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The New World of 5G

08 Mar 2021

5th generation mobile network or 5G has lately been the star of the telecom industry. The much-talked-about new generation wireless standard is designed to be integrative, connecting devices and machines all around us.

Before we begin to understand the what, why, and how of 5G, let’s quickly recap the four generations of network standards:

1G- Brought our first cellphone

2G- Text messages and voice mail began

3G- Mobile web, image sharing, and GPS location-tracking began

4G- New era of mobile broadband with increased browsing speed and web functionality

As 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) reaches its maturity, a need for more efficient and connected network was felt. So how is 5G different and what does it offer?

The major changes we would witness with the advent of 5G are greater speed (10 to 100 times faster than 4G), lower latency (delay), greater reliability, and connectivity. 5G is expected to provide internet speed up to 20 Gigabits per second (Gbps) efficiently using every bit of available spectrum. 5G is designed in a way to bring a revolution in the current Internet of Things (IoT) and integrate into technologies or services unknown today.

5G technology is using a broader spectrum of millimeter waves (spectrum used by in-home devices), increasing the current under 6 GHz spectrum to 300 GHz spectrum to accommodate more devices and increase the speed. The problem with these millimeter waves, however, is their weakness to obstacles (buildings, walls, trees, clouds, etc.).

To overcome it, small cell networks, made from thousands of low-power mini base stations, would be deployed for an obstacle-free connection. 5G will also use massive MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) that will support 100 ports in a base station from the current dozens of ports in base stations. It could, however, result in serious interference because of the number of frequencies being sent out by these ports.

To address this issue, beamforming would be used to send a focused stream of data to a specific user. 5G would also work on a full-duplex model where multiple data processing would be more efficient (at the same speed) without a lag using silicon transistors. Currently, a lot is being done on including new technologies to make 5G more effective and efficient.

5G services can broadly be subdivided into three categories:

Enhanced mobile broadband

On one hand, as COVID-19 disrupted the socio-economic fabric of the world, it also brought increased reliance on technology. Be it work from home or remote project execution, the pandemic has accelerated technological advancement. With an increase in smartphone usage and hunger for content, we have also witnessed massive data growth in recent years.

This calls for enhanced performance, seamless user experience, low cost per bit, and improved wide area coverage. The advent of 5G will introduce increased efficiency in newer immersive technologies such as augmented reality/virtual reality and present a high user traffic capacity to meet the required expectations with lower data rates.

Next-generation communication

Driverless cars and drones, among other new technologies, are already making headlines. All these require critical communication channels. 5G is the answer for Industry 4.0 that will rely heavily on artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc.

From creating intelligent transport systems, transportation safety, and performing remote medical procedures to supporting critical infrastructure and evolving manufacturing, 5G’s reliable, low latency network is bound to meet the next-gen industry requirements.

Revolutionizing IoT

IoT is a system of interconnected devices and machines through the internet over a large network that are capable of transferring data without human intervention. More than speed, 5G is going to provide deep and seamless connectivity to virtually everything through a wide range of deployment models and new ways to interconnect.

The concept of the smart home will be a big beneficiary of 5G as it would directly rely on network providers rather than Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

According to a report, 5G will result in global gross output of USD 3.8 trillion and generate 22.8 million employment by 2035. As per the Accenture analysis for the USA and Europe for 2021-25, 5G will result in 20 – 30 per cent productivity gains in the manufacturing sector, 50 per cent increase in assembly efficiency and 90 per cent defect detection and increase the asset life by 20 per cent. Similarly, it predicts increased efficiency in the automotive, healthcare, and agriculture sector.

The 5G technology will also have some green effects on the planet. Increased automation and efficiency for remote usage of machines enabled by artificial intelligence and machine learning will help in reducing the carbon emission by mobile networks.

Increased use of drones can help in decreasing the transportation burden for project execution and farming technologies, and the diminished latency will increase the battery life of mobile phones/equipment, and hence, increase the device life.

There are a few bottlenecks facing the efficient implementation of 5G networks in India. According to a CII report, ‘Digital Infrastructure: Backbone of a Digital Economy,’ 5G requires 10x times the fibre deployment, thus necessitating an investment of INR 5.6 lakh crore (without RoW) till 2025.

In India, only about 30 per cent of the towers are fiberized, while globally, this figure is at 70-80 per cent, resulting in a significant gap that needs to be addressed. The report suggests deploying 1,00,000 additional towers in the next year to take care of the growing data and voice requirements.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) plans for a selective rollout of 5G technology in India by the end of 2021. It is expected that by 2025, the 5G network would cover one-third of the world’s population.

Considering the future of 5G, current smartphone manufactures have been rolling out 5G-enabled devices. The next digital revolution is knocking on the door, and it shall change the way we deal with technology.