THE FIFTH GENERATION, ARE YOU READY FOR 5G?
Communication Technology has come a long way from the days of Graham Bell, a whole lot of that growth within the past two decades. Coming a long way from the days of the walkie-talkie, cellular mobile communication has achieved its 5th generation of technological advancement, 5G.
From the basic cellular first Generation, to text[SMS] enabled 2G[GSM], internet enabled 3G, and the fast track 4G network we currently enjoy, cellular technology has grown in leaps and bounds. But, just like the famous Oliver Twist, we always want more.
The change from 3G UMTS LTE to 4G LTE-A can be better explained with the difference in speed of download. But with the 5G technology, communication technology is moving past the LTE networks. Various network providers especially in the US have been working for years towards developing the next 5G technology. The International Telecommunications Union has given its guidelines for standard 5G technology, and termed it as part of its IMT 2020 Networks.
The major proponents that define 5G networks are as follows;
- MILLIMETER WAVES: Previous generations of telecommunication networks have been operating on micro waves, with 4G on less than 6GHz frequency of operation. With the endless flood of mobile technology users, these channels are saturated and will result in poor network provision. One of the main proponents that define 5G, is to supersede these waves and hence introduce the use of millimeter Waves [mm Waves]. These mm Waves are broadcast at frequencies between 30GHz and 300GHz. They help transmit massive volumes of data in a short period of time. This makes 5G have greater downloads speeds, up to 100 times faster than 4G, with speeds of between 10 -20Gbits/sec.
- SMALL CELLS: Cellular network function in a certain way. Network services are divided into small geographical units or cells covered by service providers with cell towers. Using analog waves, sounds and images are transmitted to a cell phone with an inbuilt analog-digital converter. But since 5G will be working with millimeter waves which transmit at higher frequency and greater speeds but cannot successfully pass through barriers such as walls. The waves are absorbed by the atmospheric gases and have a shorter range. Smaller cells are created with transmitters that are closer to the users and with a less geographical dispersion. Basically, the transmission units are smaller and closer together than normal telecoms towers.
- Massive MIMO: The Multiple Input Multiple Output technology provides base stations with multiple antennae for both the transmitter and receivers. This helps to greatly maximize speed and efficiency for 5G network. But the multiple bands of information could easily cause interference. This is avoided by something known as Beamsforming
- Beamsforming: In the simplest forms gets rid of the need for triangulation from various transmitters and towers in order to transmit your information directly to you. Instead of clouding the same channel, the multiple MIMO transmits over multiple frequencies simultaneously. The multiple antennae, working as a phased array create the beams of mm Waves directly to the device.
Due to the somewhat revolutionary structure of 5G, there will be a lot of infrastructural changes before it can be employed by/for mainstream use. The use of smaller more numerous cells will require a lot of investment into new infrastructure if 5G is to be provided for mainstream use. This will also limit the use to places were the returns will justify these investments.
For commercial viability, 5G will definitely have to be able to function on the 4G sites and devices, as 4G is still the more viable cellular network as present.
5G can be accommodated on some 4G devices and some new 5G devices have 4G capability. But unlike other generations, 5G is envisaged as a full functionality network that can cover both home and office network needs. Thus, 5G will not be limited to just cellular devices, but can provide ultrafast cable-free internet connection within the grid.
The import of this will be felt most in the Internet of Things induced lifestyle, greatly opening up access to AI, Virtual Reality, machine to machine interactions and even self-driving cars and home systems.
The most important factor for the assimilation of 5G relies on the ease it can support multiple standards such as LTE and WiFi, and also the sites on which it will be launched.
Although trial tests are still ongoing in some quarters, 5G is already getting into the market. The first set of 5G-Specs, Release 15 is slated to be introduced by April 2019 for commercial use. The second phase is expected to be submitted to International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as an IMT-2020 Tech candidate.
The 3G Partnership Project (3G PP) propose their own 5G version, the 5G NR (New Radio) which encompasses both low, (below 6GHz) and higher (up to 24GHz) frequencies. Tests on 4G-enabled devices of 5G NR have resulted in only a slight improvement on 4G, between 15 to 50%. Stand-alone simulations show 2.5 times improvements on the lower band frequencies and about 20 times on higher band frequencies.
What users should expect from 5G
- High data rates and reduced latency.
- Download rates of up to 10Gbits/second
- Battery/Energy saving for cell phones.
- Higher system Connectivity
- Massive device connectivity
While 4G laid the ground works that ushered in this generation, 5G is indisputably a game changer. It might take a while, but we are sure that in time, this technology will become mainstream.
The future is here, and we are ready to embrace it. Are you?
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