The internet has always been an evolving landscape powered by secure network connections. For this reason, cellular network technology has significantly evolved through its five generations and every development in between. Consequently, each iteration has remarkably outdone the previous one. The culmination of this is in the newest version of cellular network technology, 5G. In this article, we will discuss the impact of 5G, updates, and innovations that make 5G the next-level technology, the aggressiveness that has pushed countries all over the world to roll out 5G. After this, we will explore the health and safety concerns due to 5G and the future scope of 5G technology.
What is 5G Technology?
5G is the next generation of broadband network connectivity that will replace 4G LTE. Undoubtedly, 5G’s main potential lies in its exponentially accelerated speed. The technology can achieve low latency on a level that is similar to real-time. In other words, latency by a single millisecond. This speed makes 5G connect and communicate with other devices at a speed human beings are not even capable of detecting without tools.
Now that we have established an idea of 5G, we will provide a concise explanation of how it works. It is inherently different from 4G LTE because it is mainly for industry use and not average consumers.
The 5G Spectrum
Spectrum is the radio frequency or GHz governments allocate to various sectors and the mobile industry that establishes communication over the airwaves. Spectrum is a sovereign asset; therefore, individual countries get to decide spectrum allocations in their territories. Countries allocate spectrum in ways that ensure economic value and benefits to remain at a profit.
LTE operates on two different spectrum bands: Low-band spectrum and Mid-band spectrum. The low-band spectrum operates on less than 1 GHz. Compared to others in 2019, this connection is a low-frequency rate. But, it exists because it does have a stable place in today’s network connectivity for the technology industry. The low-band spectrum is a part of the sub-1 GHz that many carriers use. The major drawback of this spectrum is the peak performance. Low-band spectrums will top out once it reaches 100Mbps.
The mid-band spectrum on a network is with a higher frequency than the Low-band spectrum. The GHz ranges from one to six on a Mid-band spectrum. However, it fails to maintain a good connection inside buildings. This problem mitigates through the use of Multiple-Input and Multiple-Output (MIMO), which is a way carriers can optimize connectivity. When done on a massive scale, MIMO used multiple network connection beams from one cell tower to large scales of users. The mid-band spectrum has a maximum peak speed of 1Gbps.
On 5G, a High-Band spectrum comes into the picture. This spectrum is what gives 5G networks high statistics — also referred to as millimeter-wave spectrum (mmWave), High Band spectrum peaks at a whopping 10Gbps. This speed, combined with the extremely low latency makes a High-Band spectrum valuable in 5G. The main issue faced with 5G is building penetration on the network.
Because the High-Band spectrum does not have good building penetration, 5G relies on small cells in some regions. These small cells are low-power stations that can access 5G technology in small geographical areas. The use of small cells helps carriers improve their 5G coverage in an area. Another way carriers enhance their performance in a field is through beamforming. This method uses a single signal to focus on individual users in a cell. Systems are in place to ensure each user has a stable connection. Carriers can deliver blazing fast speeds with low latency by using small cells and beamforming.
Deployment of 5G
The 5G Race
This article will eventually discuss the many benefits of 5G. Meanwhile, many countries are vying to get their hands on this technology. Real 5G is not available on a large scale. In the United States, some carriers are advertising 5G on their devices and even labeling the connection as 5G. But, in reality, this is not true. The mobile network companies are using advanced 4G LTE network connection methods to advertise to consumers as 5G.
AT & T, a United States telecommunication company recently unveiled a new data connection plan branded as “5G E”. 5G E in comparison to the top of the line connection plans from other telecommunications companies in the U.S. such as Verizon, Tmobile, and Sprint is not even the best option. Keeping in mind the other connections are peaked at 4G LTE, AT & T’s 5G E network does not even surpass two of the other three carriers on this list. According to a study done by OpenSignal, AT & T fell behind Verizon and Tmobile. But they came out on top of Sprint. This test proves that 5G on cellular networks in the U.S. is not available. However, all four carriers have plans to release 5G in 2019.
The U.S. industry giants Intel and Qualcomm have 5G in development. It’s important to note that the U.S. won the 4G race a while ago. Because of its value, the Trump administration considers 5G a national security issue. Consequently, the primary strategy used by the U.S. in the 5G race lies in trade restrictions on China. This year, President Trump signed a restriction preventing Broadcom from acquiring Qualcomm, a U.S. tech giant. The deal was for over $117 billion, but in the end, U.S. officials have taken caution concerning China’s edge in 5G technology.
Why the U.S. is not in the lead
So, if the United States of all places does not have real 5G, then where is it? Well, 5G is technically in the U.S. at some level. Not on cellular networks, at least not yet. The 5G that is available in the U.S. is not something commonplace. Therefore, 5G as an asset to its economy is not, however available. The race for 5G is a pseudo competition between countries involved in its research and development. The main rival for the U.S. is China. China is currently ahead of the U.S. in its attainment of 5G as an asset to its nation.
