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What Is 5G? What Benefits Will it Bring?

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By: Mike Gedeon, Customer Technical Services Manager

5G is the set of wireless standards specifying the next generation of wireless communication.  It has three fundamental principles:

  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband
  • Ultra-Reliable, Low-Latency Communication
  • Massive Machine Type Communication

Enhanced mobile broadband means improvements in the average data rate that each user can expect, with peak data rates up to 10 Gb/s. Because of advances in antenna technologies, 5G will allow an increase in the number of people in the same area that can access the mobile network at any given time, using techniques such as beam-forming, beam steering, MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output).

Ultra-reliable, low-latency communication is intended for safety-critical communications, where a delay of just a few milliseconds could result in an accident or physical harm. The 5G standards are targeting 1 millisecond or less latency.  This will be important for autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles, which will rely on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication to avoid accidents. This will also provide the ability to maintain connectivity with people in faster moving vehicles.

Massive machine-type communication is exactly what it sounds like. This is an enabling technology of the internet of things (IoT). This could be machine to machine communication such as between autonomous vehicles or between factory equipment.

What is the 5G timeline?

As with previous generations of mobile wireless standards, the entire set of standards is not published at once, but they are broken up into several different releases. Release 15 from the 3GPP was the first set of 5G standards. Release 15 came in 2018.  June of 2020 saw release 16. Release 17, which will largely provide the full potential of 5G, is expected at the end of 2021.

How will 5G be accomplished?

5G antennas can be placed at the top of towers as in traditional cellular service. However, the networks will be augmented by many small cells, which will cover smaller, more densely populated areas using smaller antennas and less equipment, so they can be mounted on lamp posts, bus stops, the sides or roofs of buildings, etc.

5G will also likely use MIMO antennas which will actively assign specific groups of receiving and transmitting elements in each antenna to different users. The location and timing of these smaller signals can be adjusted to form beams to very narrow widths and steer them toward the users that are currently in contact with the antenna. These configurations will be changed on the fly by a combination of the electronics in the baseband unit and in active antennas.

The networks may also install smaller cells inside buildings to provide indoor coverage, if needed.

How will 5G benefit people?

The enhanced mobile broadband will provide fixed wireless access to people in rural areas without access to high speed broadband. It will allow users to stream high definition video on their smartphones. Gamers will be able to use their smartphones (or perhaps smart glasses) to participate in augmented reality and massively multiple online role-playing games.  

The ultrareliable low latency communication will provide the vehicle to everything (V2X) communication discussed previously to enhance vehicle safety, whether driven by humans or not. It will create reliable connectivity for medical monitoring of patients using wearable technology and will even potentially allow for doctors to control surgical instruments over the internet in order to perform remote surgery on patients who cannot get to a doctor.

Massive machine type communication can be used to control factories, direct traffic at smart intersections, and generally allow for smart homes and smart cities.

Behind the scenes, 5G will allow for more users on the network in a limited space, without worry of them interfering with each other’s reception.

The benefits and potential use cases of 5G are too numerous to list in a single post.  It is likely that many of the more interesting use cases that will use 5G in the future have not even been dreamed up yet.  Only time will tell what the future brings.

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References: 

Art King “Demystifying 5G” Cabling Installation and Maintenance May 2020
White paper – “5G Services and Use Cases”  ©2017 5G Americas retrieved from: https://www.5gamericas.org/white-paper-archive/

Microwaves and RF Magazine
e-Book “Focus on 5G: Technology and Challenges” ©2020 Endeavor Media
http://3GPP.org


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