One of the most important things to understand about 5G is why this new broadband is necessary.
The previous newest generation of mobile connectivity, 4G, started to make waves in the late 2000s. 4G made mobile internet speeds up to 500 times faster than 3G and allowed support for HD TV on mobile, high–quality video calls, and fast mobile browsing. The development of 4G was a massive feat for mobile technology, especially for the evolution of smartphones and tablets.
Some would argue that the success of 4G also led to its demise. 4G broadband was generally confined to the use of radio frequencies (RF) in the 2 to 6 GHz range – radio wavelengths that have good penetration and cover large distances but are slow, which limits data transfer. Still, 4G was definitely an improvement over 3G and 2G. But it was such an improvement that cellphone users piled on to such an extent that the 4G frequency band became overcrowded.
5G relieves that congestion while providing a considerable upgrade in technology, which will be necessary for future advancements such as smart cities, autonomous cars, seamless VR, remote surgery and massive connectivity of Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
The technology that makes this possible is basically a rewrite of broadband infrastructure. Increased spectrum in the formerly little used millimeter Wave (mmWave) band above 30 GHz provides for much of 5G’s rapid data transfers.
5G also uses Massive MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) antennas that have multiple elements or connections to send and receive more data simultaneously. The benefit to users is that more people can simultaneously connect to the network and maintain high throughput.
The overall physical size of the 5G Massive MIMO antennas are similar to 4G, but with a higher frequency, the individual antenna element size is smaller allowing more elements (in excess of 100) in the same physical case.
5G user equipment including mobile phones and devices also have MIMO antenna technology built into the device for the mmWave frequencies.
5G also comes with an impressive list of standards developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a coalition of telecommunications organizations that create technical standards for wireless technology. These standards, referred to as 5G NR (New Radio) are intended to support the growth of wireless communication by enhancing electromagnetic radiation spectrum efficiency. Included in the standards for 5G broadband:
- 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.
Want to learn more? Tonex offers 5G Wireless Training for Non-Engineers, a 2-day course that covers the basics of wireless communications applied to 5G.