The fifth-generation or 5G wireless technology started hitting the market towards 2018-end. Now it is on the threshold of picking up momentum across the world. Among other things, 5G wireless networks herald the progression from mobile internet to massive IoT (Internet of Things) applications, tactile internet, and robotics. The technology is expected to establish a powerful IoT ecosystem that can serve communication needs for a plethora of connected devices, with the right balance of high speed, low power, low latency (the interval between the sending and receiving of information), and cost.
Latency is what sets 5G technology apart: from 200 milliseconds in 4G, and it comes down to 1 millisecond (1/1000 of a second) with 5G. Human beings react to a visual stimulus, on an average, in 250 ms or 1/4 of a second. Thanks to 5G technology, a car could respond to a vast volume of incoming information as well as communicate its reactions back to vehicles and road signals in the vicinity well within milliseconds or 250 times faster than humans. Compared with today’s 4G and 4.5G (LTE advanced), IoT and critical communication services require a new level of improved performance. Beyond data speed improvements, low latency is what provides real-time interactivity for these services using the cloud.
Basic features of 5G technology
5G, functioning at 10 gigabits per second (Gbps), is expected to be 10 to 100 times faster than today’s 4G networks. It is a breakthrough compared with the current 4G LTE technology. The use of shorter frequencies (millimetre waves in the range of 30GHz to 300GHz) for 5G networks makes 5G amazingly faster in sync with the basic communication principle wherein shorter frequency implies larger bandwidth.
If 5G lives up to its promises, it will not only enable a new generation of applications but also make home broadband more accessible and affordable in areas where internet access is spotty, slow, and expensive.
A “Local Area Network” technology, Wi-Fi wireless is limited in operating range as well as speed and latency. As IoT services demand greater ubiquity, mobility, and performance speed-wise and response time-wise, 5G will pave the way for a true IoT eco-system. While previous generation networks (3G, 4G) were driven by mobile internet usage and innovative, customized apps, 5G is expected to be chiefly propelled by new IoT usages.
5G at a glance
- Up to 10Gbps data rate – > 10 to 100x enhancement over 4G and 4.5G networks
- 1-millisecond latency
- 1000x bandwidth per unit area
- Up to 100x connected devices per unit area as compared with 4G LTE
- 999% availability
- 100% coverage
- 90% reduction in network energy usage
- Battery life extending up to 10 years for low power IoT device
Low latency rate of 5G technology can work wonders in the following areas of communication:
- V2X (Vehicle-to-Everything)
- V2V (Vehicle-to-Vehicle)
- V2I (Vehicle-to-Infrastructure)
- Autonomous connected cars
- Immersive virtual reality gaming
- Remote surgical operations such as telesurgery
- Simultaneous translating.
Every new generation wireless network comes with all new set of usages. 5G will make no exception and will advance broadband wireless services from mobile internet to critical communications segments that come with IoT. 5G networks are all set to meet all communication needs ranging from low power Local Area Network (LAN) to Wide Area Networks (WAN) along with the right kind of latency and speed settings. This new approach is designed to better align the costs of simple virtual network configurations with application needs. In fact, 5G Mobile Network operators will grab a larger pie of the emerging IoT market by being able to offer cost-effective solutions for low broadband, low power applications.
Applications like autonomous cars need highly aggressive latency (fast response time), but they do not require fast data rates. So, enterprise cloud base services with massive data analysis will require improvements in speed more than that in latency.
To begin with, “IMT for 2020 and beyond” launched by ITU-R in 2012 set the stage for 5G. While Japan and Korea began the work on 5G requirements, Samsung, Huawei, and Ericsson started to prototype development in 2013. NTT DoCoMo did the first experimental trials for 5G in 2014. South Korean SK Telecom unveiled 5G in 2018 during the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
In 2018, Ericsson and TeliaSonera commenced commercial services of 5G in Stockholm and Tallinn, while Deutsche Telekom achieved a similar feat in Berlin, Darmstadt, Munich, Bonn, and Cologne in September 2019.
In the UK, 5G has made inroads in many cities in 2019, and more will do so in 2020. Japan intends to launch 5G for Tokyo summer Olympics, 2020.
China has set up 5G in various locations and is expected to have 460 million 5G connections by 2025. In fact, the government of China can move faster in front of the 5G race than the US. The country has allotted vast swaths of spectrum for 5G, prompting warnings among US officials that federal authorities need to move more quickly.
The Trump administration needs to resolve spectrum squabbles among various wings of the government. Though 5G is available in some locations in North America this year, it won’t take off in most areas until 2020. Delays in spectrum allocation threaten to undermine America’s efforts to dominate the wireless technology that will be embedded in so many innovations in the future.
As for India, the country is targeting 2020 for the 5G roll-out.
Challenges in the implementation
Expertise and knowledge of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in building and operating networks will hold the key to the accomplishment of 5G. Apart from providing network services, MNOs are required to operate and harness new IoT services, while allowing 3G and 4G networks to be in operation.
The adoption of 5G networks will present a new challenge to MNOs vis-à-vis tackling frequencies in the spectrum (especially against the backdrop of forecasted massive volume of IoT). MNOs will need to operate a new spectrum in the range of 6 to 300 GHz, which implies massive investments in the network infrastructure.
5G networks will be highly cost-effective thanks to their capability to support virtual networks such as low power low throughput (LPLT) networks for low-cost IoT. But to reach the 1ms latency goal, 5G networks imply connectivity for the base station using optical fibers.
Implications for consumers
5G for consumers means not just faster mobile internet, but mainly internet connectivity in many more objects than what we see today. The self-driving car and smart homes are two examples of the big IoT revolution coming ahead, supported by 5G networks.
5G can support 1 million devices for 0.386 square miles or 1 Km2. With low power consumption, connected objects can operate for months or years without the need for human assistance. Unlike current IoT services that make performance trade-offs to get the best from current wireless technologies, 5G networks will be designed to bring the level of performance needed for realising a fully ubiquitous world.
Security solutions today comprise a mix of security at the device level, as well as network. USIM application, supported by a removable SIM card or an embedded UICC chip, is used in 4G networks to perform strong mutual authentication between the user and his/her connected device and the networks. Because of the co-existence of multiple security frameworks in the future, 5G is likely to re-use existing solutions used currently for 4G networks and the cloud (SEs, HSM, certification, Over-The-Air provisioning, and KMS).
Thanks to the management of IoT services, the need for security, privacy, and trust will be paramount in 5G networks. Local SEs in devices cannot only secure network access but also support secure services such as emergency call management and virtual networks for IoT.
5G use cases will bring new requirements on the storage, compute, and network domains and will grapple with new risks to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of enterprise & user data.
Starting from fixed wireless access (from 2018-2019 onwards), 5G will offer enhanced mobile broadband with 4G fall-back (from 2019-2020-2021), massive M2M / IoT (from 2021-2022) to ultra-low-latency IoT critical communications (from 2024-2025).
The “perception” of speed, instantaneous response time, and performance for IoT will become a reality thanks to 5G. In this context, the success of new innovations such as that of self-driving cars critically hinges on the availability of 5G networks.
It is estimated that 5G will reach 45% population coverage and 1.9 billion subscriptions by 2024, making it the fastest generation ever to be rolled out on a global scale. The worldwide adoption of 5G assumes significance, given the fact that the country that takes the lead in 5G will pave the way for its companies to access more-powerful wireless technology sooner than foreign rivals. That means more profits and more jobs for the country that forges ahead on the 5G path.