power that comes with 5G. Thanks to the tireless efforts of research engineers, few technologies have stood out as possible favorites that can be leveraged to achieve breakthrough results for the desired 5G technology.
These five (5) favorites are millimeter waves, small cells, massive MIMO, full-duplex, and beamforming. Before delving further into what these favorites are and how they impact communications and data speed, it’s important that you gain some basic understanding of what 5G technology is all about.
This is the fifth (5th) generation of mobile networks. It follows global wireless standards. Its predecessors are 1G, 25, 3G, and 4G networks. What makes 5G different from all other networks is the connection design. When fully rolled out, 5G will connect people and things including machines, devices, and objects.
The full appreciation of 5G will be heavy on speed. With it’s multi-giga-bit-per-second (Gbps), data speed will burst and peak at a rate never seen or experienced by consumers. Along with the speed will come an ultra-low latency while maintaining reliability, and increased capacity.
As an aside, the previous generations of mobile networks (1G, 2g, 3g, and, 4G) delivered analog voice, digital voice, mobile data, and mobile broadband respectively. Collectively, these generations of mobile network technology all led to the development of 5g technology.
The Benefits of 5G
From powering self-driving cars to enabling successful remote surgeries through low latency or short lag-time, 5G has been designed to meet very large growth in data and connectivity of our modern society, the Internet Of Things (IoT) with billions of connected devices, and tomorrow’s innovations.
The plan for the future is to have 5G operate in conjunction with the existing 4G network (this compatibility reason is important and is intended to support legacy systems), and then eventually move on to a full-blown independent technology.
5G is a more unified and capable air interface designed with an extended capacity model to enable next-generation consumer experiences.
All major carriers including Verizon, Sprint, Tmobile, and others around the world are working on their 5G technology to ensure they’re up to the task when the technology matures.
5G Technology Will Alter Our Way Of Tech-thinking.
Here are a few ways 5G technology will alter our way of tech-thinking:
1. Reliable communications – The days of lags and noticeably slower connectivity just might be a thing of the past. With its ultra-reliable speed and low latency capability, mission-critical applications, and uninterrupted real-time control device communications are now achievable with 5G technology.
2. Massive machine to machine communications- In the 5G era, optimum and autonomous connections of the Internet of Things (IoT), devices that involve connecting billions of devices will occur without human intervention at a scale not seen before. Ever heard of artificial intelligence? This is where 5G’s full potential will be realized.
3. Enhanced mobile broadband – With high boosts in data speeds, 5G will provide a significantly faster capacity to keep the world connected.
Recent 5G standards have set goals that include the ability to accommodate growing numbers of users, higher data rates, lower latency, and prolonged device battery life. The use of millimeter waves, small cells, MIMO, beamforming, and full-duplex frequency bands are proposed technologies to support the more robust mobile networks that will deliver data with less than a millisecond of delay.
With some many people joining the communications highway, wireless networks are getting crammed. Data consumption is at an all-time high while the bands of the radio-frequency spectrum that mobile providers use have not changed. As a result, there is less bandwidth for everyone, slower service, and more dropped connections.
As a workaround, some providers engineers are experimenting with the idea of transmitting signals on a whole new swath of the spectrum. They are broadcasting on millimeter waves, which use higher frequencies than the radio waves that have long been used for mobile phones.
Millimeter waves typically broadcast at frequencies between 30 and 300 gigahertz. This is way better when compared to mobile devices bands that broadcast below 6 GHz.
On a not-so-positive-note, the issue of line-of-sight is a weakness that plagues millimeter wave technology. These waves are unable to travel through buildings. They just end up bouncing off the wall. They are also susceptible to plants and rain. They get absorbed when the weather gets tough.
This drawback is one reason 5G powered networks will likely augment the use of cell towers with a new technology called small cells.
Small Cell is used to bypass or eliminate the hurdles and challenges experienced by millimeter waves. Small cell networks solve the issue of signal drops by using thousands of low-power mini base stations. The base stations are much closer together (about 250 meters apart) and use relay technologies.
