We are at the dawn of a new age. 5th generation or “5G” radio technology is here! Having already created quite the buzz globally, 5G is in its early stages of deployment in a few places around the world. Despite all the talks around 5G, it wouldn’t be a surprise to find out that people actually know little to nothing about this new technology, except that it’s ‘faster’. However, there are a plethora of lesser-known facts that will excite all tech enthusiasts.
According to the industry association 3GPP (3rd generation partnership project), 5G stands for Fifth Generation Cellular Network and any system using the 5G NR (New Radio) software can be called 5G. Now, while learning about the methods and data digitization technology used for transmission of data can be quite interesting, it can also be equally intricate and puzzling. So instead, we will draw a comparison between 4G LTE and 5G just to give an idea about the variations.
In 5G technology, the latency is reduced down to 1 ms from 10 ms, resulting in responses that are 10 times faster. The speed improves to 10 Gbps, which means that your favorite UHD 1080p movies will be downloaded in seconds! The allotted spectrum for the transmission of 5G is between 6-300 GHz – a massive improvement from 4G LTE, which used spectrums below 3GHz. The number of people that can connect to the network increased by a factor of 1000 allowing 1 million connections/km². The network energy use is reduced to 10% of the current 4G network and the battery life of low powered Internet of Things (IoT) devices will be increased by 10 years!
5G operates mainly on (but not limited to) 4 technologies: millimeter waves, small cells, Massive MIMO, and beamforming. Millimeter waves are the high-frequency waves that fall in the 30-300 GHz band of the electromagnetic spectrum, where we can create new channels for very high-speed transmission. Millimeter wave signals have shorter wavelengths and cannot pierce through buildings or even trees, which makes them difficult to use. But there’s no need to worry. We can solve this dilemma using small cells, low powered base stations which can be placed close to each other to transmit signals around the obstacles.
Massive MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) based stations can support 100 ports instead of the traditional 10-12 ports for antennas, which will drastically increase the current network capacity. However, hundreds of antennas shooting signals in all directions can cause undesired interference, hence, scientists developed beamforming. Beamforming allows a base station to send a specific signal to a specific user instead of shooting it in all directions. This will not only prevent interference but can also handle much more incoming and outgoing data simultaneously.
Even though the technology is still in its initial stages, the applications are widespread. 5G can be used in health care as a way to do stroke rehab through virtual reality (VR), in smart bandages that track your healing or to perform urgent operations with the doctor being away in another country (via robotics and VR). 5G can be used to facilitate the development of self-driving cars due to its low latency and high transmission speed. It can be used efficiently for finance, logistics, and government purposes, such as tracking goods-filled carriers, enabling real-time mobile trading, and the safe sharing of financial information. By integrating VR technology, 5G media and entertainment bring the world closer to real-time speed for streaming content. Industrial applications such as automated seaports and industrial robots are also a possibility.
5G will also change the lives of individuals; however, the early rollout and construction of a usable network are time-consuming. 5G compatible smartphones are expensive and pose fewer options to choose from. Although it may take some time before civilians jump onto this bandwagon, the future is truly glorious. Until then, all we can do is sit tight and watch in excitement as our tomorrow unfolds.
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