5G. The Technologies that will make ir Possible
Evolution of Wireless Networks

Cellular wireless networks are today one of the main drivers of social progress. Communication, entertainment, education, work, and countless other aspects of our lives have evolved thanks to the connectivity they provide. If there's something that positions us at the forefront of a new era in cellular networks, it's 5G technology, the fifth generation of wireless mobile networks.

But, what has been the evolution of wireless networks?

  • 1G was the first generation of mobile networks, allowing us to make phone calls outside of our homes.

  • 2G introduced the SMS text messaging service.

  • 3G brought internet browsing capabilities. .

  • 4G provided high-speed and high-quality browsing.

  • The 5G system will have an impact on our mobile devices, homes, vehicles, workplaces, and city surroundings.

Data downloads, streaming, and the browsing experience will happen with virtually no delay

Vehicles will communicate with each other to share information, avoid collisions, improve routes, and achieve real-time virtual reality without constraints. Not to mention the industrial benefits, such as remote surgeries, process automation, and millions of connected devices capable of sending and receiving signals. Welcome to the world of 5G. ​

5G is much more than just faster 4G and will have a profound impact on our work and lifestyle. To understand it, we need to grasp five fundamental technologies


Technology number 1: Latency and speed.

Latency is the gap between sending an instruction and receiving a response, between the user's action and the network's reaction. It's the time it takes for a bit to travel to the server and back to the user's terminal.

Currently, the average latency in 4G networks is around 50 milliseconds. The "ultra-reliable low-latency communication" technology will reduce this average latency to 1 millisecond, enabling applications for multimedia, entertainment, virtualization, autonomy, and real-time services.

For some current applications, a latency of 100, 90, or 50 milliseconds might not be a problem, and users may not even notice it. However, for others, it's a significant barrier. We are talking about the applications that would be possible today if only latency could drop to 20 milliseconds or less. With 5G providing such low latency, all these applications suddenly become feasible. If a delay when streaming a movie is already annoying, in an autonomous vehicle, a latency of 50 milliseconds at 40 km/h means a difference of 5 meters when making a turn, which can be a matter of life and death.  

 Now, how do network operators achieve such low latency? The most crucial aspect is the virtualization of the network core. With network operators deploying smaller, cost-effective standard hardware, instead of 3 or 4 network nodes across the country, there can be hundreds of them. When used through software, many benefits are gained, making the network configurable quickly and remotely, allowing operators to optimize services for specific demands.

 The decentralization of these low-cost virtualized network nodes has a direct positive effect on latency since they are closer to the end-user.  

Currently, the maximum speed of a 4G network is 1 Gbps, with an average speed of 71 Mbps. In 5G, the maximum speed is 20 Gbps, with an average speed of 1.4 Gbps, representing an increase of 10 to 20 times. Imagine downloading an entire HD movie in less than 10 seconds, and the incredible range of applications that high-speed connectivity will enable.

Technology number 2: Millimeter waves and small cell networks.

Our phones and smart electronic devices use very specific frequencies in the radio frequency spectrum, typically below six gigahertz, but these frequencies are becoming increasingly saturated. Operators can only squeeze a certain amount of data bits into the same amount of radio frequency spectrum.

As more devices connect, we will start to see slower service and more dropped connections. The solution is to open up and use new radio frequency space.

Researchers are experimenting with shorter millimeter wave transmission, which falls between 30 and 300 gigahertz. This section of the spectrum has not been used for mobile devices before, and it opens up more bandwidth for everyone. However, there's a "small big problem" - millimeter waves do not travel well over medium to long distances, through buildings, or other obstacles, and tend to be absorbed by plants and rain. To overcome this issue, a technology called "small cell networks" is needed.  

Current wireless networks rely on large, high-powered cell towers to transmit their signals over long distances. But remember, high-frequency millimeter waves have a harder time passing through obstacles. This means that if you move behind an obstacle, the signal will be lost.

