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5G and Beyond Mobile Wireless Technology

(United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland - Alvin Wei-Cheng Wong)


Mobile is the largest technology platform in human history.

We're at the dawn of something new that will define the next decade and generation of connectivity. Future smart factories and retailers, self-driving cars, untethered virtual and augmented realities, and other yet to be discovered experiences will grow up on tomorrow's 5G networks. Much like 4G introduced the world to the gig economy, mobile 5G will jumpstart the next wave of unforeseen innovation.

The new standard certainly sets ambitious goals. Compared to 4G, 5G aims for a 10X decrease in end-to-end latency, 100X traffic capacity and network efficiency, three times the spectrum efficiency, and 10 times the connection density. 5G will include both mobile and fixed-base wireless applications; for example, a 5G modem can replace fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) installations with wireless connections.

5G standards are not yet finalised and the most advanced services are still in the pre-commercial phase. 5G needs spectrum within three key frequency ranges to deliver widespread coverage and support all use cases. The three ranges are: Sub-1 GHz, 1-6 GHz and above 6 GHz. - Above 6 GHz is needed to meet the ultra-high broadband speeds envisioned for 5G. Players (AT&T, Verizon, ..) in the (U.S.) national wireless industry are developing their 5G networks and are working to acquire spectrum. AT&T is gearing up to launch the first standards-based 5G services in multiple U.S. markets by the end of 2018.

"To bring 5G to life, we need to deploy hundreds of thousands of cell sites. Current manual processes require in-person site visits, but we’re using machine learning to create a “virtual world” that describes its environment - poles, buildings, building materials, foliage - to help operators determine where cell sites can be placed without requiring a site visit. This technology also helps us identify faults in our towers." - (AT&T Labs - Research)


Wireless Network and 5G Technologies

Mobile revolution has changed everything. Our future is a world of connected devices. That means enormous needs for infrastructure, speed and support. The next-generation wireless telecommunications technology known as 5G, which will operate at vastly higher speeds and be able to handle tens of times more devices than existing 4G networks. 5G standards are not yet finalised and the most advanced services are still in the pre-commercial phase. In fact, we probably won’t see any commercial 5G services before at least 2020. The actual 5G radio system, known as 5G-NR, won't be compatible with 4G. But all 5G devices, initially, will need 4G because they'll lean on it to make initial connections before trading up to 5G where it's available. 4G will continue to improve with time, as well. 

5G will achieve speeds of 20 gigabits per second, fast enough to download an entire Hollywood movie in a few seconds. It also will reduce latency - the measure of how long it takes a packet of data to be transmitted between two points - by a factor of 15. 5G networks will combine numerous wireless technologies, such as 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, and millimeter wave technology. 5G will also leverages cloud infrastructure, intelligent edge services and virtualized network core. 

5G wireless technology will provide the backbone for IoT (e.g., Health IoT) that greatly improves data transfer speeds and processing power over its predecessors. The Internet of Things (IoT) will be able to add real-time interactivity to applications ranging from remote inspection and maintenance, to robotic surgery. This combination of speed and computing power will enable new applications for mobile technologies, especially in health care. 

By 2020, the 5G network will support more than 20 billion connected devices, 212 billion connected sensors and enable access to 44 zettabytes of data gathered from a wide range of devices from smartphones to remote monitoring devices. Healthcare organizations are eager to embrace IoT devices because they save money by keeping patients out of the hospital. If IoT devices can diagnose people in advance then that saves huge costs. 

5G technologies will make it possible to interconnect with billions of devices and sensors globally, further fueling the growth of large scale dynamic decentralized/distributed data processing business models. These dynamic models will generate significant business opportunities as well as potential liabilities from failure to comply with centralized data protection requirements like those under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 


5G New Radio (NR) - The First Wave


The first 5G installations are on the horizon. 3GPP, the organization that set standards for earlier wireless network technologies, approved Release 15 in late-2017: this standard will pave the way for transitions from 4G LTE to 5G New Radio (NR) - the first global standard for fifth-generation networks. The standard defines waveforms, channel coding and modulation schemes, plus advanced antenna techniques that open up new frequency bands previously unusable by mobile networks.

[]: "5G New Radio (5G NR) is a completely new air interface being developed for 5G. It is being developed from the ground up in order to support the wide variety of services, devices and deployments 5G will encompass, and across diverse spectrum, but it will build on established technologies to ensure backwards and forwards compatibility. "

The 5G NR specification covers three frequency ranges: low-band (below 1 GHz); mid-band (1 GHz to 6 GHz); and high-band (above 24 GHz), known as mmWave in 5G parlance. The initial deployments will concentrate on the low and mid bands. The 3GPP standard defines non-standalone (NSA) and standalone (SA) standards: NSA is intended to support connection with older LTE towers, and SA covers newer 5G networks built solely with 5G infrastructure. It’s expected that initially, the new 5G antennas will co-located with existing LTE installations.


Massive MIMO Technology


Massive MIMO technology and 5G communications are often mentioned in the same sentence. MIMO stands for Multiple-input, multiple-output. It is a wireless technology that uses multiple transmitters and receivers in a minimum 16X16 array to transfer more data. Massive MIMO is a key technology that helps significantly increase network capacity and spectral efficiency while reducing wireless network interference, ultimately improving the end-user experience. 

People are watching, sharing, and streaming video and music more than ever - putting increasing demands on speed. By 2023, mobile data traffic is expected to reach 110 Exabytes per month, which corresponds to 5.5 million years of HD video streaming. This anticipated surge in mobile data traffic will require even greater capacity in networks. Massive MIMO can help bridge the transition from 4G to 5G, adding intelligent capacity and boosting user experience.

The MIMO concept has been around for a while; WiFi and LTE networks both use MIMO antennas. While it involves multiple technologies, MIMO can essentially be boiled down to this single principle: a wireless network that allows the transmitting and receiving of more than one data signal simultaneously over the same radio channel, typically using a separate antenna for the transmitting and receiving of each data signal. Because MIMO systems need to physically pack more antennas into a small area, they require the use of higher frequencies (and hence shorter wavelengths) than current mobile network standards. 

Massive MIMO antennas are a key 5G requirement. A MIMO installation increases the number of antennas on a radio, and can simultaneously accommodate multiple users. For example, a radio using 4T4R MIMO would have four antennas used to both transmit and receive. Compared to single-antenna systems, a MIMO system improves spectral efficiency - the useful information rate that can be transmitted over a given bandwidth in a specific communication system, measured in bits/sec/Hz. 

 “Massive” has no number attached, and merely means “many more than are currently used.” In practice, base stations in 5G may well have arrays of 128 or 256 mini-antennas, and 5G devices (e.g., tablets or smartphones) will have between two and 10 mini-antennas.




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