For the past couple of years, we’ve heard about 5G a lot – the fastest internet connectivity we’ve ever experienced which will make the world smaller than it already is? Of course, it has got our attention. However, we are no more just hearing vague news about this technology – the first wave of 5G phones have been on sale now for about a year. Recently, in March, Nokia put out its unique “global 5G” phone, the Nokia 8.3. The day when 5G becomes a huge part of our daily lives isn’t far and it is worth knowing its impact on the future of the world.
What is 5G?
The fifth-generation technology standard for cellular networks was introduced as a concept to the world by Verizon in 2018. 5G is the latest global wireless standard after the 4G network, launched in 2009.
No single company or person owns the 5G network spectrum. However, there are several telecom companies within the mobile ecosystem that are contributing to bringing 5G to life. The three companies who have already invested in the 5G spectrum and will have the highest patent ownership are Ericsson (ERIC) Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson from Sweden, Finland’s Nokia and America’s Qualcomm. Here’s everything you need to know about this revolutionary technology.
Many may wonder why it is important and if it is progress for the sake of it. Experts believe that it is – simply because it is no more just about phones.
“The first three generations of cellular technology (1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G) focused on voice, text, and data communication. However, these early wireless generations were focused on communications to cellular handsets and smartphones – they were not designed for machine-to-machine communication, what we call the “Internet of Things”,” said David Witkowski to The Electronics. Witkowski is a wireless and telecommunications industry veteran and the CEO of California based startup Oku Solutions LLP.
According to him, 5G not only extends the ability of the cellular network to support higher data speeds for handsets, but it also adds the ability to support a much larger number of devices, to reduce latency and improve the reliability of data transfer, and to serve high-speed broadband to homes.
What makes 5G unique?
The major difference between 4G and 5G will be higher bandwidth, lower latency and faster speeds. 5G promises internet speed in the range of 1 and 10Gbps download speeds and 1-millisecond latency. That is a 20 fold increase in speed and latency compared to 4G’s 100 Mbps and 50-millisecond latency.
5G gives its users more airwaves – that’s what makes it so fast. It also opens up a wide range of short-range airwaves called “High-Band”. The high-band didn’t work with 4G due to compatibility issues. 5G can run on any frequency and hence it promises three different kinds of 5G experiences—low, middle, and high.
“5G could replace fibre for back-haul networks or complement when it is difficult to install Fiber for back-haul networks due to accessibility or terrain.”
The backbone is different as well, says Dr Ashutosh Dutta, Senior Wireless Research Scientist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab and Co-Chair for IEEE 5G Initiative.
“There are 7 different transition methodologies to move from 4G to 5G. The initial co-existence is obtained by Non Stand Alone (NSA) mode as defined by 3GPP. It will then move to Stand Alone (SA) mode In future, both 4G and 5G networks will co-exist as many countries in the world may not have 5G technologies, but 5G backbone will be different than 4G.”
|5G is also expected to bring revolutionary changes in the field of data-driven industries, smart cities and infrastructure management. Ultra-reliable communication and narrowband Machine-type-communication will be a big enabler for IoT applications, like eHealth, autonomous driving, production and logistics control.
A 5G economy study conducted by IHS Markit revealed that the full economic effect of 5G will be established throughout the world by 2035. 5G will support a wide range of industries and the industrial impact is estimated to be $13.2 trillion.
The study also disclosed that the 5G value chain (including operators, content creators, OEM’s, app developers, and consumers) could alone support up to 22.3 million jobs.
What are the benefits of 5G?
The biggest benefit that a 5G spectrum will bring is in the sector of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is a system of interconnected and interlinked computers, machines and objects, provided with unique identifiers and they have the ability to send or receive data over a network without any human-human, human-computer interaction.
5G will optimize spectrum use and reduce Total Cost of Ownership for operators in two ways. “Firstly as a protocol 5G is spectrally more efficient. And in mid and high bands the use of better mMIMO scheme in some cases gives huge spectral efficiencies. This means operators make more money per Hz of 5G deployment in comparison to LTE,” explained Parag Naik, Co-founder and CEO of Saankhya Labs, a Bangalore based wireless communication solutions company. Massive multiple-input, multiple-output, or massive MIMO, is an extension of MIMO, group or groups of antennas at the transmitter and receiver to provide better throughput and better spectrum efficiency.
Secondly, on the RAN infrastructure, the concept of disaggregation allows for intelligent network automation and schemes that improve capacity, he added.
What does it mean for LTE technology, Wifi and other ISPs?
One might wonder what this technology would mean for the existing LTE ones. Will it render it obsolete? Witkowski believes that it is unlikely with 4G still not having reached its “peak deployment” and 3G and even 2G deployments still common in many parts of the world.
“Eventually, those earlier generation cellular networks will be decommissioned, but I expect we will see 4G LTE co-existing with 5G NR for many years to come,” he said.
Similarly, Wifi and 5G will also co-exist, says Naik from Saankhya Labs. “WiFi is ideal for indoor short distance ‘best-effort’ communication while 5G is more enterprise and comes with a more stringent QoS. Lots of operators will continue to use WiFi offload opportunistically. Wifi will be deployed in underserved areas where the cost of 5G deployments are prohibitive. Along with WiFi offload, other kinds of offload will continue to co-exist,” he said.
|The biggest challenge faced by telcos in deploying 5G in countries will be the development of Infrastructure.
Even developed countries like the USA and China don’t have the proper frequency band or infrastructure for the deployment and coverage of 5G signals.
With data speeds expected to be multiple times faster than current levels, the connectivity will increase. It will force cloud-based and data virtualization services to be as airtight as possible to protect user data and privacy. On the same note, their users will have to be more careful and vigilant towards their data.
When can we have 5G?
It will be a while before we feel the full-fledged impact of 5G but it will most likely be subtle and significant. Your access to it definitely depends on the neighbourhood you live in.
All of the major telcos are working furiously to build out 5G networks. Some carriers in the US, South Korea and Japan, among other countries, have already launched 5G pilots in select cities, while manufacturers have confirmed that more compatible mobile devices are coming in 2020.