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5G Mobile Technology Explained

COVID has taken a toll on internet service providers. Thankfully there are companies like Xfinity who dropped their 1TB download limits. They are truly the COVID champion of the digital world. Most of us would be bored if we did not have 24-hour video streaming during this time of shelter-in-place. However, I’ve seen a decrease in my service speeds. While I have gigabit service, for some reason I am only downloading at 20Mbps. So I decided to use my cell phone carrier hot spot with 5G capabilities but is it real?

5G is, as its acronym suggests, the fifth generation of standards in mobile technology. It will succeed 4G. To put it quickly, this standard will bring even higher data rates, but also a much lower latency time than today, and will be able to support a lot of simultaneous connections.

But 5G should not be seen as a simple evolution of 4G. It is a breakthrough technology. It differs from previous generations in that it aims, from its conception, to integrate several unprecedented use cases. Consequently, its employability promises to be very extensive and can, therefore, be used in various sectors.

How does 5G work?

5G incorporates the technologies already used with 4G LTE but differs in several very important points. First, 5G is a technological update of 4G LTE and can reuse the same frequency bands as the latter. Thanks to this update, a 5G smartphone can benefit from a better speed than a 4G smartphone yet connected to the same antenna and using the same frequency.

5G is also using new frequency bands divided into two groups. The first groups together the 5G Sub-6 frequency bands. The second, the millimeter-wave group, significantly increases the flow at the expense of range.

In addition to this, 5G offers new technologies: the use of massive MIMO, the transition from an EPS core network to 5G, the use of SDN (software-defined networking) to logically manage certain functions such as Network Slicing, which allows the network to be separated according to real-time needs, and radio transmission techniques (Generalization of 256 QAM modulation and OFDM coding for the downlink and upstream connection).

What is mmWave millimeter waves?

Millimeter waves, or mmWave, are new frequency range used for 5G located in a spectrum between 30 and 300 GHz and between 24 GHz and 30 GHz, in the case of 5G. They allow much better flow at the expense of range and ability to pass through walls.

To understand this name of millimeter waves, we must return to the very definition of a radio wave. If one often has the habit of speaking about the frequency (in hertz) when one speaks about the electromagnetic waves, it should not be forgotten that they are above all defined by their length. The wavelength simply represents the distance traveled by the wave during an oscillation period when it propagates in a given space. The longer the wavelength, the shorter the frequency.

Apart from military uses, these waves were not very much exploited, because we thought the signal too unstable – but also because we ignore their effects on health. The higher the frequencies, the lower the signal range, and the millimeter waves have a reputation for not tolerating rain well, for not (well) crossing walls and for having a shorter range (they would, therefore, be interesting for cover small areas, but heavily visited).

These millimeter bands will allow much higher speeds to be achieved. The 26 GHz band, to date the highest band ever used in cellular technology, will be the key to the very high speed of ‘wireless fiber’ that 5G promises. On the other hand, its capacity to penetrate buildings is very low and its range limited. This is why other bands will be called upon.

Features of 5G

“With 4G, an 800 MBmovie takes around 40 seconds to download; with 5G that would be cut to one second,” said ex-Prime Minister David Cameron in 2014.

This is its first strong point: the download capacity. The speeds in 5G will be up to 10 times higher than that of 4G. If we dare to make a parallel, 5G will be a kind of “wireless” optical fiber: it could even reach in some situations up to 20 Gbit/s. In practice, you should rather expect a navigation experience between 100 Mbit/s and a few Gbit/s.

Another advantage of 5G: latency. This designates the transit time of data between the time it is sent and the time it is received. It will be divided by 10 compared to 4G, with a response time of barely a millisecond. This reactivity is crucial for the industry because constant and almost immediate exchanges are required to bring about uses such as autonomous transport.

The third strong point of 5G: density. With it, 5G will support a very large number of simultaneous mobile connections. This will multiply by 10 the number of objects connected to the network simultaneously. It is a question of avoiding the congestion of the networks at a time when everything becomes connectable and the sensors proliferate.

What services can you expect from 5G?

The announced performances of 5G are such that the fields that will benefit from them are very numerous. For the mobile user, 5G will instantly load any audiovisual content in high and very high definition (4K video, 3D video, etc.) or enjoy the game on demand (cloud gaming), with the parties that are broadcast directly between the player and the servers of the service.

5G will continue to improve existing services in the consumer sector by, for example, providing access to better-defined video content and by promoting the development of augmented or virtual reality applications.

In addition to the increased data transfer rates that allow mass data to be transferred more quickly, 5G, with its very low latency, opens up prospects in autonomous vehicles, industrial automation, or the health sector. The performance leaps made possible by 5G will also affect many sectors and allow new uses to emerge.

Is 5G really here

I’m pretending like it is here and active. My iPhone with ATT is showing up with the 5G connection. Is it available? Not yet but the technology is out there and ready for someone to flip a switch.

Who can get hold of 5G

It is currently unknown. A call for candidates was made at the start of the year to find out who wanted frequencies. Few major operators have positioned themselves to obtain frequency blocks. These companies already have a certain number of them, but they use them for 2G, 3G, and 4G.

However, the prospect of letting manufacturers have direct access to 5G frequencies does not excite the government, as they believe that there is not yet a very clear request from manufacturers. Also, care must be taken not to fragment the frequencies too much. Splitting the band between too many actors can pose problems in its management and cause interference.

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Edel Alon
Edel Alon
Edel-Ryan Alon is a starving musician, failed artist, connoisseur of fine foods, aspiring entrepreneur, husband, father of two, geek by day, cook by night, and an all around great guy.


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