With most of the nation being adequately served by 4G and 4G LTE networks, why is the wireless industry buzzing about 5G – the next generation of wireless networks?
Because of the demand for wireless connectivity that's waiting over the horizon.
Extensive Mobile Usage Will Need 5G Networks
Back in 2013, the telecommunications trade association 4G Americas forecasted that by 2020, there will be 50 billion connected devices in the Internet of Things. This number is entirely plausible when you consider the number and variety of devices coming online that rely on continuous mobile connectivity. Things like driverless cars, smart watches, home appliances, security systems and factory robots will all be increasingly data- and bandwidth-hungry, and they will be talking to one another – and to us – on wireless networks.
5G technologies are expected to handle this explosion in mobile data usage.
A Few 5G Specifications Take Shape
5G networks and devices will start coming to market by 2020. The industry hasn't yet agreed on specifications for 5G systems, but most insiders expect 5G networks to have these standards at a minimum:
- Download speeds of 10 Gbps or more
- Latency of less than 1 millisecond
- Network capacity of up to 1,000 times current levels
- Significant increase in reliability over 4G
- Greater energy efficiency
These few standards alone have several implications for network design, engineering and operations – the areas in which we specialize. Here are some of the technical issues we'll be facing.
Frequencies. Current cellular networks use frequencies between 800 MHz and 1.9 GHz. Wi-Fi signals have frequencies in the 2.4 GHz-5.8 GHz range. 5G networks will use much higher frequencies – 28 GHz, 38 GHz, or even 60+ GHz (also referred to as the "millimeter wave" frequencies). These frequencies can deliver the throughput speeds needed for 5G networks. What's more, the FCC is looking into how best to use frequency bands of 24 GHz and higher, which may be a precursor to making more spectrum available in this range.
Antenna Design. Millimeter waves are highly directional. We will have to build clusters of dozens or hundreds of antennas in one spot to achieve 360-degree coverage. One benefit of using several narrow beams: less interference from adjacent networks.
Tower Placement. High-frequency waves generally travel shorter distances than low-frequency ones. When we engineer your networks, we compensate for this feature. For 5G networks, we'll also need to place towers or cells closer together, sometimes as close as half a mile.
Network Monitoring. Higher capacity and more complex 5G networks will require more extensive monitoring. Some parts of the network may be self-monitoring, but we will still need extra layers of human oversight.
Research into 5G Networks Continues
An array of other issues confront the wireless industry in its drive toward implementing 5G. Spectrum allocation, signal attenuation from rain, small cells, new handsets and hardware, communication prioritization protocols and worldwide standards for 5G are just some of the topics that will play out over the next five to ten years.
If building 5G networks sounds expensive, you're right. The future will be more expensive. Fortunately, RESOLUTE Partners has a record of developing innovative and cost-efficient solutions for our clients, and we are confident we'll do the same for you when it comes time to implement your 5G network.
In the meantime, please download our capabilities statement to discover more about our wireless network engineering and installation capabilities.