The problem is solved by using thousands of low-power mini base stations, which are much closer together than traditional towers, forming a kind of relay team to broadcast signals around obstacles. This would be especially useful in cities, as a user moves behind an obstacle, and their smartphone would automatically switch to a new base station with better reach for their device, allowing them to maintain their connection.

This deployment of new mini base stations represents a global infrastructure investment of trillions of dollars for operators and service provider.

Technology number 3: Massive MIMO  


MIMO stands for Multiple Input, Multiple Output. Today's 4G base stations use MIMO technology and have around a dozen antenna ports to handle all cellular traffic, but Massive MIMO base stations will be able to support around a hundred ports, meaning they have a large number of simultaneous antennas to expand communication capacity and increase the capacity of current networks by a factor of 22 or more. 

Massive MIMO and the large number of antennas will also bring their own complications. The problem is that messages generated in all directions will cause a lot of interference and errors during transmission.

Technology Number 4: Beamforming


Beamforming allows for targeted communication; it's a traffic signaling system for cellular signals. Instead of transmitting in all directions, it enables a base station to send a focused data stream to a specific user. This directed precision avoids interference and is much more efficient, meaning base stations can handle more incoming and outgoing data streams simultaneously.

Here's how it works: for example, you are in a set of buildings and trying to make a phone call. Your signal bounces off the surrounding buildings and intersects with other users' signals in the area. A base station with Massive MIMO receives all these signals and tracks their direction and arrival time. It then uses signal processing algorithms to precisely triangulate the source of each signal and plot the best transmission path back through the air to each phone. Sometimes, it will even bounce individual data packets in different directions off buildings or other objects to prevent signals from interfering with each other. The result is a coherent data stream sent only to you.

Technology Number 5: Full Duplex.

If you've ever used a walkie-talkie, you know that to communicate, you have to take turns speaking and listening. Currently, cellular base stations have the same dynamics—only one base antenna can do one job at a time, either transmitting or receiving, due to a principle called "reciprocity." This principle reflects the tendency of radio waves to travel back and forth on the same frequency.

To understand this, consider a radio wave or radio frequency as a train loaded with data, the frequency is like the train track. If there's a second train trying to travel in the opposite direction on the same track, there will be interference. So far, the solution has been to either have the trains take turns or put all the trains on different tracks or frequencies. However, there is a more efficient way to work around reciprocity.

Researchers have used silicon transistors to create high-speed switches that temporarily halt the reverse role of these frequencies. It's like a signaling system that can momentarily change the train's route so it can pass between them. This means that many more things can be done on each track or frequency, much faster.

What importance does all of this have for the world economy? Why are leading companies and strong countries in a race to be the first to achieve it?

There are several reasons. Just with the features mentioned earlier, you can already imagine how beneficial it would be to have a network with nearly instant connections, which is of great benefit to companies. Virtually all known industries can benefit from using 5G: commerce, communication, education, medicine. It is estimated that, as a result, the Asia-Pacific region will become the part of the planet with the most 5G network deployments by 2025, with approximately 675 million connections.

5G experts have elaborated on its benefits, stating that it will be the cornerstone on which the new global economy will be built.

Today, we have 4G, but tomorrow we will have advanced virtual reality, smart cities, networks used by robots, autonomous vehicles, and artificial intelligence that can analyze X-rays and diagnose diseases with a 99% probability in a matter of seconds. All of these will be interconnected by the resilient thread that is 5G technology.

As smartphones and other digital devices become more advanced and the applications running on them generate more data, the wireless network connecting them must change to keep up with the rapid pace. That's why we see all the telecommunications giants competing to see who can win the race.

In summary, 5G will mark the beginning of a new era; it is the foundation of the fourth industrial revolution. It will bring a massive change in the way things are done, produced, and understood, in commercial and human relationships. 5G will be wonderful for prepared companies, and the more we understand it, the more we can benefit from the new opportunities it brings.


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