A good starting place for understanding 5G broadband is with the standards that outline the expectations of this transformational new technology.
These standards are called 5G NR (New Radio) and are intended to support the growth of wireless communication by enhancing electromagnetic radiation spectrum efficiency.
5G NR standards were developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a coalition of telecommunications organizations that create technical standards for wireless technology. The first phase of standards for 5G broadband were released in 2018 in a document called Release 15.
The 5G standards include:
- It must implement a lean signaling design. This means signals are only switched on when needed, lowering overall processing power.
- It must provide connectivity for the internet of things (IoT), a concept that includes all of the various devices and wired or wireless connections that make up a user’s digital experience.
- Enforces strict data transmission requirements. By forcing all users and connections to respect specific rules, the entire network is faster and more efficient.
- Improved beamforming that allows signals to be propagated to a larger set of end points.
- Must use adaptive bandwidth, which allows devices to switch to a low-bandwidth and lower power whenever possible, saving energy for when higher bandwidths are necessary.
Next, it’s important to understand why 5G was necessary in the first place. The simple answer is:
- 4G was running out of bandwidth
- 4G could not support the architecture needed for technological advancements beyond faster data and download speeds. This includes machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, remote healthcare applications, autonomous cars, 5G wearables, smart cities/smart grids, Industry 4.0 robotics, massive Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity.
5G uses unique radio frequencies that are higher and more directional than those used by 4G. The directionality of 5G is important because 4G towers send data all over, which can waste power and energy and ultimately weaken access to the internet. 4G networks use frequencies below 6 GHz, while 5G will use much higher frequencies in the 30 GHz to 300 GHz range.
The larger the frequency, the greater its ability to support fast data without interfering with other wireless signals or becoming overly cluttered.
5G also uses shorter wavelengths than 4G, which means antennas can be shorter without interfering with the direction of the wavelengths. 5G can therefore support approximately 1,000 more devices per meter than 4G. On 5G, more data will more quickly get to more people with less latency and disruption to meet surging data demands.
Another fundamental concept to comprehend is that 5G networks more precisely understand the data being requested and can self-modulate power mode (low when not in use or high when you’re streaming HD video, for example), generally making devices more user-friendly.
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