Huawei is a Chinese tech company that is currently the leader of 5G technology worldwide. Huawei is the only company that has true 5G, and this success has, however, made it difficult for some developed countries to adopt Huawei’s 5G. The reason? Pay attention to this, Huawei being a Chinese company means the money gained from launching 5G infrastructure will be a massive profit for the Chinese economy. A lot of developed countries don’t want this due to various reasons, such as a lack of stable trade agreements with China. A fear of spyware in Chinese technology also plays a part in this. Furthermore, the pride of being a leader in the tech industry. Lastly, the development of their economy.
China has led the 5G race through its ‘Made in China’ 2025 plan. This strategy is a development goal that aims to build China as an economy into a superpower. The development goal has the tech industry at its helms. So, as it stands, China has been at this aggressively since 2015. As a result of this, China has surpassed the U.S. by $24 billion through the launch of this plan. China has also built over 350,000 new cell sites for 5G support.
On the other hand, the U.S. has only launched less than 30,000 cell sites within the same period. The U.S.’ spending on network infrastructure has reduced by billions of dollars. Furthermore, the setup expenses for 5G are 35% cheaper through Chinese installation.
Plans for 5G in China
Currently, China plans to launch 5G commercially, and they are rigorously pushing for this. The current deadline is 2020, and they are not missing the mark. Chinese telecommunications giants China Mobile and China Unicom have launched their plans for a standalone 5G network. China Mobile launched a new initiative dubbed ‘5G SA takeoff initiative,’ which details plans to work with large scale manufacturers of equipment. Alongside the action, they also launched a 5G device guideline that describes system specifications needed to enable 5G on a device. Specifications concerning the schedules for the procurement of necessary resources are also in place.
Earlier in the year, President Trump of the United States banned ZTE, a Chinese company with 5G infrastructure. This ban has resulted in a negative effect on China in the 5G race because of China’s over-dependence on the United States’ technology and support.
ZTE is now speeding up its 5G development in the 3rd quarter of the year due to the United States lifting the ban. Because of its increased growth, recent tests have shown that ZTE has completed some benchmarks that verify the quality of a 5G network. The 3GPP R15 NSA mode 3.15 GHz indoor cell site and 5G core network test have seen success. The smoothness and execution of these tests are proving that ZTE has a permanent spot in the industry.
South Korea is the only country with a reasonably substantial deployment of 5G for consumers. This launch of 5G began in April 2019, and this makes South Korea the first country to deploy 5G on a large scale. During the launch, carriers in South Korea used base stations from Samsung, Nokia and Ericsson. The largest of these suppliers in South Korea is Samsung. Samsung is responsible for launching 53,000 of South Korea’s base stations during the deployment of 5G. In other words, 61% of 5G base stations in South Korea at launch are from Samsung.
Additionally, South Korea’s SK Telecom is in charge of 38,000 5G base stations. Kt corporation has 30,000 dedicated base stations. Meanwhile, the carrier LG U Plus has 18,000 base stations.
The 5G in South Korea uses a 3.5 GHz spectrum for its network. Although it is capable of higher frequencies, this spectrum is in non-standalone mode (NSA). The speeds tested ranged from 193-430 Mbit/s downloads. The launch was hugely successful and resulted in over 260,000 people signing up within the first month. The main goal with 5G in South Korea currently is to have 5G on 10% of mobile devices before 2020. As of June 2019, South Korea hit the target of 1 million subscribers on 5G in 69 days since its launch.
Issues with 5G in South Korea
The South Korean launch of 5G is questionable to some industry experts. The concerns are in regards to the illegal subsidy on the price of 5G hardware to bait new subscriptions from consumers. This concern is because network regulators have aggressively promoted reductions in the cost of 5G smartphones on conditions of service commitment. On the opposite direction, many users are issuing complaints concerning the quality of the service and its availability.
5G in countries worldwide
According to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSMA), 5G investments and preparation are identifiable in 88 countries from 224 operators developing 5G technology. These are countries actively investing in 5G. This investment means that these countries have begun testing, demonstrating, trialing and have licenses for operators to conduct the field trials of 5G. Some of these countries even have 5G services announced. 5G was gaining traction as the numbers in November 2018 were for 81 countries with only 192 operators involved in 5G. Now it’s even more prominent as the newest reports detail a substantial increase in subscribers.
There are currently nine companies that sell 5G hardware for carriers. This hardware includes 5G radio hardware and tools. These companies are Cisco Systems, Datang Telecom, Huawei, Samsung, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm, ZTE and Altiostar.
The Global Mobile Suppliers Association has released a new database for the industry that serves the purpose of tracking the launch of 5G devices. Through this database, the GMSA has identified over 23 suppliers who have confirmed new forthcoming 5G devices. These 33 devices also include region-specific variants. Seven different form factors have announcements for 5G devices. Twelve smartphone devices from different carriers. Four hotspot devices for Wi-Fi, eight new pieces of equipment for indoor and outdoor customer premises, five new modules, two snap-on dongles with adapters, and one new USB terminal.
