5G: The Future of Wireless Networks

Want to know what's in store for the world with the approach of 5G connectivity?

photo of JenTechnology

Tech Researcher and Writer

Posted on Oct 06, 2016

5G technology is soon approaching. On the suppliers’ end, for Zalando and other companies, this will bring about faster responses and speedier service delivery. On the consumer's’ end, a wider range of products and services will be made available. Due to improved speeds and lower latency from 5G, processes can be expedited, for instance including payment verification and order identification, which means same day delivery of in-stock items becomes the norm in the 5G age.

5G is another step up in mobile connectivity, and it is currently in the works globally. Many countries around the world are preparing for this new shift in mobile data networks. Let’s take a closer look at this technology and how it may change the future of wireless communication.

Although plans for official release for consumer use is still at least four years away, demonstrations of 5G capabilities effectively started hype earlier this year at the Mobile World Congress (MWC). Exhibitions showed the potential of the next generation of mobile.

How is 5G different?

5G’s mission is much more than just to improve basic communication services such as phone calls, SMS, or data connection in general. It has numerous other potential applications and according to surveys, the best use for 5G will be in the Internet of Things. This will be important for major global processes like automation and transportation.

As for network speeds, the figure 5G aims for is 100 times faster than the current 4G and LTE networks. Nokia’s demo at the MWC reached 20Gbps, the same speed being reached by South Korea’s SK Telecom. Ericsson’s set up yielded 26Gbps, while T-Mobile got 70Gbps, the latter of which was shown on a live feed from a Huawei base station in Germany.

Results were varied as it was dependent on frequency spectrum, and some booths used a wider spectrum than others. In comparison, however, today’s fastest LTE speeds just reach 1Gbps. Imagine if you register your smartphone for automatic updates, and a software upgrade was just released. As soon as you notice, the file would’ve been downloaded already. That’s a very plausible scenario with 5G mobile.

Low latency is also another target feature of 5G. The goal is to reduce latency down to 1 millisecond. To show just how fast it is, T-Mobile conducted a separate demonstration in their booth at the MWC.

Two metal balls, one 5G connected and the other 4G, were placed on top of a suspended platform. A robotic arm then passes under the platform, and when it’s detected, the holes beneath the balls open. The 5G ball drops in time and gets caught by the arm, while the 4G ball falls too late, missing the arm. Remember here that the balls and platform were wirelessly connected to the robotic arm.

Necessary preparations

Of course, 5G cannot be deployed for end users without the proper technological infrastructure. All over the US, there are around 300,000 cell towers. 5G will more likely need more infrastructure, as its frequency waves travel for shorter distances, for now at least, as opposed to the frequency bands of current networks.

A higher number of receiver cells will also be required for the same reason, thus, more permits will be required as well not only from governments, but from millions of other property owners. These are just a few of the challenges ahead of making the 5G concept a reality.

The same problems are also being faced in Europe. As stated by Brendan O’Reilly, CTO of O2, their network alone has a consumer usage that doubles each year. To effectively support potential 5G usage, the digital infrastructure must be radically improved.

Indoor and outdoor large scale tests are ongoing and upcoming

AT&T has applied for a temporary license from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to proceed with indoor testing at the Texas Wireless Summit. The carrier plans to use the 28GHz spectrum for 5G trials at the Edgar A. Smith Bldg. in Austin, Texas.

On the other side of the world, Japan and South Korea have begun their tests and the latter’s KT has announced its plans to debut 5G at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. China’s ZTE on the other hand has finished the first phase of its high-frequency field tests.

Seeing this many nations with their eyes and hands on 5G, all hopes of improving network connectivity look very promising in the coming years.