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What is so revolutionary that 5G brings to the table?

Humans have been known for adaptability and continuous strive for technological improvements as far as history remembers (or in other words since we invented the wheel). Ever since we started living in social communities, one of the trends in our everchanging lifestyle has been the need for communication and connectivity. In that sense digital mobile communication systems have been constantly evolving to fulfil the growing need of human beings (1G, …4G, now 5G, 6G in the next decade…).

Combining 5G technology with other technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), IoT, 3D printing and more, will change the way consumers live and interact today, in industries as well as societies. The improvements enabled by 5G will increase wealth creation opportunities due to its ability to provide wider network coverage, reliable network connections and faster data transfer.

The primary use-case of previous mobile network technologies was connecting people. 5G should expand beyond that, it is designed for connecting everyone and everything.

Mobile network generations comparison

Let’s take a step back and see how mobile networking has evolved:

1G gave us the possibility to talk and be mobile at the same. The underlying technology was analog voice, with no additional services on top

2G mobile networks came with introduction of digital network services. Besides voice communication we were able to send SMS, have Value added services such as Voice Mail, Caller ID, Roaming and etc… It was the time when mobile data was introduced, with very small speeds (anyone remember GPRS?), in the range of kilobits per second

With 3G we started seeing the potential of mobile data, and especially with 3.5G (the H+ icon on your mobile data icon, short for HSPA, High Speed Packet Access). We were able to use Internet services with speeds of Megabits per second.

Then came 4G (although sometimes called LTE – Long Term Evolution), enabled all IP services, and brought us fast broadband experience on or mobile phones, on par with the speeds of ADSL or CableInternet services. We first got a glance of having Internet speeds in the range of several tens Megabits per second and even touched the hundreds of Megabits per second.

With 4G LTE we practically got Internet speeds on our mobile at the same level as fixed broadband services, and gave us the same options as if we were working on a PC at home or the office. So what’s next after?

What is 5G?

5th Generation Mobile Network or simply 5G is the forthcoming revolution of mobile technology.

Up to 5G, the evolution of mobile technologies enabled substantial increases in peak bitrates, generation by generation. So, how is 5G different from 4G and all previous generations?

The main improvement of 5G compared to 4G goes beyond that data speed improvements, as brings improvement on other performance factors which are necessary for different critical communication uses cases. In that sense, besides reaching Gigabit Internet speeds, 5G will expand mobile services beyond mobile internet to IoT (Internet of Things) and critical communications segments.

Now let’s check some technical data on what will 5G be based on.

With 5G we start using the so called "high-band," short-range airwaves that weren’t used in previous mobile network technologies.

5G can run on different frequency bands, leading to three very different kinds of 5G experiences—low, middle, and high. Low (less than 1 GHz) and middle bands (2.3–6 GHz) are on the similar frequency ranges already used in previous mobile networks, and even in Radio/TV bands.

All the hype is about the High-band 5G, or millimeter-wave, airwaves in the 20-100GHz range. These airwaves haven't been used for consumer applications before, but they’ve been used in specific radio and telecommunication links for as decades now. In terms of consumer application usage, they're very short range, with coverage of couple of hundred meters from the towers. But they present an option of utilizing a vast amount of unused spectrum, which means very fast speeds scaling up to several Gigabits per second. However due to poor coverage, high band will only be used on high-density hotspots, like college campuses and football stadiums.

What is so revolutionary that 5G brings to the table?

5G will revolutionize mobile services by brining improvements on the three new aspects: bigger channels (to speed up data), lower latency (to be more responsive), and the ability to connect a lot more devices at once (for sensors and smart devices) with lower power consumption.

Bigger channels and data speed is already self-explanatory. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the capacity of 5G Base stations and the mobile data speed available to the users will be on the Gigabit range. The 5G technology provides new (much wider than the previous one) frequency bands along with the wider spectral bandwidth per frequency channel, which ultimately translates to “more speed”.

However, the other topics (latency and connectivity) is what truly distinguish 5G from the rest of the mobile technologies.

In general terms, latency it the time interval it takes for your device to send a message and get a response, the delay between the sending and receiving information. For example, “low latency” is what provides real-time interactivity for services using the cloud: this is key for the success of self-driving cars for example.

Higher capacity of the 5G base stations will allow more devices connectivity concurrently and instantaneously, and more over, low power consumption is what will allow connected objects to operate for months or years without the need for human assistance.

So, let’s summarize some of the main technical benefits that 5G will enable:

  • Possibility of Gigabit speed on a mobile device i.e. 1 to 10 Gbps.
  • Latency will be 1 millisecond (end-to-end round trip).
  • Lower battery consumption, battery life will be much longer
  • Huge number of supporting devices
  • Its cognitive radio technology will facilitate different version of radio technologies to share the same spectrum efficiently.
  • 1,000x bandwidth per unit area.
  • About 90% reduction in network energy usage.

Applications of 5G

Now all mentioned previously sound great, but what does it mean to the regular user? I get it, gigabit speed and everything, but what other services will 5G enable?

Let’s check some of the industry vertical which are supposed to be mostly improved by the introduction of 5G services:

Automotive, mobility

Autonomous (self-driving) and connected cars are probably the key applications of 5G enablement. However, to enable such services, the focus is on fast response time (extremely low latency) rather than fast data rates.