In the Internet of Things arena, new chipsets with 5G have announcements with commercial availability in devices. Four of these chipsets will soon be released. Meanwhile, one commercial platform is in the works for a future launch.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G was the first 5G compatible phone released in the U.S. This phone has features specifically tailored for an optimized 5G experience. Samsung also has the new Note 10 devices with a 5G variant. The Samsung Galaxy fold is expected to release with 5G as well. Many other smartphone manufacturers are following the same pattern to make 5G commercially available through these devices. 5G hotspots are also launching across different areas. Commercial users use this technology at a larger scale than predicted in many countries.
Real-world applications of 5G
An autonomous vehicle is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and moving safely without the need for human interference. Through 5G, this technology can finally be a commercial commodity. Although good self-driving cars already exist, the current technology for the environments for these cars is not safe. Therefore, self-driving is not approved. Currently, self-driving cars make use of the cloud to send and receive signals that concern traffic, movement, accidents, weather, and all other potential interferences. However, the cloud is not a reliable source for this. Instead, Edge computing with 5G is miles more reliable.
Edge computing uses faster methods of maneuvering the cloud. This speed, combined with the low latency of 5G, means self-driving vehicles will send and receive data at a rate of fewer than five milliseconds. The average human response time is two hundred milliseconds. Necessarily, the deployment of 5G will make autonomous vehicles a reality for consumers.
With 5G, cities will finally be able to connect with the Internet of Things in a way that has never existed before. Smart cities are on the horizon. Yes, they are available. But currently, they serve more of a gimmicky purpose than intended. The speed of 4G networks does not allow this tech to flourish. With the rise of 5G, smart cities will be the new standard. Automatic parking, vehicles, street lights, and many others. Not only that, innovations will come because of the level of technology at the disposal of developers. Traffic conditions will immensely improve, smart suggestions for driving around a city will be in place. Minor details like public restrooms being clean and trash pickup improving are some of the benefits of 5G Smart cities. Furthermore, power outages will also reduce.
Smart Factories do exist already. However, 5G will play an essential role in the development of Industry 4.0. The newest generation of industrial technology. 5G will change the way the industrial manufacturing process works. As it is, manufacturing for smart devices and machines is only limited to the factory floor in most factories. However, with 5G, this will translate to the process of design and distribution. Making the chain of manufacturing complete with the use of smart technology. The customer feedback loop will also improve and result in a manufacturer seeing feedback in real-time. The location of a product will also be changed if there are hindrances to production.
Furthermore, online shopping will have accurate records that reflect the inventory in a typical brick and mortar store. Because of 5G, the manufacturing industry is pumping investments at a higher rate than all other sectors in the Internet of Things investments. That is precisely why it is expected to grow exponentially in 2020.
Moreover, Smart Factories will also increase the use of AI and robot-powered machine learning that is capable of making real-time decisions in the manufacturing process. Faster and smarter robots will also be implemented for arduous tasks that strain human workers. This change will result in safer and healthier employees in factories. This process will translate to the training of employees as well. New methods of preparation that are safer for employees will be adopted.
Virtual reality and augmented reality are currently in the consumer space. However, the potential 5G brings to the table is extremely promising. 5G and mixed reality has, unfortunately not been the tech that we expected because of limitations in networks. The reality part of VR and AR is disappointing as the technology does not work at the same pace of reality. The forms of mixed reality in place cannot be used commercially beyond demos, video games, and gimmicks. They do work fine, but practical, real-world applications are currently lacking.
The increased speed of 5G allows for the expansion of AR and VR. At Mobile World Congress, Microsoft announced a new device that taps into the next stage of mixed reality. The new Microsoft HoloLens 2 is a device that blends digital and physical environments in real-time at a fast rate. The headset makes use of interactive data that is visible to workers. The data is useful and relevant to tasks in a way that helps these workers increase their productivity through this mix of reality and digital.
Eventually, mixed reality will seep into more applications in the real-world. Examples include maps and business application software. The creativity of developers is endless. Only the current technology in place is limiting a lot of these ideas. With 5G, AR and VR will become as much a part of our daily activities as the smartphone is in today’s world.
The Future of 5G
As cool as 5G is, the world has many great minds that will take this technology beyond anything that has currently been conceived. As a result of this, 5G is taking the world of digital transformation to a whole new level. The developments that are imminent as a result of 5G are exciting to speculate. Essentially, 5G is the next big thing that will serve as a stepping stone for other next big things.
In Conclusion, the race for 5G and its applications shows how important this technology is for development. The world is watching and waiting to see what the future holds. As it stands, that future is extremely promising with the rise of 5G technology.