The Next Generation of Wireless – 5G

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In the first part of the article, we looked at the EVOLUTION OF MOBILE GENERATIONS, here we will see the features promised by 5G and what it means for smart city plans and businesses.

With fanfare, excitement, and speculation, 5G is slowly making the transition from a general idea to network implementation. Hence, getting ready for 5G is as important as knowing how it will be used,” tells Morgan Kurk, the COO of CommScope. As India sets its sights on greater economic growth and accelerated development, it needs 5G to fully leverage the possibilities of Industry 4.0, expedite Rural Broadband, de-congested Urban Networks. Here we present to you, all you need to know about the future 5G Networks and know about what the Tech-Giants & Researchers have for us in this new package of Wireless Generation. Beyond its impact on providing connectivity to people, we see how this new technology present a new paradigm to provide connectivity to vehicles and its potential for real-time control in manufacturing.

User demand for increased bandwidth is growing. Technology that requires more data than before, such as high-quality video streaming and virtual reality software, is a part of this demand. Telecoms are looking to use 5G as a way to deliver high speeds, low latency, and better value to a rapidly growing customer base of mobile data users. Apart from enhanced mobile broadband, 5G is distinct from its previous generation by finding crucial use cases in the case of automation of vehicles and Industry 4.0.

While 4G was focussed on delivering much faster mobile broadband services than 3G, 5G is designed to be a unified, more capable platform for the following use cases:

  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband: 5G will not only make smartphones better, but it will also usher in new immersive experiences, such as VR and AR, with faster, more uniform data rates, lower latency, and cost-per-bit.
  • Mission-Critical communications: 5G will enable new services that can transform industries with ultra-reliable/available, low latency links—such as remote control of critical infrastructure, vehicles, and medical procedures
  • Massive Internet of Things: 5G will seamlessly connect a massive number of embedded sensors in virtually everything through the ability to scale down in data rates, power and mobility to provide extremely lean/low-cost solutions.

Thales Group, a French MNC classifies the 8 specification requirements that drive the 5G technology as follows:

  1. Improved Data Rate
  2. Extremely low latency
  3. Larger bandwidth
  4. Larger connectivity
  5. Maximum availability
  6. Maximum coverage
  7. Reduction in network energy usage
  8. Improved Power management in IoT devices

Low latency (the delay between sending and receiving information) is a distinguishing feature of 5G from its previous generation, that promises to unveil the new technologies to the masses like Autonomous Vehicles, Smart homes, Virtual Reality Gaming. 5G technology promises the ultra-low latency required for most of the real-time control of manufacturing processes. From 200ms in 4G, we go down to 1ms in 5G.

5G networks offer manufacturers and telecom operators the chance to build smart factories and truly take advantage of technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, augmented reality for troubleshooting, and the Internet of Things (IoT). It is the low latency and high reliability of 5G that supports critical applications.

Low latency is what provides real-time interactivity for services using the cloud: this is key to the success of the autonomous vehicles. As far as autonomous vehicles are concerned, the accurate positioning of vehicles will rely on a combination of sensors. 5G technologies present a new paradigm to provide connectivity to vehicles. For the first time, mobile communication technology in the form of 5G can become one of those sensors. This is due to the unique combination of five properties that are favorable for accurate positioning: high carrier frequencies, large bandwidths, large antenna arrays, device-to-device communication, and ultra-dense networking. These specific signal characteristics of 5G communication turn out to be highly conducive for vehicle positioning.

User demand for increased bandwidth is growing. Technology that requires more data than before, such as high-quality video streaming and virtual reality software, is a part of this demand. High bandwidth and connection density secure all-time connectivity. 5G will provide much more network capacity by expanding into a new spectrum, such as millimeter waves (mmWave). 5G can be significantly faster than 4G, delivering up to 20 Gigabits-per-second (Gbps) peak data rates and 100+ Megabits-per-second (Mbps) average data rates.

The Millimeter Wave Technology:

The high-frequency bands in the spectrum above 24 GHz were targeted as having the potential to support large bandwidths and high data rates, ideal for increasing the capacity of wireless networks. These high-frequency bands are often referred to as “mmWave” due to the short wavelengths that can be measured in millimeters.

However, the high penetration losses and blocking mean that mmWave deployments will cover outdoor or indoor environments, but not provide outdoor to indoor connectivity. The mmWave cell sizes will, therefore, be smaller and higher in density.  In addition, there will almost certainly be a key role for Software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) in how networks operate and provide seamless connectivity for users.

Hurdles in the Path to realize 5G:

The millimeter-wave frequency operates in a spectrum above the 24GHz band. In this spectrum band, the information transfer speed is extremely fast, but it is prone to distortion, affected by obstructions like walls. However, it is the only spectrum band that delivers a true 5G experience. The mid-band frequency operates in between 1GHz and 6GHz spectrum bands, therefore it provides a balanced mix of speed, consistency, and reliability. Spectrum plays a crucial role in the delivery of 5G services. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has identified 35 MHz of spectrum in the 700MHz frequency band, and 300 MHz of spectrum in the midrange band of 3.3GHz to 3.6GHz.

Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) Director-General Rajan S Mathews told Business Standard that telcos were not interested in bidding for the 5G spectrum due to inadequate availability of spectrum in the right frequency bands. Each telecom operator requires at least 100 MHz of spectrum in the 3.3GHz to 3.6GHz band to start with, but with defense, railway, and space departments claiming 125MHz, a telco would get no more than 60MHz; that would be insufficient, he added. Similarly, the 25 MHz of spectrum available in the sub-1GHz (700MHz) frequency band will not be enough for telcos to increase their 5G network coverage – three telecom players would require at least 10 MHz each.

Telecom infrastructure: Ready for 5G-like, but not 5G

5G would require new network towers for better coverage. Going by the past record, erecting new towers has not been easy for operators; they hit roadblocks on account of delayed approvals. Therefore, operators are investing in upgrading existing network assets that help both 4G and 5G services – laying optical fibers and using MIMO antennas, etc.

Conclusion:

Considering the benefits of 5G, at least in terms of what it promises on paper, and given India’s growing demand for data services, it is safe to assume that the technology would help put the country’s dream of a digital economy on the fast track. However, despite several developments on the 5G front, the next-generation network does not appear to be anywhere close to getting rolled out in the country.

If India does not want to be left behind, which has happened in all the previous ‘G’ transitions, it is crucial to roll-out 5G and play a pivotal role in defining what the world will use — to grow technologically and economically.

References:

  1. https://www.ericsson.com/en/reports-and-papers/consumerlab/reports/5g-business-value-to-industry-blisk
  2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11277-018-5615-7
  3. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/8246850
  4. https://www.commscope.com/globalassets/digizuite/2491-fast-forward-to-the-future-with-5g-networks-br-110668-en.pdf?r=1
  5. https://www.qualcomm.com/invention/5g/what-is-5g
  6. https://www.business-standard.com/topic/5g-spectrum
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