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The Evolution and Technological Advances of 5G

(Wireless 5G Heterogeneous Networks - IEEE)


- The Evolution of Mobile From 1G To 5G

Remarkably, wireless communication has experienced dramatic advances over the last 30 years. The first generation (1G), second generation (2G), third generation (3G), and fourth generation (4G) wireless technologies were approximately used in the decades of the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s, respectively. They have made significant impact on our society by providing important communication means such as mobile voice communication, text messaging, mobile internet communication, and smart phone communications. 

5G has started to be globally launched in 2020 to provide unprecedented mobile communication experience. For 5G, there is a well-known triangle diagram to illustrate its three main features, enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive machine type communications (mMTC), and ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (uRLLC), The three main features collectively support a vastly expanded range of service types and are forward-compatible to new services that are expected to emerge in the 5G era. 

The following list highlights some of the relevant breakthroughs and events:

  1. Analog Voice (1980s) - The era of the cellular telecommunication began with the first generation (1G) of mobile technology. It was based on AMPS, analog frequency-division multiplexed technology, which was brought to live at the beginning of 1980s. 
  2. Digital Voice (1990s) - The 2G was GSM (Global System for Mobile) that utilized the Time Division Multiplexed (TDMA) modulation and it was introduced in the early 1990s. GSM completely replaced its predecessor in only few years and it is still generating business opportunities and revenues. 
  3. Mobile Broadband (2000s) - In the years 2000s it was the time of the 3G, the new disruptive technology based on Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA). 
  4. Mobile Internet (2010s) - At the beginning of 2010, the new 4G generation started with two competing systems, LTE and WiMax, both based on a the OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division on Multiple Access) modulation scheme. WiMax had a short commercial life and it was completely wiped out by LTE that started to dominate the broadband market and spread out very rapidly across different verticals, from the MBB for data-hungry applications, to the Machine Type Communication (MTC) system for low-power and low-data volume devices. 
  5. Ubiquitous Connectivity (2020s) - From 5G to the Edge and Beyond. 5G networks are considered as an enabler for new services in multiple industries, and hence also an enabler for new businesses. Ubiquitous connectivity affords new cloud-based intelligence from which we all benefit, allowing us to be more productive, cost effective, resource and environmentally aware.
    While wireless connectivity was initially used mainly to connect individuals on the move to the internet and to one another, many industries have recently started to understand the benefits of also interconnecting devices or “things” to make them smarter by working in concert.

Fiber-optic transmission systems and networks are expected to continue to evolve to offer higher capacity and wider application space, especially through interworking with wireless networks. 


- The Long Run To 5G

Over the years and up to today, only 1G completely disappeared. All the following generations and related deployed technologies, GSM/GPRS/UMTS/HSPA/LTE, are still very much alive and kicking and generate business for different industry sectors covering different needs of data rate, cost, power consumption, data speed and volume, latency, etc. 

5G is unlikely to ever completely replace 4G LTE, just as a smart phone today rolls from 4G LTE to 3G and 2G as reception decreases. Backward compatibility is an essential ingredient in all of these standards. 5G signals are very high frequency. The technology can scale to 300 GHz, versus 2.6 GHz for LTE. While that allows signals to carry significantly more data - basically scaling bandwidth to increase data density - the higher frequency also makes the signals more susceptible to interference from objects such as trees, buildings, and people. Even your own body can block millimeter-wave signals.

With the advent of 5G, for which the 3GPP targets commercial launches of devices starting in 2020, there will be a progressive technology shift towards new frontiers. Whether 5G will be a real technology revolution, rather than a progressive evolution, is still early to predict. Either way, its impact on the entire telecommunication ecosystem will be surely dramatic and will have a global scale. 

The telecommunication system will be radically changed, with mobile network that have significant improvements both in higher data rates and lower latency and lower power systems to generate a variety of business cases across a wide range of vertical markets. This, in turn, will enable all the key players in the industry, from the Communication Service Providers (CSPs), MNOs, infra vendors, device manufactures and so on so forth, to offer new and enhanced services and solutions and, foremost, to address the worldwide increasing demand of the digital society to have a world in which everything is always connected. 


- The Key Technologies For 5G

5G is based on OFDM (Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing), a method of modulating a digital signal across several different channels to reduce interference. 5G uses 5G NR air interface alongside OFDM principles. 5G also uses wider bandwidth technologies such as sub-6 GHz and mmWave. 

Like 4G LTE, 5G OFDM operates based on the same mobile networking principles. However, the new 5G NR air interface can further enhance OFDM to deliver a much higher degree of flexibility and scalability. This could provide more 5G access to more people and things for a variety of different use cases. 

5G will bring wider bandwidths by expanding the usage of spectrum resources, from sub-3 GHz used in 4G to 100 GHz and beyond. 5G can operate in both lower bands (e.g., sub-6 GHz) as well as mmWave (e.g., 24 GHz and up), which will bring extreme capacity, multi-Gbps throughput, and low latency. 

5G is designed to not only deliver faster, better mobile broadband services compared to 4G LTE, but can also expand into new service areas such as mission-critical communications and connecting the massive IoT. This is enabled by many new 5G NR air interface design techniques, such as a new self-contained TDD subframe design.


- The Specs of 4G, LTE, and 5G

5G technology will solve the network latency problem through efficient packet prioritization and its ability to provide a suitable environment for these technologies to flourish. In an ideal world, it will lay the foundation for widespread VoIP adoption, smart cities, IoT integration, autonomous vehicles, and smart devices.
  • The average LTE round-trip latency is around 16ms. In comparison, 5G will offer a latency of around 9ms. Low latencies will create an environment for network-reliant devices to succeed.
  • Mobile networks rely on radio frequencies to broadcast. Current 4G networks broadcast below 6 GHz, while 3G used between 400 MHz and 3 GHz frequencies.
  • 5G networks will broadcast between 30 GHz and 300 GHz, more than 20 times faster than current 4G networks. For the average consumer, this is the equivalent of having a fiber optic internet connection in your pocket that can communicate faster than ever with the network.  



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