5G Network? Everything You Need To Know About It

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What is 5G?

5G networks are the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, offering faster speeds and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices than ever before.

Combining cutting-edge network technology and the very latest research, 5G should offer connections that are multitudes faster than current connections, with average download speeds of around 1GBps expected to soon be the norm.

The networks will help power a huge rise in Internet of Things technology, providing the infrastructure needed to carry huge amounts of data, allowing for a smarter and more connected world.

With development well underway, 5G networks are expected to launch across the world by 2020, working alongside existing 3G and 4G technology to provide speedier connections that stay online no matter where you are.

Fifth-generation wireless, or 5G, is the latest iteration of cellular technology, engineered to greatly increase the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks. With 5G, data transmitted over wireless broadband connections could travel at rates as high as 20 Gbps by some estimates — exceeding wireline network speeds — as well as offer latency of 1 ms or lower for uses that require real-time feedback. 5G will also enable a sharp increase in the amount of data transmitted over wireless systems due to more available bandwidth and advanced antenna technology.

How 5G works

Wireless networks are composed of cell sites divided into sectors that send data through radio waves. Fourth-generation (4G) Long-Term Evolution (LTE) wireless technology provides the foundation for 5G. Unlike 4G, which requires large, high-power cell towers to radiate signals over longer distances, 5G wireless signals will be transmitted via large numbers of small cell stations located in places like light poles or building roofs. The use of multiple small cells is necessary because the millimeter wave spectrum — the band of spectrum between 30 GHz and 300 GHz that 5G relies on to generate high speeds — can only travel over short distances and is subject to interference from weather and physical obstacles, like buildings.

Previous generations of wireless technology have used lower-frequency bands of spectrum. To offset millimeter wave challenges relating to distance and interference, the wireless industry is also considering the use of lower-frequency spectrum for 5G networks so network operators could use spectrum they already own to build out their new networks. Lower-frequency spectrum reaches greater distances but has lower speed and capacity than millimeter wave, however.

5G features

5G wireless features

What is the status of 5G deployment?

Wireless network operators in four countries — the United States, Japan, South Korea and China — are largely driving the first 5G buildouts. Network operators are expected to spend billions of dollars on 5G capital expenses through 2030, according to Technology Business Research Inc., although it is not clear how 5G services will generate a return on that investment. Evolving use cases and business models that take advantage of 5G’s benefits could address operators’ revenue concerns.

TBR's 5G telecom market landscape

TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS RESEARCH

5G market landscape

Simultaneously, standards bodies are working on universal 5G equipment standards. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) approved 5G New Radio (NR) standards in December 2017 and is expected to complete the 5G mobile core standard required for 5G cellular services in late 2018. The 5G radio system isn’t compatible with 4G radios, but network operators that have purchased wireless radios recently may be able to upgrade to the new 5G system via software rather than buying new equipment.

With 5G wireless equipment standards almost complete and the first 5G-compliant smartphones and associated wireless devices commercially available in 2019, 5G use cases will begin to emerge between 2020 and 2025, according to Technology Business Research projections. By 2030, 5G services will become mainstream and are expected to range from the delivery of virtual reality (VR) content to autonomous vehicle navigation enabled by real-time communications (RTC) capabilities.

What types of 5G wireless services will be available?

Network operators are developing two types of 5G services.

5G fixed wireless broadband services deliver internet access to homes and businesses without a wired connection to the premises. To do that, network operators deploy NRs in small cell sites near buildings to beam a signal to a receiver on a rooftop or a windowsill that is amplified within the premises. Fixed broadband services are expected to make it less expensive for operators to deliver broadband services to homes and businesses because this approach eliminates the need to roll out fiber optic lines to every residence. Instead, operators need only install fiber optics to cell sites, and customers receive broadband services through wireless modems located in their residences or businesses.

5G cellular services will provide user access to operators’ 5G cellular networks. These services will begin to be rolled out in 2019, when the first 5G-enabled (or -compliant) devices are expected to become commercially available. Cellular service delivery is also dependent upon the completion of mobile core standards by 3GPP in late 2018.

What will 5G networks mean for me?

  • Faster download and upload speeds
  • Smoother streaming of online content
  • Higher-quality voice and video calls
  • More reliable mobile connections
  • Greater number of connected IoT devices
  • An expansion of advanced technologies – including self-driving cars and smart cities

How fast will 5G be?

It’s still not exactly known how much faster 5G will be than 4G, as much of the technology is still under development.

That being said, the networks should provide a significant upgrade to current download and upload speeds – with the GSMA proposing minimum download speeds of around 1GBps.

Most estimates expect the average speed of 5G networks to reach 10Gb/s, and some even think transfer rates could reach a whopping 800Gb/s.

This would mean that users could download a full-length HD quality film in a matter of seconds, and that downloading and installing software upgrades would be completed much faster than today.

Will I be able to get 5G networks on my phone?

Existing smartphones, tablet or other devices that were released when 4G networks were the standard may not be able to connect to 5G to begin with, or may incur extra costs to do so.

However following the 2020 deadline for the initial rollout, we should soon see devices coming with 5G connection as default.

Don’t worry though – although 5G should represent a major step up from current 4G and 3G networks, the new technology won’t immediately replace its predecessor – at least, not to begin with.

Instead, 5G should link in with existing networks to ensure users never lose connection, with the older networks acting as back-up in areas not covered by the new 5G coverage.

So-called “4.5G” networks (also known as LTE-A) are set to fill the gap for the time being, offering connections that are faster than current 4G networks, although only certain countries such as South Korea can benefit from them right now.

Once launched however, implementing 5G may be a slower process. Much like the gradual takeover of 4G networks from the previous generation, existing network infrastructure may need to be upgraded or even replaced in order to deal with the new technology, and homes and businesses may also need to get new services installed.

It’s not yet known how 5G networks will take over from existing networks, but again, much like the rollout of 4G, you may not be able to immediately connect to the new networks without upgrading your technology.

What will a 5G network need?

The GSMA has outlined eight criteria for 5G networks, with a connection needing meet a majority of these in order to qualify as 5G:

  • 1-10Gbps connections to end points in the field (i.e. not theoretical maximum)
  • 1 millisecond end-to-end round trip delay (latency)
  • 1000x bandwidth per unit area
  • 10-100x number of connected devices
  • (Perception of) 99.999 per cent availability
  • (Perception of) 100 per cent coverage
  • 90 per cent reduction in network energy usage
  • Up to 10 year battery life for low power, machine-type devices

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