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What is 5G: All You Need to Know
Technology - December 1, 2020
5G has been in the news for quite some time now. People have been envisaging 5G as
the next breakthrough in cellular communication technology that can deliver
ultrafast mobile carrier speed. As the name suggests, 5G is the 5th generation
mobile network system, the successor of today’s 4G LTE networks. 5G has been created
to realize the requirements of large data coupled with strong connectivity. The
scope of connectivity has now expanded from cellphones to the devices connected by
the Internet of things (IoT). 5G will initially operate along with 4G before
evolving to operate alone as it expands in terms of speed and coverage expansion.
Latency is defined as the time taken for devices to respond to one other over the
wireless network. Speaking of response time, 3G networks had a response time of 100
milliseconds, 4G is about 30 milliseconds and once operational, the response time of
5G will be as low as 1 millisecond. This is going to be a game changer in the world
of connected applications.
In many countries, 5G services have already taken their roots; although widespread
availability of 5G is only expected by 2025. The first applications using 5G
services like mobile phones, tablets, wireless modems, etc. have already been
launched. The major benefits of 5G devices include faster speed of access, download
and streaming; and enhance computing power and low latency, thus ensuring devices
connect to networks instantly.
What will the 5G Enable
5G can enable immediate connectivity to billions of devices connected via the
Internet of Things (IoT). The Fifth Generation network has the potential to provide
speed, enable low latency and connectivity to allow a new generation of
applications, services, and business opportunities.
a. For societies, 5G can link billions of devices in smart cities, schools
and homes; providing safer and more efficient place to live.
b. For businesses, IoT powered by 5G can facilitate an abundance of data
allowing them to gain better insights into their operations. The key
decisions of businesses are driven by data and IoT will enable cost savings,
improved customer experience and long-term growth.
c. Advanced emerging technologies such as Augmented reality and Virtual
reality will expand its reach by providing intuitive connected experience.
5G and VR can let you watch live sports match, inspect real estate, tour any
city in the world, with the feeling of being grounded.
Machine to Machine (M2M) communications
– also known as the Internet of Things (IoT) that includes connecting
billions of devices without human intervention at an enormous scale. This
has the potential to transform modern industrial procedures and
Low latency communications
- Real-time control of robotics, industrial devices, home appliances, safety
systems, etc. Low latency communications also make remote medical care and
– Faster data speed and enhanced capacity. New applications will consist of
indoor fixed wireless internet, outdoor broadcast systems, thus eliminating
the need for broadcast vans. Overall, 5G promises bring greater connectivity
for people on the move.
The 5G system: How does it work?
Initially, operators will integrate 5G networks with existing 4G networks. This way,
a continuous connection can be ensured. Let us see how the 5G system works:
A mobile network consists of two key components- ‘Radio Access Network’ and the
Radio Access Network: It includes facilities such as small cells, towers,
masts, etc., connecting users and wireless devices to the main core network.
A major feature of the 5G networks would be small cells, mainly the Small cells
running at the new millimeter wave (mm Wave) frequencies. Here the connection range
would be very short and to ensure that the connection remains continuous, small
cells would be available in clusters and their density depends on where users need
5G Macro Cells will use MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) antennas that consists
of many elements or connections to send and receive data. Users benefit in the way
that connection would be spontaneous and a high throughput will be maintained. MIMO
antennas generally consists of several antenna elements. In fact, they are often
referred as ‘massive MIMO’. However, there size is similar to existing 3G and 4G
base station antennas.
Core Network This comprises of the mobile exchange and data network that
handles all mobile voice, data, and Internet connections. In case of 5G, the ‘core
network’ will be redesigned to better integrate with the world-wide-web and Cloud.
This would also include distributed servers across the network. This way, response
time, including latency will be improved.
Many of the cutting-edge features of 5G such as virtualization and network will be
managed in the core network. Network Slicing is a function that enables segmentation
of the network for a specific industry, business, or application. For example, a
company’s emergency services can operate on a network slice which would be
independent of other users.
Coming to virtualization, Network Function Virtualization (NVF) is a feature that
allows you to start network functions at any desired location. The only condition is
that the location should be within the vendor’s cloud platform. Network functions
that used to run on specialized hardware can now operate on virtual machine. NVF is
vital in enabling the speed efficiency and dexterity to support. This way, new
business applications and technologies could be ready for a 5G core.
