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5G Technology and The Future

(UN Geneva - Alvin Wei-Cheng Wong)

- 5G Technology And It’s Future In Mobile Communications

5G is the foundation to what’s next. 5G brings together people along with things, data, applications, transport systems and cities in a smart networked communications environment. The new 5G mobile communications system will enable many new mobile capabilities to be realised - offering high speed, enormous capacity, IoT capability, low latency and much more it provides the bearer for many new applications.

5G is the next phase in the evolution of global communication networks. It isn’t a single technology, but a multi-modal environment built on advances in radio frequency (RF) design, photonics, free space optics, high-throughput satellites and cognitive radios, just to name a few. The exact combination of advanced technologies and business relationships that will constitute this next phase is still unknown, but it’s clear that revolutionary change is coming to communications that will spur massive waves of innovation in healthcare, industry, defense, transportation and the communities in which we live.

Rather than a protocol or device, 5G refers to an array of networking technologies meant to work in concert to connect everything from self-driving cars to home appliances over the air. It’s expected to provide bandwidth of up to 20 gigabits per second - enough to download high-definition movies instantly and use virtual and augmented reality. On your smartphone.


- Four Drivers Paving The Way For 5G

The new standard of 5G 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. 

Four drivers paving the way for 5G are following: Fiber-optic Infrastructure, Small Cell Deployment, High-frequency Spectrum Availability, Bringing 5G Indoors with Fixed Wireless. 5G will serve and change how we think about connectivity for home, enterprises and automotive. 

To deliver the full potential of 5G, a company must possess three fundamental assets: 

  • Massive spectrum holdings, particularly in the millimeter wave bands. This is the only spectrum available today with the bandwidth available to realize the maximum potential for capacity, throughput and latency.
  • End-to-end deep fiber resources.
  • Ability to deploy large numbers of small cells.


- 5G-Wireline/Optical Network Convergence for Enabling the 5G Services

The content on networks today and changing consumption models are shifting requirements for the network. In today’s constantly evolving, on-demand world, the network still needs to scale for massive capacity growth, but it now also needs to be more agile and programmable to better respond and handle unpredictable traffic requirements associated with cloud connectivity and the proliferation of mobile devices.

5G is much more than a new wireless access technology. 5G will fundamentally change how Mobile Network Operators build, operate, and use mobile networks, from the RAN to the data center where accessed content is hosted, and everything in between. Consequently, wireline/optical networks play a fundamental role to enable and optimize 5G end-to-end network performance and mobile user quality of experience, and must evolve in parallel with the wireless side of 5G. 

With the increase in traffic loads, lower latency requirements, and denser infrastructure, the wireline/optical transport infrastructure must grow to avoid becoming the bottleneck in 5G networks.


- How 5G Works: Millimeter Wave, Spectrum, Small Cells and Latency

5G is about Millimeter Wave, Spectrum, Small Cells and Latency. 5G brings three new aspects to the table: greater speed (to move more data), lower latency (to be more responsive), and the ability to connect a lot more devices at once (for sensors and smart devices). 

The performance benchmarks for 5G wireless service are high: user download speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) and uploads of 50 Mbps with a millisecond of maximum signal lag. That’s five times faster than the average household Internet connection in the United States and Europe and 15 times faster than the global average. And all of this needs to be done with three times the spectral efficiency of 4G, effectively tripling the volume of data that can be sent over the same amount of spectrum. 5G networks also must be capable of supporting a million devices in a single square kilometer and maintain connections for mobile devices traveling up to 500 kilometers per hour.


- 5G Standards Are Not Yet Finalised 

The 3GPP has finalized release 16, the first major update to the 5G NR standard (release 15). The new standard has the potential to boost data speeds by supporting new radio frequency bands, and has new features that should improve battery life in 5G devices. 5G standards are not yet finalised and the most advanced services are still in the pre-commercial phase. It has been nearly a decade in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. The first 5G smartphones and infrastructure arrive in 2020, but a full transition will take many more years.