5G technologies can deliver service with 1 millisecond(1ms) with 5G. Let’s try to explain that. it.

A millisecond is 1/1000 of a second. The average human reaction time to a visual stimulus is 250 ms or 1/4 of a second. With proper training humans can be capped at around 190-200 ms, while professionals (Racing drivers, Jet fighter pilots, champion gamers) can achieve 100 – 120ms.

What that means is that your car could react 250 times faster than you.

Translating that to a technology and communication level, a connected car could (almost) immediately respond to available incoming information and share or propagate its reactions back to other vehicles, road signals or all kinds of sensors, and all of that within milliseconds.

A car running at 100km/h, will move 27.6m every second, or 2.7cm every millisecond. In an emergency situation, the reaction distance is about 30 meters before you pull on the

brakes. In a connected car, if the road sensors capture an unexpected event on the road, with a 1ms reaction time, the car would only have rolled a bit less than 3 centimeters

Telemedicine

As defined as super-low latency internet applications to meet human level response time. As we also seeing an exponential growth of nano-technology, 5G will enable medical nano-surgery, and even beyond that, with the development of sensitive telemedicine equipment surgeons can perform medical interventions with Virtual reality devices from anywhere in the globe.

And when dealing with life-defining situations, reliability is crucial.

5G network reliability is defined as the capacity to deliver 99.999% of the data packet without errors in 1ms and it implies a 99.999% availability of the network itself.

Entertainment, media and gaming

The impact of tactile internet will also revolution the gaming industry. New capacity and latency improvements will lead to further development of the virtual reality user interfaces, and more human sensors will be engaged in these Virtual reality applications and experiences (currently we are only touching the basics with sight and hear, but what about touch, smell, taste…?), as these applications will be able to match the human sensor response time. With such, we will expansion of more and more gaming options, wider multimedia options, connectivity everywhere, zero latency, faster response time, and high quality sound and HD video can be transferred on other cell phone without compromising with the quality of audio and video.

Logistics, manufacturing

Drones and remote-piloted robots have been around for quiet some time, but users were always limited with keeping close distance to the device in order to have communication channel for controlling it. That’s going to be a thing of the past, because of the 5G low latency, remote pilots can control vehicles from a distance without lag, and because 5G has more bandwidth, they can get reliable multi-camera video feeds from vehicles to see where they're going. Imagine controlling a maintenance drone scanning the power utility towers from the comfort of the Network operations center. Or dispatching delivery drones to every corner of the country from a centralized warehouse control center.

Massive IoT adoption

5G technology is expected to unleash a massive IoT (Internet of Things) ecosystem where networks can serve communication needs for billions of connected devices, with the right trade-offs between speed, latency, and cost. Such connected devices will vary from Smart Home/Building appliances, agriculture sensors and weather stations, underground sensors…

5G technology provides efficient transmission of small data traffic (e.g. from different meters, like i.e. parking meters, water meters, wind meters), wide area coverage and deep penetration, e.g. important to underground sensors, for traffic, parking, agriculture... In addition to the coverage and penetration benefits, 5G enables a low power mode premise, which should keep these devices running on one battery for several years.

Simultaneous translating:

Imagine real time translation devices as seen on Star Trek? With 1ms latency, we are one step closer to them.

Does 5G kill birds?

Luckily, no.

All those poor birds in the Netherlands (from the event on which this claim was based on), actually died of poisoning.

Unfortunately for 5G, massive implementation coincided with the Covid crisis, and it’s used as the usual culprit for all of our civilization’s problem’s, from cancer to covid, from built in chips to frying the brains. Luckily, these claims are purely based on fiction, without a single scientific fact behind them. Low-band and mid-band 5G are based on radio frequencies that have been used for decades. The 5G low band frequency spectrum is the same as the UHF TV bands, widely used since the introduction of TV broadcast signals in the early 1950s. The mid band frequency spectrum has been used since 1963 and is more or less similar (not the same exact of course) of frequencies already used for the previous mobile generations, Wi-Fi, Wimax and etc...

The afraid of the unknown then puts the greatest 5G worries around the high-band, or the millimeter-wave frequency band. The propagation and coverage in this band is of shortrange type, which leads to a lot of small cell sites (pico or nano antennas), which in turns makes it much more visible compared to the previous mobile network generations. However, these devices are very low-powered (with general output of 2–10 Watts, compared to a standard Base Stations general output of 20-40 Watts). Scientific studies show that the 5G millimeter-wave is actually so weak that it doesn't penetrate human skin, and it’s blocked by all types of outdoor obstacles, like clothing, leaves, skin and not to mention hard obstacles like glass, walls…

Conclusion

5G for us, the end consumers mean not just faster mobile internet, but mainly internet connectivity in many more objects than what you see today.

The premise of 5G is to enable an entirely connected world, anytime and anywhere. Such premise is not a simple technology leap, but it’s transformational in a sense that it’s expected that massive 5G adoption should drive the 4th industrial revolution. We are in for a ride to check what 5G as an communication enabler will bring to development of the technologies which are already present but lacked the communication means: Artificial Intelligence, IoT, 3D printing, Remote controlled devices and etc…

by Dejan Talevski, Senior Project Manager, Telecom Division