5th Generation (5G) Technology Explained

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POSTED:  January 7, 2019

By:  Charlie Merulla

How would you like to download a 2GB movie in six seconds or less? Well, this next-generation wireless technology will soon be available with the launching of 5G wireless networks along with compatible cellular technologies.

Before we get to 5G, commonly called 5th Generation, let’s take a few moments to discuss an evolution of mobile networks. The 2nd Generation, 2G, was launched in Finland in 1991. 2G enabled mobile networks to provide services such as, voice, text messages and picture messages. 2G utilized Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) or Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA). There are various TDMA technologies such as: GSM, PDC, iDEN, and iS-136. However, based on today’s standards, 2G is relatively slow, which only had a 21Kbps to 97Kbps speed. 2G was faster than the old modems, but still slow.

Moving onto 3G; 3G was first launched in Japan in October 2001; however, there was a massive delay in the launch of 3G due to incompatibilities between 3G and 2G. In the US, Verizon launched 3G in 2002. 3G was much faster than 2G, with speeds up to 3.1mbps depending on the network. Also, smartphones started to be developed, particularly Apple and Android devices. Besides voice, text, and picture messages, one can send videos over 3G networks

Let’s talk about 4G and 4G LTE. As we can see moving from 2G to 3G, speeds get faster and more data can be delivered. 4G and 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) have different technologies. 4G LTE was launched in Norway and Sweden in 2009, and 4G was launched in US by Sprint in December 2010. Both 4G and 4G LTE offers more reliable and faster speeds than 3G. Most places offer 4G and 4G LTE, but when users with 4G devices are in areas offering only 3G, smartphones and other devices will switch over to 3G. If this happens you won’t have any talk/voice issues, you will just have slower Internet and download speeds. Speeds for 4G and 4G LTE vary according to networks, with speeds up to 50Mbps, but 4 to 12 Mbps are more common. In addition to text/voice and videos, 4G and 4G LTE offers video teleconferencing and cable streaming video. Many companies world-wide take advantage of teleconferencing, saving time and travel expenses. Numerous cable companies take advantage of Smart TV’s by offering various streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sling TV, YouTube, Hulu, etc. Additionally, besides Apple iPhones and Android devices, iPads and tablets have also hit the marketplace. Finally, there are hundreds of thousands of apps that are available to the users to simplify day-to-day activities.

Now that we have taken a brief look at 2G, 3G, 4G, and 4G LTE technology. Let’s look at 5G technology. Remember in the beginning when I said that one can download a 2GB movie in 6 seconds or less? Well, that can be done with the up-and-coming 5G technology. 5G technology is different from the other technologies and is not compatible with any of them. 5G is built on the 802.11ac Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) wireless networking standard. 5G also has the potential to make LAN-based internet in the home obsolete, but will take some time. There are three approaches to 5G: speed, density, and latency. Speeds are anywhere from 10x to 100x faster than 4G. 5G will allow more people on the network at the same time and the latency periods can be less than 1ms.

5G uses high end area, millimeter wavelengths (mmWaves). Millimeter wavelengths do not do well if obstacles are in the way. A leaf can disrupt the mmWave. Millimeter wavelengths do not travel far. In a 5G experiment in Virginia, distances of 10.6km was reached in a direct line-of-site with the transmitter. That is not far, and we will see why shortly. 5G uses Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDM) technology. OFDM transmits large amounts of digital data over a radio wave and splits the radio signal into multiple smaller sub-signals.

With only a 10km distance of travel, we will need a more robust infrastructure, including more fiber to support 5G wireless technology. More antennas will need to be placed on towers, telephone poles, lamp posts, etc. These antennas provide a direct line of communication between cells and provide load-balancing of data. With more antennas’ emitting these millimeter wavelengths, health is an immediate concern. As one can image, adding more sensors can be very costly. Costs estimates are as high at $2.5T BY 2035. However, projection for Increase of productivity is $10T by 2035–a sizeable increase.

We will be hearing Internet of Things (IoT) more and more. Basically, IoT is a network of internet-connected objects, such as vehicles, electronic home appliances, software, actuators, and connectivity that exchanges data by relying on sensors. IoT can be called to any physical object connected to the network. IoT allows for longer battery life for sensors.

Now that we have talked a bit about 5G, let’s look at some of the uses. 5G will have a direct impact on agriculture and farming. Real-time communications between farming equipment in the field, and field condition notifications will be possible. Faster upload data to the cloud and more efficient, with less do-overs.

Airports will have better communications between FAA and pilots. There will be better ground operations, better security checkpoints, better runway monitoring, better baggage handling and better building management will be transformed. Beacons and proximity insights will strengthen operations.

