5G and its current state of play in the UK
What is 5G?
5G is the next generation of mobile internet technology allowing greater numbers of connected devices to transmit data at much faster speeds. 5G is not just about faster download speeds, it about connecting the IoT from smart homes to smart cities, driverless cars and much more. (GSMA, 2018) states that,
‘5G is expected to support significantly faster mobile broadband speeds and heavier data usage than previous generations while also enabling the full potential of the Internet of Things. From autonomous cars and smart cities to the industrial internet and fibre-over-the-air, 5G will be at the heart of the future of communications. 5G is also essential for preserving the future of today’s most popular mobile applications – like on-demand video – by ensuring that growing uptake and usage can be sustained’.
Differences between 5G and 4G
Current 4G download speeds max out at around 50 megabits per second, but in the real world it is much lower than this. A report by Ofcom in 2016 showed the average download speed of 17 Mbps but this is depending on the mobile network operator (Ofcom, 2016). If you are checking email, browsing through internet pages, downloading files or streaming videos then yes 4G would suffice however as more users have come online 4G networks have just about reached the limit of what they are capable of at a time when users want even more data from their devices. Anticipated 5G download speeds of up to 10 Gbps focusing on delivering a higher number of reliable wireless connections. 5G will be the foundation for virtual reality, autonomous driving, the internet of things and technologies of the future. 5G also promises far superior latency than 4G enabling quicker response times which is vital for autonomous driving.
5G Some technical details about
To ensure that 5G networks are equipped to handle massive data rates and scalable and secure communications. Five new technologies are emerging as a foundation of 5G such as Millimetre waves, Small Cells, Massive MINO, Beamforming and Full Duplex (Rajiv, 2017)
Millimetre waves spectrum uses frequencies in the 30 – 300 GHz range. Cells can be located close to each other without causing interference.
Small Cells operate at very low radio levels and increase battery life. In order to provide extended coverage and higher bandwidth signal for more users, small transceivers can be fixed on rooftops, towers or lamp posts for outdoor applications and fixed to internal walls for indoor applications. Small cells work in the same way as conventional cell concept with advanced capabilities for transmission.
Massive MIMO is a system where high number of antennas will be deployed at both the transmitter and receiver. These combat noise and fast fading and mitigate intra cell interference using simple linear precoding and detection methods.
Beamforming identifies the most efficient data delivery route to a user and reduces interference for nearby users in the process.
Full Duplex will effectively double the spectrums efficiency. The network will use high speed switching system to handle simultaneous transmission with complex modulation techniques.
An update on 5G in the UK
According to EE press office, ‘EE aims to be the first mobile network in the UK to offer consumers and businesses 5G, and the 5G network is being launched in 2019 in the busiest parts of the UK’s busiest cities’. (Bostock, 2018)
EE have selected nine sites in East London to trial their 5G network focused on power limitations, planning permission, site strengthening and customer experience of new 5G spectrum. A spokesperson for O2 UK stated that a launch of 5G before 2020 would lack certain capabilities (super low latency, vehicle communications for autonomous driving and enhanced security). (Wray, 2018)
5G is still in the very early stages of deployment, and therefore there is a lot more work to be done but its capabilities will benefit a whole new range of technologies globally. 5G it expected to deliver increased download speeds, lower latency and greater capacity to handle more applications at the same time. These improvements are vital for autonomous driving machines and the IoT. Although it is likely it will be 2020 before the UK`s mobile network operators start to rollout 5G we might not see widespread 5G coverage until 2022 or later.