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Tech Today: 5G Explained

Bowling Green KY. (August 28, 2018) - In simple terms, 5G (short for 5th generation) is the next step in wireless technology standards and deployment. It holds a lot of promise as to what it can offer, including very high speeds, greater capacities, and better real-time capabilities.

Depending on whom you ask, the potential speed possibilities of the new 5G networks range greatly. However, it’s clear from lab tests and early pilots that the technology is capable of reaching multiple Gigabits per second (Gbps) when deployed in the millimeter (mm) wave frequencies.

How 5G technology is deployed moving forward is important for several reasons:

  • It’s the first time we’ll see widespread use of mm wave frequencies, and there are distinct limitations at such high frequencies.

  • These frequencies, 24 GHz and up, do not like objects like trees, buildings, or even rain drops, which means that deploying networks at these frequencies will require carriers to deploy a higher density of antennas, although much smaller.

  • Millimeter wave frequencies are also limited in the distance they can travel while still delivering expected services. Some models predict distances of 1000 feet.

  • Small “mini” cell sites, often referred to as small cells, will create a relay network of sorts that will help ensure that there is enough coverage in a given area to provide service.

Because of the above parameters, 5G services are more likely to appear in areas with large populations that push immense amounts of data across the mobile network. These networks will be engineered to enhance the speeds and overall responsiveness, which should translate into lower latency levels and packet loss. Such improvements will be due to more available bandwidth and advanced antenna technology.

Getting Your Data Faster

5G may also be deployed in lower frequency bands, such as the 600 MHz and some of the more commonly used bands currently used in 4G deployments. But due to the lower frequency, the speeds will be slower than 5G but still much faster than those typically seen in 4G networks today.

Lower frequency spectrum deployments do have another advantage: They will be able to reach much farther. This will be accomplished primarily using massive, multiple-in multiple-out (MIMO) antennas on the existing 4G network.

Latency is the time it takes to transfer data. It’s often forgotten by most consumers, but it’s extremely important to providing reliable, real-time services, and 5G could lower latency levels and packet loss. Such improvement may help to usher in new innovations in real time applications and data security.

Combined with high speeds and lower latency, technologies and applications that require large amounts of data—all the while needing that information in real time—will begin to be viable (e.g. autonomous vehicles and remote surgery).

Capacity is a growing concern with today’s networks. With an ever-increasing number of connected devices, 5G (utilizing MIMO technology) promises that our phone and computers will have a network they can use.

How Close Are We to 5G?

All of the U.S.’s major mobile wireless carriers are working on plans for 5G deployments, and the reality of the technology should begin to be made clear as real-world performance is seen for the first time through late 2018 and 2019. Verizon and Samsung have announced pilot locations including Houston, TX.Samsung 300x200

5G technology is designed to play well with other wireless technologies already in use today. That ability will be instrumental to the way the new technology is rolled out. Providers will be looking to make connections on existing networks and technologies and then move to 5G where it’s available.

Many of the major mobile wireless providers are focused on commercial deployments of “pre” 5G in 2018—all of which are taking different approaches. Some look to provide a truly mobile experience, although phones to support the technology will not be ready until 2019, while others are looking to deploy service to residential units. Qualcomm, one of the leaders in 5G development, just announced a new antenna that can fit in mobile devices.

So What?

The potential that 5G holds is tremendous. It’s the technology that may make autonomous cars a much greater reality, improve digital security, lower cost deployment of home broadband, and open the door for more extensive use of augmented and virtual reality for real world solutions.

This will not come without obstacles, such as deploying the backbone and middle-mile networks necessary to support the wireless services offered, and it’s certainly not clear how the technology will actually impact rural areas of the U.S.

Kerr Wes 02 Best 200x300 Wes Kerr is the Director of Community Solutions for Connected Nation

We’re going to learn a lot over the next 6-18 months about the reality of deploying these networks and just how much they change the deployment of wireless networks in the future

About the Author: Wes Kerr is the Director of Community Solutions for Connected Nation. Wes helps ensure the implementation of Technology Action Plans developed for communities through Connected Nation’s Connected Community Engagement Program (Connectedsm) and works closely with clients and stakeholders to provide solutions that will help them meet their technology goals.