The automotive industry will be no different. The industry is moving towards Smart Cars. Smart Cars are autonomous driving vehicles with no drivers. Businesses can be carried on Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Passengers can watch movies and play games while traveling to their destination. Vehicle-to-Vehicles (V2V) connectivity will occur for roadway driving, warnings, and instant information on driving conditions, and rapid downloads of ultra-high maps. Autonomous test vehicles are presently on roads in various US cites. Unfortunately, 4G networks does not give the required human-like reflexes required by 5G.

If you live in the city, you’re in luck. IoT can help by using data collected to monitor and manage traffic and transportation systems, power plants, energy grids, water supplies, networks, waste management, law enforcement, information systems, schools, libraries, hospitals, and other community services. As one can see, there is a plethora of services that will be affected by 5G. These services allow more efficiency to build these cities, and allow more services to people. Cost and resources consumption will be reduced; which results in better use of public tax dollars. Energy savings like smart lighting will make for a greener environment. Smart Offices can monitor and control operations to improved lighting, AC, air quality, and well as employee security. Building urban farms in multi-story buildings can provide food from fresh fish to produce and herbs. Use of solar panels and wind turbines will take advantage of free energy. Finally, 5G allows citizens using apps, to report potholes, and other trouble issues via sensors attached to buildings.

5G will allow the unleashing of the next generation for the grid. Devices will be more accurately monitored, and allows for more accurate forecasting and energy needs. A better load-balancing of energy, reducing peak periods, reducing energy costs, and reducing periods of outages. Smart Street Lighting is the first step towards Smart Cities. Smart Street Lighting will automatically dim public lighting when no pedestrians or vehicles are present. Smart Street Lighting is installed in San Diego, with a savings of $1.9m annually; also, Smart Street Lighting is installed in Barcelona, Spain.

Global Position Sensors will get a make-over. Location awareness will become essential. There will be new positional capabilities, better position accuracy, better 3D maps, and real-time positioning will be less than 1ms.

With our aging population, the Health Care industry will be revolutionized. We will see an increase in the effectiveness of preventative care and aid in robotic surgery. The advent of telehealth, and doctors making life-saving decisions remotely will come to fruition. Doctors can view large images remotely within seconds and determine action needed. IoT will allow further increase of data on the network. Telemedicine market is expected to grow exponentially. Use of language translations to help overcome barriers is a huge improvement over present-day practice. Doctors can monitor patients in real-time. Finally, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used to determine potential diagnoses.

The New Radio (NR) will have a new air interface for 5G. A new interface will take place between the mobile device and active base station. Designed to significantly improve performance, flexibility, scalability, and efficiency of current mobile networks. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Technical Specification Group developed standards for 5G NR in early 2016; however, the standards keep evolving as functionality is identified. NR allows for network slicing which creates multiple virtual networks atop a shared physical infrastructure. NR can be specifically configured to support certain cases (e.g. smart home, smart energy grid), etc.).

5G could enhance mobile security. The traditional security gaps associated with data protection in 3G and 4G has vastly improved in the 5G mobile communication standard. Privacy leakage is huge concern, as 5G is not confined to individual customers. More privacy information will be exchanged and privacy protection will be more challenging; a special emphasis will be placed on security and privacy requirements. New Business model approaches are being tested. More stringent authentication methods to prevent unauthorized access to IoT; biometrics identification could be deployed as part of authentication in Smart Homes. 5G security design must allow for the isolation of network nodes, control nodes, and forwarding nodes. Due to heterogeneous network features, security must be built to support different network services and must allow for access to these different networks.

Your home environment will change drastically. 5G along with IPv6 addressing may eliminate the need for home LAN. IPv6 has 2^128 addresses, or 340 undecillion addresses, an enormous amount of addresses, but not a finite amount. One will be able to activate/deactivate security systems, locking and unlocking door and garage door openers, adjust home temperature (including hot water heaters), insure sump pumps are functional, control window shades, and turn on/off lights and numerous appliances.

5G technology will affect trains and railways. The railway will be more secure and reliable, and maintenance of critical railway operations will be possible. There will be better communications between vehicles, cities, devices and sensors, and a substantial increase in real-time passenger service.

The release of 5G should be sometime in 2019, but wider communications are anticipated for 2020. Some cities are investing in 5G by presently installing sensors. The tier-one carriers, such as Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile are all-in on 5G. Eighteen other smaller carriers are also all in. Verizon presently has 4 cities with 5G: Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. AT&T has plans of launching in 12 cities in 2019. In terms of world-wide four countries, Qatar, Lesotho (located in South Africa), Finland, and Estonia, are utilizing pre-5G technology standards.


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