The smartphone technology has been evolving with every passing year. As users, we have seen various data technology generations in last 1-2 decades. It all began with 3G and then moved over to 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) and now we are all ready to welcome 5G by next year. But it is important to learn its ins and outs before it joins us in the mainstream market.
Fig. 1: Representational Image of 5G Network
When 3G/4G networks came to markets, it was clear that each of these would simplify access to internet along with navigation. 4G helped us reach more rich content and introduced us to various new things including live video streaming, online gaming, and so forth. However, the complexity of technology is on rise with new concepts like IoT, VR, AR, and AI joining the league it is a must to move over 4G and welcome new standards like 5G that will meet the network requirements in an efficient manner. But this new technology come s with its own pros and cons. In this blog, we will be taking a closer look at this technology from both angles, see what more is to see about it, and what Indian government is doing about it.
The Good Side
- Next Generation Mobile Communication Standard: The 5G network in successor of the present 4G LTE network. If you went a little deeper you must be knowing that 4G network used WiMax and LTE for delivering speed as high as 100Mbps to wireless devices. However, that was the era of smartphone emergence, now we are moving ahead towards artificial intelligence and IoT applications. 5G network will offer speed as high as 20Gbps with the help of Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB). It will pull up the bit rate to a new level and would enhance speed lowering the delays in content delivery to mobile devices. With speeds going skyhigh, it will simplify streaming of 4K UHD content over smartphones without compromising the audio and video quality. Gamers will also be able to play more immersive video games in VR while downloading, streaming, and chatting simultaneously. Last but not the least, it will facilitate structuring and building of self-driving cars and smart cities.
Fig. 2: Representational Image Showing Transformation from 2G to 5G
- High-speed Data Services: It would allow high-speed data services for various industrial applications especially for most crucial applications like healthcare and financial transactions.
Fig. 3: 5G Speed Overview
- Simplify AI Application In Regular Life: Better speed and wider bandwidth will ease up incorporation of Artificial Intelligence in our everyday lives. Cloud systems will also get upgraded by streaming navigation data, music, and software updates in a seamless fashion. Driving autonomous cars will definitely become simplet for it will improve vehicle to vehicle communication leading to lesser traffic congestion and car accidents.
Fig. 4: Image Showing How 5G Will Improve Things For Better
- Smaller Cell Tower Installations: The cell towers to be installed for 5G network will be much smaller than the conventional ones. These small cells towers will be placed at a distance of 200-1000 feet. The best thing about small sized towers is that their installation is a simple and versatile. You may place these anywhere. The smaller size towers receive and transmit data on 5G network within a specific area. So, in course of time these new small size, high frequency towers will be replacing large size, low frequency towers.
Fig. 5: Image Showing Comparison Between 5G and 4G Cell Towers
- Giant MIMO: Multiple-Input Multiple-Output” or MIMO refers to sending and reception of data at any point of time. This is implemented through installation of additional antennas in form of small cells. Some may question that installation of too many antennas will create problems, these problems will be addressed through beamforming. MIMO allows a base station fo receive and send additional signals to boost up the 5G network capacity by factor of 22.
- Ability To Exploit Full Duplex Capabilities On Base Station: Most wireless providers are not able to use full-duplex transceivers. But 5G network will change things for good and will allow transmission and reception of data on base station transceivers simultaneously on similar frequency. Previously, the systems supporting full-duplex communications needed to separate frequency channels when 2 users needed to interact at the same moment without taking turns for reception and transmission. Now, the same can be done using a single frequency channel via a circuit design that uses high speed switching in silicon. This permits antennas to receive and transmit while outgoing and incoming signals are routed.
The Bad Side
- Shorter Wavelength Communications: The 5G network makes use of much shorter wavelength radio signals known as “millimeter waves”. It needs a completely new range of bandwidth having frequency spectrum from 30-300 GHz. This new swath will allow more cramming of data as well as the users. It will need much smaller wavelengths as compared to earlier networks, so yes, travelling to longer distances will be a limitation.
Fig. 6: 5G Towers Will Be Way More In Number Than 4G Towers
- Environmental Challenges: 5G signals cannot pass easily through walls. Also climatic factors like foliage and moisture can easily absorb these signals.
- Risk To Public Health: Health professionals, researchers, as well as activists around the world have shown high concern for high frequency millimeter radio signals using 5G networks. Since too many cell towers will be installed in a close proximity with each other, evaluation needs to done on what impact it will have on people. A lot of physicians have warned on the total quantity of radiations that will be emitted by 5G small cells and the irreversible effects it will have on those who will be exposed to these radio waves regularly.
Fig. 7: Image Showing The 5G Signals Range In Spectrum And Their Effects
The high frequency that is being talked here goes as high as 300 GHz. The 5G range falls in the microwave range of spectrum. It is completely different from the one used in microwave ovens. For instance, we you are living in an area like Southern California, you already have exposure to radiations higher than 5G signals. Visible light has much higher frequency as compared to 5G signals and people get more exposed to sunlight than the other. People tend to get more sickness from UV rays than the visible light and beyond that it is the x-rays and the gamma rays that pose biggest risk to health. 5G signals do not penetrate human skin and bones. The problem that exists with 5G signals is that continuous transmission of wireless signals bombards the surroundings. Though much of it is streamlined with beamforming, it is still necessary to verify these in terms of human health.
- Security Issues: There is hardly any system in the world that is 100% safe from cybersecurity attacks. 5G aims to become the base for highest speed IoT and AI devices which makes it more vulnerable to hackers. It will connect more and more devices with high speed internet which will provide hackers an open ground to target more devices. Most people who will be using IoT will place their devices open in public without configuring them. Cybersecurity experts suggest the IoT users to apply updates timely and ensure to keep password a little complicated and not easy to guess. Faster networks pave way to rapid spread of malware and viruses. HIgher the number of users more will be the spread of these problems. This makes the situation more treacherous for 5G because it is the basic layer of services and applications.
Fig. 8: Security Issues Pertaining To 5G Network
What Is The Indian Government Doing About It?
For now, India lacks the backhaul for transitioning to 5G. Approx. 80% of Indian sites are connected through microwave backhaul while just 20% are connected via fiber communication. We are still struggling to get along with 4G and yet to touch the evolution range of AI. 5G networks will need newer handsets with upgraded hardware and will completely replace the older phones. But here is a list of Indian initiatives that shows a silver lining to it:
- In 2017, they came up with the Bharatnet project that promises digital infrastructure in a non-discriminatory manner to all households. Its main endeavour is to facilitate deliverance of e-education, e-banking, e-governance and others in rural areas.
- The NOFN (National Optical FIbre Network) plans to revolutionize rural areas via broadband. It will connect all Gram Panchayats with 100Mbps connectivity.
- In march 2018, the National Telecom Policy was modified to introduce 5G technology. It is a serious effort to reach 100% teledensity and provide the best citizen-centric services electronically.
- The Department of Telecommunications is also setting up a high level forum for evaluation of 5G roadmaps and help the nation adopt 5G by end of 2020.
- The government is also planning to create a corpus of Rs.500 crore for funding 5G activity, especially on product development and research.
5G comes with its own mixed bag of goodies for everyone. However, the world seems a little underprepared for welcoming it right now. With respect to India, earlier deployment will help 5G products manufacturers and companies design better solutions in this respect. It will also help in creation of required IPR in the 5G standard. It is time that India starts acting towards strengthening of its domestic telecommunication manufacturing market for enabling local industries to get stronghold of both global and domestic market.