In case you missed it, a couple of weeks ago the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)…
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What You Need To Know About 5G
Today, there is buzz surrounding the anticipated 5G network. While it does not technically exist yet, wireless carriers are amid a race to create, define, and become the leader in 5G networks.
Before we delve into 5G, we must discuss its predecessors. First of all, the G in 5G simple stands for the generation of wireless technology. These generations are usually defined by their data transmission speeds, however, each generation has also made a distinct breakthrough in encoding methods (or “air interfaces”) which make them incompatible with previous generations.
- 1G was analog cellular.
- 2G (ex. CDMA, GSM, TDMA) was the first generation of digital cellular technologies.
- 3G (ex. EVDO, HSPA, UMTS) improved speeds from 200kbps to a few megabits per second.
- 4G (ex. WiMAX, LTE) scaled up to hundreds of megabits and even gigabit-level speeds.
The new 5G network promises higher speeds and capacity with lower latency. While the technologies have yet to be determined, many agree on these general themes.
Similar to the encoding LTE uses, 5G networks will use OFDM. The difference is that it will be designed for much lower latency and increased flexibility.
The range for the new network frequencies goes as low as old TV channels and up to “millimeter wave” (frequencies that can transmit huge amounts of data, but only a few blocks at a time). There is a possibility that 5G may bring Wi-Fi as a seamless part of a cellular network, or use LTE Unlicensed, which transmits LTE-encoded data over Wi-Fi frequencies.
For 5G, it’s not about size. Instead of huge towers radiating over far distances, 5G is likely to be a network of smaller cells (even down to home routers) because of the frequencies it uses, but also to expand its network capacity.
Smarter technology for 5G is necessary since it will be handling a high volume of smaller cells which can change in size and shape. Despite existing macro cells, 5G is expected to boost capacity by leveraging wider bandwidths and advanced antenna technologies.
“Edge intelligence” has also been mentioned as part of the 5G vision. With this comes more autonomy for individual small cells. Because they have more power to decide how and where to route data, latency can be lowered significantly.
The overall goal of 5G is to provide higher speeds, higher capacity per sector, and lower latency than 4G. The general aim is 20Gbps speeds with 1ms latency.
The home Internet will likely be the first place we see 5G in action. We can likely expect the initial technologies used in 5G to be similar to millimeter wave fixed wireless Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Think Starry in Boston, or Monkeybrains in San Francisco. However, its accessibility will be greater since larger companies are in the mix (ex. Verizon, AT&T). According to AT&T, 5G may replace DSL offerings, allowing them to provide a “quad play” (DirecTV service, 5G home Internet, wireless phone, home phone). On the other hand, Verizon’s first 5G application will be “fixed wireless” (home Internet).
For once, the focus isn’t on speed, but capacity. 5G could offer carriers enough capacity for unlimited home service plans, as the current plans simply aren’t enough. This is important for home Internet competition as only 51% of Americans only have one option for 25Mbps or higher home Internet service.
As autonomous cars continue to develop, they will need to connect and communicate with other cars and everything else on the road. For this to run smoothly, extremely low latencies are vital. While information exchanged is small, it needs to be done so instantly. Because 5G boasts sub-1ms latency, this technology is vital (One light-millisecond is about 186 miles, so most of that 1ms latency is still processing time).
5G can connect many more devices, which makes sense for its use in smart cities. Currently, 4G modules are expensive, power-consuming, and require complicated service plans. Because of this, much of the Internet of Things has stuck with Wi-Fi and other home technologies for consumers or 2G for businesses. 5G is ideal since it will accept and connect small, inexpensive, low-power devices.
As far as mobile phones go, the biggest impact 5G will have is in relation to virtual and augmented reality. The low latency and consistent speeds are ideal for these applications.
Small cell aspects may help with in-building coverage as 5G encourages every home router to become a cell site.
What Will We Need?
Because 5G has not been fully developed yet, there are no 5G compatible devices yet. When it does come out, you will likely need a new device to access it. For the time being, 4G LTE and Wi-Fi aren’t going anywhere, and as our technology improves, so, too, will their performance.
The official 5G standard (AKA 5G NR – new radio), probably won’t be out until 2018, followed by full commercial rollouts in 2019 or 2020. However, wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T are insisting that they will have “5G” by 2017. This will not be true 5G; instead a non-standard, pre-5G that could be used for backhaul or home Internet.
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