An introduction to the 5G era which is the next big technological revolution that will transform the Economy, and You. The new 5G standard is all geared up to accelerate the ‘Wireless Speeds,’ integrate the ‘Internet of Things,’ and drive competition.
Introduction to 5G:
The industry is set on a race to build the “Fiber in the Sky.” The next-gen mobile standard called the 5G – The fifth generation technology is poised to disrupt and create a new platform that is faster, agile than the 4G’s state-of-the-art also known as the LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks.
However, the 5G is expected to debut across the globe in the next two years time. It is the newest in the continuum of all innovations in the “Wireless Technology.” It also promises to disrupt if not complement most of the significant industries with lightning fast communications speeds.
The fifth generation of mobile networking standards determined by the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), the organisation that sets the guidelines for every company operating in cellular communications. The official name is 5G NR which stands for “New Radio” however; it doesn’t mean anything but to be used the way LTE is today to differentiate it from the previous versions.
Every new generation of wireless networks delivers faster speeds and more functionality to our smartphones. 1G brought us the very first cell phones; 2G let us text for the first time; 3G brought us online; and 4G delivered the speeds that we enjoy today, but as more users come online 4G networks have just about reached the limit of what they’re capable of at a time when users want even more data for their smartphones. The devices now we’re headed towards 5G the next generation of wireless will be able to handle a thousand times more traffic than today’s networks. 5G will be up to 10 times faster than 4G LTE, just imagine downloading an HD movie in under a second or think five Gbps is enough to string fifty 4K movies from Netflix at the same time. 5G will be the foundation for virtual reality, autonomous driving, the Internet of Things, and stuff we can’t even yet imagine.
What exactly is a 5G network? The truth is experts can’t explain what 5G is because they don’t even know yet. Right now, there are five brand new technologies emerging as a foundation of 5G – Millimeter Waves, Small Cells Networks, Massive MIMO, Beamforming and Full Duplex. Firstly, the technology number one.
1. Millimetre Waves:
Your smartphone and other electronic devices in your home use very specific frequencies on the radio frequency spectrum typically those under six gigahertz but these frequencies are starting to get more crowded. Carriers can only squeeze so many bits of data on the same amount of radio frequency spectrum as more devices come online. We’re going to start to see slower service and more dropped connections.
The solution is to open up some new real estate, so researchers are experimenting with broadcasting on shorter millimetre waves those that fall between 30 and 300 gigahertz. This section of the spectrum has never been used before for mobile devices and opening it up means more bandwidth for everyone, but there is a catch. Millimetre Waves can’t travel well through buildings or other obstacles, and they tend to be absorbed by plants and rain to get around this problem we’ll need the technology number two.
2. Small Cell Networks:
Today’s wireless networks rely on massive high powered cell towers to broadcast their signals over long distances but remember higher-frequency millimetre waves have a harder time travelling through obstacles. That means if you moved behind the one you lose your signal. Small cell networks would solve that problem using thousands of low-power mini base stations. These base stations would be much closer together than traditional towers forming a sort of relay team to transmit signals around obstacles. This would be especially useful in cities as the user moving behind an impediment his smartphone would automatically switch to a new base station in better range of his device allowing him to keep his connection. Next up technology number three.
3. Massive MIMO:
The MIMO refers to Multiple-Input-Multiple-Output. Today’s 4G base stations have about a dozen ports for antennas that handle all cellular traffic, but Massive MIMO base stations can support about a hundred ports which could increase the capacity of today’s networks by a factor of 22 or more. However, Massive MIMO comes with its complications. Today’s cellular antennas broadcast information in every direction at once and all of those crossing signals could cause serious interference which brings us to the technology number four.
The Beamforming is like a traffic signalling system for cellular signals. Instead of broadcasting in every direction, it would allow a base station to send a focused stream of data to a specific user. This precision prevents interference, and it is way more efficient which means stations could handle more incoming and outgoing data streams at once. Here’s how it works, say you’re in a cluster of buildings, and you’re trying to make a phone call. Your signal is ricocheting off of surrounding buildings and crisscrossing with other signals from users in the area.
A Massive MIMO base station receives all of these signals and keeps track of the timing and the direction of their arrival. It then uses signal processing algorithms to triangulate precisely where each signal is coming from and plots the best transmission route back through the air to each phone. Sometimes it’ll even bounce individual packets of data in different directions off of buildings or other objects to keep signals from interfering with each other. The result is a coherent data stream sent only to you which brings us to the technology number five.
5. Full Duplex:
If you’ve ever used a walkie-talkie you know that to communicate you have to take turns talking and listening. Today’s cellular base stations have that same hold up a basic antenna can only do one job at a time either transmit or receive. This is because of a principle called reciprocity which is the tendency for radio waves to travel both forward and backward along the same frequency. To understand this it helps to think of a wave like a train loaded up with data the frequency it’s travelling on is like the train track and if there’s a second train trying to go in the opposite direction on the same track, you’re going to get some interference.
The solution has been to have the trains take turns or to put all the trains on different tracks or frequencies, but you can make things a lot more efficient by working around reciprocity. Researchers have used silicon transistors to create high-speed switches that halt the backward role of these waves. It is a kind of like a signalling system that can momentarily reroute to train so that they can get past each other, that means there’s a lot more getting done on each track a whole lot faster. The industry experts are still working out many of the kinks with Millimetre Waves, Small Cell Networks Massive MIMO, Beamforming, and Full Duplex.
To summarise, 5G is still a work in progress it will likely include other new technologies too and making all of these systems work together will be an entirely different challenge, but if experts can figure that out, ultra-fast 5G service could arrive in the next five years or so. In my following article, I will discuss the advancements and how 5G will impact the global industries and you.
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