When a 5G link is established, the device will connect to both the 4G and 5G
networks. The 4G network will provide control signaling and 5G network to enable
fast data connection by complementing the existing 4G capacity.
Where there is inadequate 5G coverage, the data will be passed on the 4G network to
ensure continuous connection. In short, the 5G network is complementing the existing
The 5G Advantage: Key Attributes
5G networks are planned to work in concurrence with 4G networks using a range of
macro and small cells, dedicated in-house systems. Small cells are mini base posts
planned for localized coverage (10-100 m) facilitating in-fill for a greater macro
network. Small cells are indispensable for the 5G networks as the mmWave frequencies
have limited connection range.
Increased Spectrum: In several countries the initial 5G frequency bands are
below 6 GHz (mainly in the 3.3-3.8 GHz bands). Added mobile spectrum above 6 GHz
frequency, counting the 26-28 GHz bands, will deliver enhanced capacity compared to
the current network technologies. The extra spectrum and enhanced capacity will
support more users, more data and quicker connections. It is also believed that
there will be reuse of existing low band spectrum for 5G in future. This is because
there will be a decline in usage of legacy networks.
The improved spectrum in the mmWave band will facilitate localized coverage as it
only operate over small distances. Future 5G deployments may leverage mmW
frequencies in bands up to 86 GHz and mobile spectrum with 3-100 GHz radio frequency
range and new 5G spectrum, ranging above 6GHz.
The physical size of the enormous 5G MIMO antennas will be identical to 4G; However,
with a greater frequency, the individual antenna element size will be reduced,
allowing a greater number of assets in the same physical case. 5G User Equipment’s
including cell phones and other devices will also have MIMO antenna technology built
into the device for the mmWave frequencies.
Plus, 4G sector and 5G base stations will have multi-part massive MIMO antenna
array. Also, the 5G base station antenna is expected to be similar to a 4G base
station antenna in terms of physical size.
MIMO - Beam Steering: Beam steering is a technology that lets the MIMO base
station antennas to handle the radio signal with the users and devices. The beam
steering technology uses innovative signal processing algorithms to regulate the
best path for the radio signal to reach the handler. This enhances efficiency as it
leads to reduction in interference which are unwanted radio signals.
Lower Latency: Lower latency with 5G is realized through important advances
in mobile technology and network architecture.
Response time (milliseconds)
4G - LTE systems
5G - enhanced mobile broadband
5G – URLLC, expanded as Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications) systems
To deliver low latency, significant changes in the Core Network (Core) and Radio
Access Network (RAN) of the 5G Network - Mobile Network architecture are required.
Core Network varies with the changes in core network design, thus signaling the
servers. A key attribute is to move the data closer to the end user and to abridge
the path between devices for critical applications. Some key examples are video
streaming services like Netflix where users can store a copy or ‘cache’ of popular
content in local servers. This allows them to quickly access the content.
Radio Access Network varies in order to achieve low latency. To do that, the Radio
Access Network (RAN) is required to be customized in a manner that is highly
flexible and configurable. This way, the facility can support various types of
amenities that the 5G system promotes.
To minimize the time delays, low latency and high reliability over the air interface
would be required. To achieve greater degree of reliability, fewer TTIs (time
transmit intervals) along with the sturdiness and coding improvements are also
Implementing a virtual, active and configurable RAN enables the network to work at
very low latency and high throughput. Nevertheless, it also allows the cellular
network to adjust to changes in carrier traffic, network faults and new topology
5G is the next breakthrough in mobile cellular technology. In addition to carrying
faster connections and better capacity, a prominent advantage of 5G is the fast
response time. Speaking of architecture and design, which is dealt prominently in
the blog, the new 5G architecture will exist as a 4G/5G split RAN where the 5G would
exist as user plane and 4G would exist as control plane. This would mean the
separation of the usual hardware and advanced network hardware. The functionality of
the usual/general-purpose hardware or nodes are appropriate for network functions
virtualization (NFV), where the advanced/specialized hardware in the RAN will be