5G primarily runs in two kinds of airwaves: below and above 6GHz. 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. Millimeter waves, also known as extremely high frequency (EHF), is a band of radio frequencies that is well suited for 5G networks. Compared to the frequencies below 5 GHz previously used by mobile devices, millimeter wave technology allows transmission on frequencies between 30 GHz and 300 GHz.


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- The Race To 5G: Technology

Mobile carriers around the world are hard at work developing and making plans for next-generation 5G networks, a significant evolution of today's 4G LTE networks. 5G is being designed to meet the very large growth in data and connectivity of today’s modern society. This revolution will deliver by far the most intelligent mobile network the world has ever seen, as well as being the most "open," creating exciting new opportunities for Internet of Things (IoT) with billions of connected devices, and tomorrow’s innovations. 5G initially operates in conjunction with existing 4G networks before evolving to fully standalone networks in subsequent releases and coverage expansions.

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. 5G uses radio waves or radio frequency (RF) energy to transmit and receive voice and data connecting our communities. 5G will keep us connected in tomorrow’s smart cities, smart homes and smart schools. 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.


- Three Types of 5G

There are three types of 5G being built in the U.S. including low-band, mid-band and high-band mmWave 5G. However, most of what you’ll get is not the super-fast kind AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile/Sprint all have different strategies. 

  • mmWave high-band 5G: T-Mobile (a little), AT&T and Verizon. About 10x faster than LTE with extremely low latency, which means individual messages are transmitted almost instantaneously. But you need to be standing really close (stay within 80 feet) to a tower or transmitter to get those speeds.
  • Mid-band 5G: Sprint. About 6x faster than LTE, but with a smaller footprint than low-band.
  • Low-band 5G: T-Mobile/AT&T. About 20 percent faster than 4G LTE.

Most of what you’re hearing about 5G today actually refers to mid-band or low-band, which won’t be that much of a difference from today’s wireless connectivity.


- 5G Radio Frequency

5th generation wireless systems (5G) are improved networks deploying in 2018 and later and may use existing 4G or newly specified 5G Frequency Bands to operate. The primary technologies include: Millimeter wave bands (26, 28, 38, and 60 GHz) are 5G and offer performance as high as 20 gigabits per second; Massive MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output – 64-256 antennas) offers performance “up to ten times current 4G networks;” “Low-band 5G” and “Mid-band 5G” use frequencies from 600 MHz to 6 GHz, especially 3.5-4.2 GHz.


- 5G Applications and Use Cases

Each new generation wireless network came with all new set of new usages. 5G will make no exception and will be focused on IoT and critical communications applications. In terms of the agenda, we can mention the following uses cases over time: Fixed wireless access, Enhanced mobile broadband with 4G fall-back, Massive M2M /IoT, and Ultra low-latency IoT critical communications.

Some key applications like self-driving cars require very aggressive latency (fast response time) while they do not require fast data rates. Conversely, enterprise cloud base services with massive data analysis will require speed improvements more than latency improvements.

Carriers (AT&T, Verizon, ..) in the (U.S.) national wireless industry are developing their 5G networks and are working to acquire spectrum. 5G is currently being developed and trialed ready for commercial launch from 2020. Widespread availability of 5G services is expected by 2025. 


- Opening Roaming Capabilities Between Mobile 5G and Wi-Fi 6

The 5G network will simplify mobility, with seamless open roaming capabilities between cellular and Wi-Fi access. Mobile users can stay connected as they move between outdoor wireless connections and wireless networks inside buildings without user intervention or the need for users to reauthenticate. 

The new Wi-Fi 6 wireless standard (also known as 802.11ax) shares traits with 5G, including improved performance. Wi-Fi 6 radios can be placed where users need them to provide better geographical coverage and lower cost. Underlying these Wi-Fi 6 radios is a software-based network with advanced automation.



[More to come ...]

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