Due to the wider spectrum coverage, users are able to move around without loss of signal because connections bounce from one base station to the next during movements. The drawback with Small Cells however is the infrastructure and the number of small cells required to build a robust 5G infrastructure. This is even more challenging for rural locations.
On a more positive note, Small Cell ability to broadcast over milimeter waves makes it a good candidate for 5G base stations. This infrastructure will leverage the small cell infrastructure to take advantage of a new technology – massive MIMO.
Multiple Input, Multiple Output(MIMO) base stations increase network connectivity and bandwidth by a factor of 22 or more. Considered as 4G base stations, massive MIMO contains about half a dozen ports for antennas that handle all cellular traffic. It does come with its own challenges. The ability of modern cellular antennas to broadcast in all directions at once can cause a signal-cross talk or serious interference.
To alleviate this problem, a more intelligent technology would need to be introduced to fully reap the benefit of massive MIMO’s increased antenna capacity.
Beamforming helps massive MIMO make more efficient use of the spectrum around them. This technology acts as a regulator for broadcast traffic. Its precision prevents interference and is more efficient. Its effectiveness is based on an algorithm that triangulates exactly where each signal is emanating from and plots the transmission route back through the air to each cellular device that needs it.
Besides boosting data rates by broadcasting over millimeter waves and beefing up spectrum efficiency with massive MIMO, wireless engineers are also trying to achieve the high throughput and low latency required for 5G through a technology called full-duplex, which modifies the way antennas deliver and receive data.
It’s possible you’ve used or seen a walkie-talkie or a push to talk device. Walkie-talkies operate on a half-duplex channel (one person speaks, while the other listens, and then takes a turn in speaking). As you may have already guessed, in a full-duplex transmission, each party gets to speak simultaneously at will.
In modern base stations and smartphones communication, transceivers are used to transmit and receive information over the same or different frequency (depending on the user’s choice), at the same time.
Using full-duplex and related 5G technologies, researchers are aiming to mature a 5G technology that will encompass all of the features of regular wireless networks capable of supporting virtual reality gamers, and powering autonomous cars.
The ultimate benefit of 5G powered devices will result in significantly faster speeds in data access, downloads, and streaming content. In addition, 5G devices will have increased computing power and make use of the lower latency, meaning that the devices will enjoy virtually instantaneous connections to the network, as well as greater connectivity when on the move due to the use of advanced antenna beam steering.
When Did All This Start?
To help us understand how we got here, it is important to chart the inevitable rise of wireless standards from the first generation (1G) to where we are today, Back in 2019, the initial research for 5G technology began and is expected to gain widespread availability by 2025.
Is 5G available now?
5G is already here! Moreso, global operators started launching new 5G networks in early 2019. In 2020, many countries expect nationwide 5G mobile networks. Additionally, most Android phone manufacturers are producing and selling more 5G phones.
5G has been deployed in 35+ countries and counting. While it is hard to predict when everyone will have access to 5G, there is sufficient evidence that can be used to predict more countries are likely to launch their 5G networks beyond 2020.
We have indeed come a long way from the days of the first generation (1G), through the fourth (4G) generation of mobile networks. It is clear that 5G is the projected defacto for the future of the mobile network. Moreover, the use of 5G technology will help make the Internet of Things(IoT), a dream come true.
However, unlike its predecessors, 5G implementations are projected to be far more cash-intensive making it expensive and more complex to implement. A 2017 article by Bloomberg puts the cost of upgrading to a 5G technology at around $200 billion dollars. Only time will tell if the benefits will outweigh the cost.
5G Bytes: Millimeter Waves Explained | https://spectrum.ieee.org/video/telecom/wireless/5g-bytes-millimeter-waves-explained Availability of 5G by country |https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Availability_of_5G_by_country From 1G to 5G: A Brief History of the Evolution of Mobile Standards | https://www.brainbridge.be/news/from-1g-to-5g-a-brief-history-of-the-evolution-of-mobile-standards