As 5G technology is being tested to be readdy for commercial deployment in the coming years, let’s understand about 5G technology and it will help open up new doors.
Reaching 5G technology for consumers and industrial applications means meeting a few requirements. We are slowly moving towards next generation telecommunications. Currently, we are heavily relying on the work already done with the rollout of LTE, LTE-Advanced, and more recently LTE-Advanced Pro networks for awhile still. These network topologies aggregate data from multiple LTE 20MHz carriers, Wi-Fi networks, and Unlicensed spectrum hubs to boost throughput. We are already seeing the results of this with the unveiling of the world’s first Gigabit LTE networks.
Technically speaking, 5G will augment this with additional spectrum at both lower and higher frequencies than existing LTE bands and variable bandwidths ranging up to 100MHz. Smaller range hubs operating in the 3.5 to 6GHz spectrum will be key to boosting short range coverage, in addition to opening up sub-1GHz low frequencies for longer range and cell edge improvements. In a nutshell, expect 5G smartphones to pull in data from numerous network sources all at once.
The final details for the 5G specification are still being decided by various groups and telecommunications companies, but we already have an idea about what the early specification is going to look like. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU)’s IMT-2020 specification is set to be the global network standard for upcoming 5G networks. So far, the agreed-upon specifications include technological and user experience data rates, latency, spectral efficiency, and bandwidth requirements. The 3GPP’s Non-Standalone and New Radio specifications reveal how carriers intend to achieve these goals by incorporating existing networks and spectrum into 5G, as well as using new technologies like high-speed millimeter wave frequencies. The yet to be finalized 5G Standalone (SA) specification (Release 16) will divulge more detail on the back-end technologies which will power next-gen networks.
All this sounds too technical and a bit complicated, and it is. Various companies, industrial groups, and major telecommunication bodies are all working on various specifications and technologies, and all that has to eventually come together to create a universal standard for carriers to implement. There’s still a lot of work left, particularly in reorganizing the back-end, before we see what the final spec will have to offer.
Does 5G means faster speeds and new technologies? More important than the question “what is 5G”, is how it will actually serve the consumers. In simple words, if you have a need for speed, 5G will help open up new doors. In the early report for IMT-2020 radio interfaces (aka 5G networks), 5G base stations will have to offer at least 20Gbps download and 10Gbps upload speeds to consumers. This refers to a shared link, so actual speeds will be lower. The specification states individual users should see a minimum download speed of 100Mbps and upload speeds of 50Mbps. Some of you might be lucky enough to see these speeds on your LTE-Advanced network already.
5G base stations will have to cover stationary users all the way up to vehicles traveling up to 500km/h, so your data connection hopefully won’t drop out on the train in the future. Fifth generation networks should offer consumers a maximum latency of just 4ms. There’s mention of a 1ms latency for ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC) too.
5G also enables simultaneous connectivity to thousands of low power internet of things (IoT) devices and support device-to-device (D2D) connectivity for low latency connections between nearby devices.
Reaching these lofty goals for consumers and industrial applications means meeting a few requirements. Hitting higher speeds while reducing latency will require massive multi-input-multi-output (MIMO) antenna systems, more bandwidth and spectrum for carriers, carrier aggregation from a wider range of sources, and quite likely the use of very high frequency mmWave spectrum.
The rest of the world isn’t sitting still waiting for the U.S. to be the first to launch a 5G network — the race is on around the entire globe. China, Japan, and South Korea are leading innovation and deployment. Europe, Australia, and others are all working out their infrastructure investment schemes.
It’s just a matter of time before 5G arrives for the masses.