05 Jul Explaining the 5G Network 101
Technology is growing at rapid rates, and in a way, it is a living, breathing thing. Every day there seems to be something that claims to be better than its predecessor. Along with the rapid growth of all this information, the network speeds that cater to must improve as well. To adapt to the growing needs of its users. Luckily, the 5G network is just over the horizon.
This has been on many people’s radar since it was first announced. Since it promised to deliver breakneck speeds we haven’t had access to with the current technology. Unfortunately, its release is something we’ll have to wait a bit longer for, 2020 to be exact. So what do we need to know about the 5G network? How does it work, and what exactly is so unique about it that current 4G networks can’t offer?
What is 5G?
Many of you may be unfamiliar with the word and may ask what is 5G? 5G is short for the 5th generation and succeeds 4G network in many ways. What are these generations? These are a combination of technologies that make up the interfaces that allow us to access the internet. At this time, there is no global definition for what is the standard for all 5G wireless networks.
Sure, people will have definitions, but the consensus is that it is going to be a fast way to connect to the internet on the move. And these speeds should far exceed those of the previous generation. This is because there are yet to be hardware standards to judge it by.
In fact, a lot of internet service providers including major carriers are already testing 5G speeds with varying results. But these vary from company to company. And anything before its intended release in 2020 should be taken with a grain of salt. What is good though is that we can rest easy knowing that some of the best companies suited for this sort of thing are leading the way into the future; with each company playing a particular role that is relevant to their respective expertise.
You can expect significant players like chipmakers Qualcomm and Intel. Along with a host of other companies such as Huawei to lead the charge. With so many household names being thrown around, the infrastructure of the 5G network is in good hands. What you need to know is that with the arrival of 5G technology, it succeeds and fine tunes a lot of the properties that 4G gave us. With a few other new things it brings to the table.
How does 5G Network work?
You may be curious on how 5G works and what is its difference from the previous iterations of mobile communications? At its purest, the 5G network brings upon improvements from the previous generations, but the difference lies in how it makes those improvements and what that means for existing 4G networks. While we haven’t seen these in action yet, the implementation for 5G network seems to be that they are intended to operate at a high-frequency band. Think about 30 GHz to 300 GHz. This is what is referred to as the millimeter wave spectrum.
The advantage of using the millimeter wave spectrum is that it sends large amounts of data at very high speeds. For the uninitiated, another advantage here is that these frequencies are so high. Virtually all surrounding signals will be unable to interfere the frequency. These millimeter waves are excellent for MIMO, which is a name for a wireless system that makes use of several radios to send and receive data simultaneously.
The current 4G networks we are familiar with the cap at about eight transmitters and four receivers, whereas the newer 5G cell towers are expected to support dozens more. These towers are not only faster but also more efficient. Think of 4G towers as lumbering powerhouses that basically explodes and sends signals everywhere to reach its intended destination.
A good analogy for the 5G cell towers is that they choreograph their messages. This is what is referred to as beamforming.
As the name suggests, it focuses them into a beam to reach its destination efficiently, with the use of algorithms. The full duplex, a 5G technology, is a way to boost signal further when left with no other choice. They can potentially double bandwidth because they can receive and send data simultaneously, which most current generation towers aren’t capable of. While all of this sounds nothing short of amazing, it does come with a few caveats.
Higher frequency waves do have difficulty with obstacles such as walls, long distances, and even some weather conditions. They do have a trick up their sleeve though, which we will get more into detail later. While this may seem a bit confusing at first, hear me out. 4G networks are designed to work in lower frequency waves, which is excellent regarding distance. They also aren’t as affected by physical obstacles compared to higher frequency waves.
How does that translate into real life situations?
That’s all great on paper, but what is it like in practice? Should we expect cell towers every few meters, littered all around our neighborhoods? Not quite. The main difference you’ll notice here is the size of the cells being used to transmit these frequencies.
While 4G networks utilize big, hulking towers for long distance traveling, the 5th generation networks make use of smaller and more portable antennas. While they can vary from company to company regarding size, they should be around the size of a small shoe box, more or less. Carriers will have to strategically place the antennas across vast areas to ensure a seamless connection between signals.
On a side note, this is one of the reasons why chipset makers Qualcomm and Intel are experimenting on low-frequency ranges below 6 GHz. This at least gives you a more stable connection. Whether or not it works in day to day usage is another matter altogether. The key to getting this to work lies in its stealth.
Regardless of the size of the small cells, having them out in the open can be an eyesore to everyday people. Placing them in hidden places like light poles and other public areas is an excellent solution. Also, having them in situations where you don’t look at all is another method. Such as on the roofs of buildings. Other examples include coffee shops, airports, and public parks.
In fact, multiple small cells can be clustered together to improve overall performance. Speaking of buildings, businesses that rely on a connected structure will most likely need to have several in one building. To ensure they properly function.
Let’s get one other thing out of the way, 5G will not provide as much coverage as its predecessor, at least at first.
In fact, in more ways than one, it will be more similar to WiFi. Than the roaming cellular technology we’re so used to nowadays. Another thing worth noting is that the implementation can vary depending on the carrier. It won’t be uncommon to see some cities have 5G wireless networks only in densely populated areas. In comparison to their respective rural areas. The larger cities will more than likely have more 5G network access throughout its urban jungle. Because their performance is directly tied to the number of small cells available in the area, the differences from region to field will be drastic.
One other thing that is a concern for most people is, will you need to buy a new phone? With flagship phones seemingly becoming more expensive every year, that is, in fact, a valid question. Unfortunately, you will need a new phone that supports the new network. Since the phones that are available in the market right now only support 4G networks at best. So if you find yourself wanting to purchase a new mobile device, especially on contract, in the year 2019, you may want to keep this in mind
Also, it’s good to know that though the commercial release is set for 2020, it will take a bit of time for it to roll out globally and to iron out the kinks. With such a massive scope of operation, this is to be expected, and it shouldn’t put you off from trying it out once it does become available to your respective carriers.
So while 5G network is promised to be the answer to the demands for faster internet speeds globally, it is still quite a ways away. 4G networks are always here to stay until then, and maybe even after. If you’re looking for something a bit more stable, it is fortunate that a lot of reputable internet service providers still offer excellent prepaid services at websites like www.xyzies.com for a hassle-free experience. While the 4G network has wholly capitalized on the booming smartphone market, the 5G network seeks to cater to audiences beyond that.
With higher levels of technology like the Internet of Things on a steady rise, it makes sense that they want to strike while the iron is hot. And just in time too.
Let’s all keep up with the times, and get ourselves the internet speed and power that we all need at work and home!