5G. Reality and perspectives

This is how different generations of mobile communications are denoted. The number is the generation number, and the letter G is the Generation. They are united by one thing – these are digital networks (in contrast to the analogue first generation, which transmitted only audio information). The main difference between generations is speed.

However, the speed cannot grow by itself. In order for a radio wave to transmit more information per unit of time, its frequency must be higher and / or the channel width must be larger. The frequencies used by mobile networks have grown with each generation, but 5G has made a breakthrough in this sense – its frequencies are at least twice as high as that of 4G.

Here lies one of the reasons for the bias towards new standards: the higher the frequency of the radio signal, the more efficiently its energy is absorbed by obstacles in the path of the radio wave. And it’s not just about the walls. The human body is also good at absorbing high frequency radio waves.

The only proven effect of HF radiation on a person is an increase in body temperature, and it occurs only at radiation powers that are orders of magnitude higher than those used in mobile networks. So far, neither statistics nor studies of health care organizations confirm the harmfulness of high-frequency radiation. And 5G continues to spread – its benefits are too great to be abandoned due to the unproven harm and fears of ordinary people.

5G speed
5G uses a wide range of frequencies – from 40 MHz to 100 MHz in the 3.4 – 3.8 GHz range. This provides data transfer rates up to 25 Gbps. The fifth generation is distinguished by the minimum signal transmission delays – about 1 – 5 ms. The value is impressive, even too much – not every fiber-optic connection supports this speed.

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A quite natural question arises: is such a high speed needed in a mobile network? After all, even for online viewing of 8K videos, you will need several times less. But high speed is needed! 20 Gbps is the theoretically achievable maximum speed between a cell and a single user.

With each new client, the network speed will decrease, and in a dense urban environment it will be “only” 50, maximum 100 Mbit / s. But in this case, 5G is becoming a serious competitor for wired and fiber-optic providers.

Internet of things
5G will not only provide mobile broadband that is faster, more stable and better, but also support the massive Internet of Things (IoT). Thanks to 5G, the number of devices is expected to grow from 7 billion (2018) to 22 billion by 2025.

The increased bandwidth will allow remote control of a large number of devices in areas where real-time network performance is critical, for example, remote control of various equipment. Over time, it will become possible to carry out a medical operation with the participation of a doctor who is located in one country, and the patient and an automated medical system in another.

The stationary “Internet of Things” can be organized using Wi-Fi, but it is not suitable for mobile devices. These include drones, virtual reality goggles, as well as “connected” cars, augmented by technologies to exchange information with infrastructure and other road users.

They require broadband connection in areas that significantly exceed the range of Wi-Fi, even from a network of routers. The new standard will provide support for up to 1 million customers per square kilometer. For comparison, 4G in the same area supports only up to 100,000 devices.

The main differences of 5G are ultra-reliable communication with low latency, significantly higher data transfer rates and support for massive machine communications, in which a large number of devices are able to exchange data without any human intervention.

Today, IoT devices are mostly connected using cables. Meanwhile, 5G will allow many more sensors to be installed: it will be possible to use a wireless connection without losing the quality of the connection. The technology assumes a high density of sensors. There may be millions of them, which will significantly increase the accuracy of the data they receive.

In addition, 5G will enable the use of a cloud-based radio access network, allowing networks to transfer data from one node to another using tags. This will expand the possibilities for technologies such as autonomous vehicles or drones that are out of the operator’s field of vision. This kind of technique in the process of movement collects a huge amount of data that must be quickly processed in order to avoid accidents.

In smart cities, traffic lights will regulate traffic by receiving traffic density data from vehicles. This will reduce traffic congestion and improve safety on city roads, while also reducing environmental pollution.

Possible use cases for 5G include autonomous driving on any road and in any conditions. Autonomous cars, including flying models, will independently move from one driver to another, and they themselves will be able to connect to a wireless charging station to replenish the battery charge.

As a result, several people will be able to use one vehicle. The car can be rented to other users while the car owner is at work. As a result, the cost of car ownership will be significantly lower. Not only urban mobility will change, but also attitudes towards the acquisition of transport ownership and property in general. It will not always be convenient and profitable.

The development of transport, the universal availability of medicine, education and other areas necessary for a comfortable life can lead to an outflow of the population from cities to suburbs and small comfortable settlements, which will have an impact on the further development of civilization.

The opportunities that 5G opens up could be the foundation of a new economy and technological revolution. With the new generation networks, automation will become possible at all levels – from smart homes and cities to the country and the planet as a whole.

The massive distribution of new generation networks will become the basis of a new technological order, which will manifest itself in the widespread use of artificial intelligence, unmanned vehicles, the development of robotics, universal digitalization and automation.

Of course, the triumph of the technical revolution will not happen overnight, but gradually. 5G technology will provide just the necessary groundwork. The rest will be continued by 6G and subsequent generations of mobile communications.

Features of 5G
Low penetration of high-frequency radio waves will inevitably lead to a reduction in the coverage radius of an individual cell. To cover the same area, 5G will require many more cells than 4G. On the one hand, this will increase the cost of technology implementation. On the other hand, due to the mass production and lower power, 5G repeaters will eventually cost significantly less than their predecessors.

When introducing 5G, cellular operators plan to abandon the usual practice of installing towers. New repeaters will be installed in accordance with the development of the area: in squares, in shopping centers, on the walls of buildings. And many of them will be directional. This will lead to a decrease in the required transmitter power of the smartphone – the battery will “pull” longer, and the phone itself will become thinner and lighter.

Transition cost
The transition to the new standard will require significant investments from operators, therefore (at least for the first time) the prices for 5G connection will not be lower than for 4G. And the standard is also not compatible with the previous one, so you will need to buy new smartphones, tablets and PC modems. But 5G will allow you to abandon the “wired” Internet without losing the quality of communication.

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Is it time to throw out the router?
5G networks are being launched in test mode in many countries, and Russia is no exception. The first 5G tests were carried out in 2016-2017. Megafon, together with Nokia and Huawei, tested equipment for organizing 5G mobile networks. At the same time, a speed of about 5 Gbps was achieved.

At the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, MTS and Ericsson deployed 5G connectivity to provide high-speed Internet access. Base stations were installed in large cities: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don, Kazan, Samara, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod.

At present, four cellular operators are deploying fifth-generation networks in St. Petersburg and Moscow. 5G came to Kazan, Naberezhnye Chelny, Yekaterinburg, Tomsk and Abakan. But the coverage area is very small, even in the capitals. There is no talk of a commercial launch yet: the operators are planning it no earlier than 2022.

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The main snag is the frequencies: the 3.4 – 3.8 GHz band, used for 5G in most countries of the world, is occupied in Russia by law enforcement agencies, which are not at all going to give frequencies to cellular operators. Therefore, equipment for Russia will either have to be ordered specially or produced by ourselves. In any case, it will be longer and more expensive than buying the standard one.

So far, for pilot 5G networks in Russia, frequencies are allocated for the mmWave standard: in the range of 24.65 – 29.5 GHz. This frequency provides the highest data transfer rate, but the range of the cell does not exceed hundreds of meters. And here the same problems arise as with Wi-Fi: poor coverage in difficult terrain and the need for a huge number of repeaters. This is a very expensive solution and is unlikely to go beyond the limited pilot areas anytime soon.

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So take your time to throw out the router and buy the iPhone 12. In the next few years, 5G in Russia will definitely not become the dominant technology. It’s a pity.