5G and the internet of things

Data Team

12/10/2014 4:29 AM

5G Industry News

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4G and today

4G has been with us in one form or another for the previous 8 years, competing under two different 4G network standards, Mobile WiMAX and Long Term Evolution (LTE). While countries such as Korea and Sweden have been at the forefront of research many countries still do not have the infrastructure to deploy these services on a commercial basis. It wasn't until 2013 that the UK began to see a widespread roll out of 4G enabled networks, lagging considerably behind other countries. Even today 4G only accounts for 5% of the world's total mobile connections with North America taking 45% of that share. Much of the $1.7 trillion expected to be spent on mobile networks between now and 2020 will continue to be invested in the 4G infrastructure.

Although consumer adoption has been hampered by the availability of 4G there is now a race on by teams around the world to establish the next generation of mobile networks. Approximately every ten years we see a new generation of mobile networks and research on 5G is well underway. Ericsson predict that in the next five years the thirst for data will increase tenfold to 100 billion connections and the current 4G networks simply weren't designed be able to cope with this demand. 5G will involve a dramatic overhaul of the radio spectrum, previously as new technologies have been developed they have often been allocated free spectrum wherever it was available rather than the optimal frequencies. Freeing up unused spectrum and reorganising current frequencies should give 5G the reliability and speed of a physical fibre network.

These improvements will help eliminate data congestion and see to the rise of the internet of things, devices connected to the internet that often serve another more traditional purpose. Fridges that can tell you're running out of milk, autonomously go online and order you new supplies. Medical systems that can remotely monitor patients' vital signs in real time and saving lives through prompt critical care. Home automation systems that can control heating, lighting, security or electronic appliances via a connected smart grid of sensors.

In GSMA's latest report they outlined the two current main views on what 5G is. Anne Bouverot, the Director General of the GSMA said in a statement that "The arrival of 5G will help deliver a fresh wave of mobile innovation that will further transform the lives of individuals, businesses and societies around the world."

5G and tomorrow

The first 5G mobile device pioneered by Ericsson has been shown running approximately 4Gbps, which is enough to stream 100 ultra HD films, in comparison 4G provides less than 1Gbps capacity. Some believe that it will be theoretically possible to run a wireless data connection over a 5G network at a staggering 800Gbps, around 100 times faster than what is currently being tested, enough to download 33 HD films every second. Ericsson predict that the latency will only be around one millisecond, which is not perceivable to a human and about 50 times faster than what's currently achievable on a 4G network.

Currently three big teams are involved in the race for the first 5G network. South Korea was one of the frontrunners on 4G development and now Samsung hopes to launch a temporary 5G network to be used at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Not far away in China Huawei is racing to implement a 5G network for the 2018 World Cup in Moscow. Japan wants to go one step further and have the world's first commercially available 5G network ready in time for the 2020 Olympic Games held in Tokyo. These big events will be a good platform to showcase the durability and speed of 5G, as currently 4G networks in these situations perform poorly due to the sheer amount of data congestion received from 1000's of concurrent users.

5G should be much more effective in such congested situations due to it's decentralised nature, by employing base stations containing 100's of antennas the data can be allocated efficiently and dynamically to individuals on a real time basis. Advanced antenna technology and multiple data beams from a multitude of base stations will be used to effectively dodge around objects that would otherwise block or degrade the signal such as buildings, as well as helping improve overall reliability.

Due to the improved reliability and reduced latency from employing multiple data beams many critical systems could see vast benefits from 5G network deployment. Self-driving cars will be able to more accurately talk to each other to help prevent accidents. Air tower controller stations could be used to service several airfields at once via remote technology saving costs and remote medical surgery procedures will become much more safe and efficient.

Despite the good success research is currently having there are however still many obstacles that will need to be overcome before 5G can be commercially utilised, chief among these is security, safety and sustainability as well as agreeing industry standards to regulate the new technologies. Many hope that these hurdles can be resolved in the next 5 years.

5G and the future

You may be thinking "Great, I can load my website up with higher quality images" and whilst 5G technology will bring unprecedented mobile connection speeds the infrastructure to deliver this will always lag behind the development. While many are looking at the first crop of next generation 5G to be available around 2020 it's quite likely that widespread commercial availability might not come until 2025. Even when the availability is there many consumers will choose to remain on 3G or 4G networks for various reasons, many may not require such speeds or the cost may just be too prohibitive for their circumstances.

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