5G Technology

Everything To Know About 5G Technology

5G Technology is the latest generation of mobile networks. Much excitement and anticipation revolve around it, fueled primarily by high speeds it offers for connectivity. It promises to transform our lives like never before, and it’s not just through high-speed mobile data transfer. It is expected to interconnect remote devices and objects. Our dream of a world which is seamlessly interconnected will finally be a reality. But is it really so? Is it worth the hype and the hoopla? Or is it another of those concepts which will never see a vast deployment and prove to be just another fad. Let’s find out.

Background and history:

Work on 5G began many years ago. In fact, it is already in use in isolated areas of a few countries. Chief among those are Switzerland, South Korea and the US. Before 5G we had 1G, 2G etc. Each new generation was an improvement on its predecessor. 1G brought us the cell phones, 2G let us the text for the first time, 3G brought us online and 4G made us enjoy the speeds we use today.

How it works:

To understand the working of 5G we need to understand the following five technologies;

  1. Millimetre waves
  2. Small Cell network
  3. Massive MIMO
  4. Beamforming
  5. Full Duplex

Millimetre waves:

Our mobile phones and other electronic devices use very specific frequencies on the radio frequency spectrum. Usually, under 6GHz. But as more and more devices come online these frequencies are starting to get crowded. Carriers can only squeeze so many bits of data on the same amount of radio bit spectrum. So, we are going to see dropped connections and slower service. The solution is to open up some new space. Researchers are experimenting to broadcast on shorter millimetre waves. Those that fall between 30-300 GHz. This section of the spectrum is unused so far. Opening it up means more bandwidth for everyone. But millimetre waves have their own limitations. They can’t cross obstacles like buildings, trees etc. and are susceptible to weather changes. To get around this problem we need to adapt the following technology;

Small Cell Networks:

These will basically be a cluster of small-sized poles installed everywhere where you want the 5G coverage. These poles will have nodes to catch and send signals. The idea behind having so many poles is to make sure the signal never gets lost. If a user gets behind an object it’s device would automatically catch the signal from the next closest available pole ensuring seamless connection.

Massive Mimo:

Mimo stands for: multiple input multiple outputs.  Today’s 4G based stations have about a dozen ports for antennas that handle all traffic.  A massive mimo based station can support about a hundred ports. This could increase the capacity of today’s networks by a factor of 22 or more. But it comes with its own set of problems. The cellular antennas broadcast information in every direction at once. All those crossing signals emitting from hundreds of ports can cause a serious problem which takes us to technology no 4.

Beamforming:

Beamforming is like a traffic signal for all your mobile signals. Instead of sending signals in every direction, it will allow the station to send a focused stream of data to a specific user. This precision prevents interference and it is very efficient. The stations can handle a lot more incoming and outgoing data streams at once.

Full Duplex:

A basic cellular antenna of today can do only one job at a time; either transmit or receive. This is because of the tendency of the radio waves to travel both forward and backward on the same frequency. Researchers are using silicone transistors to create high-speed switches to control these waves. It’s just like re-routing two trains on the same track using the signalling system.

Benefits of 5G:

5G promises a lot of benefits. It offers faster speed, more capacity, lower latency and better spectrum usage. Experts are hoping a minimum of 10Gbps for 5G which can be increased too. 5G in conjunction with other technologies like AI, IoT and blockchain will ensure you a fully connected world. One expert said,” anything that can be connected will be connected to 5G”. One tech company claims that ‘” 5G will be bigger than electricity”. It is expected to change the way we interact with everyday things. Businesses will reap additional benefits of this technology tapping hitherto untapped potential and resources.

Limitations of 5G:

For all it’s immense benefits and amazing potential 5G is still a long way off. It will take quite some time before it is used as we are using 4G LTE. Here are a few reasons why;

Health hazards:

5G uses microwaves the same that we use in our microwave ovens. Many pressure groups are against such massive use of microwaves as 5G would require. They claim it will cause radiation leading to every kind of skin disease to cancers. Experts believe such fears are unfounded but the studies done on the potential health hazards of 5G are scanty.

Massive Investments:

The rolling out of 5G requires a huge amount of money in infrastructure. We want tens of thousands of poles that can transmit 5G signals in a city. Because a few hundred feet away from the station can significantly weaken the 5G signal. This is a major constraint on 5G.

Work in Progress:

5G is not ready to take off yet. Researchers are still working on its various technologies and sub-technologies to make it cheaper and error-free. It will take some more time before it is ready and free from any technical hiccups.

Costly:

For the consumers too 5G will come with an additional price. The 5G enabled phones, already being sold are costlier than their 4G counterparts. The networks will naturally charge more for 5G services. Political angle: The mass-scale deployment of 5G has political implications too. Countries and corporations could misuse this technology and intrude upon the privacy of people. They can get access to their private lives more easily and spy on them.

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