Back in the 90’s downloading the latest movies in full HD or live streaming a Manchester United match in a matter of seconds was unimaginable. The concept of mobile phones also was an elitist idea. In just about a decade, 4G has already set a perfect benchmark for futuristic 5G which aims at… Featured image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/electronicfrontierfoundation/14391620904
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Back in the 90’s downloading the latest movies in full HD or live streaming a Manchester United match in a matter of seconds was unimaginable. The concept of mobile phones also was an elitist idea. In just about a decade, 4G has already set a perfect benchmark for futuristic 5G which aims at higher data transfer capacity, lower latency and lower battery consumption – all of this in a higher density of mobile broadband users, supporting device-to-device, ultra-reliable, massive machine communications. This is especially important for the coming age of driverless cars which require real-time translation at high speeds.
This latest iRunway Research report maps changes in the patent filing trend in 4G-LTE technologies in the U.S. region over the last two years, vis-a-vis trends prior to 2014. For insights, click here.
Advancement from 3G to 4G, and finally to 5G
The telecom industry has grown leaps and bounds from 1G to 4G, 4G-LTE, LTE Advanced and now, to the coming age of 5G. The third generation or 3G wireless system developed in the late 1990s provided transmission speeds from 125kbps to 2Mbps and included many services such as global roaming and superior voice quality. A key change from 3G to 4G is the abandonment of circuit switching. 3G technologies use a hybrid of circuit switching and packet switching (i.e. UMTS and HSPA technology).
The fourth generation (4G) uses LTE and LTE Advanced standards to enhance efficiency to pass on information. At present, 4G-LTE offers a speed of 42 Mbps and limits to 300 Mbps, which is low-latency but not enough to provide real-time response. 5G enables fast data transmission and aims at meeting the increasing demands of higher data rates of over 10 Gbps by an implementation of the millimeter wave technology, latencies of up to 1 millisecond and much higher reliability. MIMO technology provides more receivers per transmitter, enabling a dedicated seamless wireless network along with improved data rates, leading to an incredible transmission speed with no limitation for access and zone size.
Technology powering 5G
Standard setting bodies are yet to define the parameters needed to meet a 5G performance level. Mobile and communication organizations have set their own yardsticks that may eventually influence final specifications. Typical parameters for a 5G standard may include Network capacity, Peak data rate, Cell edge data rate and Latency, as shown in the adjacent table.
Millimeter wave wireless technology is expected to have the potential to offer bandwidth delivery comparable to that of fiber optics. Millimeter waves (typically 1 cm-1 mm wavelength, and 30-300 GHz frequency) are between the microwave and infrared radiation bands and combine advantages of both. Patent US 20150035714 describes a phased array antenna for 5G mobile handsets. This helps reduce the number of antenna arrays required on a device. It is structured on a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) and is compatible with MIMO technology.
Massive Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) technology incorporated in 5G uses microwave frequencies, which aid in using a large number of antennas (small cells) on a single equipment, because of the antenna sizes and spacing in terms of a wavelength. With massive MIMO, multiple messages for several terminals can be transmitted on the same time-frequency resource, maximizing Beamforming gain while minimizing interference. All these features supplement a full duplex communication network for seamless connectivity. Patent US6940917B2 describes an interesting aspect of this technology. It illustrates a method of Beamforming or directing mobile signals towards a fixed direction for efficient communication.
Recent developments in the 5G
Companies are progressively working on 5G technology in order to launch it in the market as early as possible. There is a race to gain a competitive advantage over rival firms. Samsung and Cisco collaborated in May this year to test 5G over Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) platform. NTT Docomo, which pretty much spearheaded the standardization of telecom standards, started its 5G trials a couple of years ago, while Nokia and Ericsson have begun testing 5G networks in densely populated areas.
5G-capable Chip Manufacturers
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50 5G modem circumvents issues of low penetration and range of high wavelength technology by using MIMO antenna technology. Supporting a 28 GHz millimeter wave band, it brings into play adaptive Beamforming and beam tracking techniques in non-line-of-sight (NLOS) environments. The modem is designed to support peak download speeds of up to 5 Gbps with 800MHz bandwidth support.
Skyworks Solutions is also investing to develop semiconductor chips for 5G capabilities. Swedish Telecommunication company Ericsson is deploying hardware for antenna and receiver technology and also aiming at supporting 5G operation.
Verizon is pioneering the use of fixed wireless equipment for home broadband, while AT&T is looking to enhance streaming DirecTV service to antennas on users’ homes. Nokia is foraying into the 5G space by developing a 5G connection that operates at 73 GHz – which is 40X the speed of 4G!
The 5G Smartphones game has begun
China-based ZTE recently launched the world’s first 5G-ready smartphone Gigabit that offers download speeds of up to 1 Gbps. It features the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor along with Snapdragon X16 LTE modem integration. Samsung Galaxy S8 is another smartphone said to be compatible with 5G networks.
iRunway conducted a comprehensive teardown analysis of the Galaxy S8, analyzing its core hardware. Read more!
Nokia is making a comeback in the Smartphones industry in collaboration with HMD Global. This collaboration is expected to yield 5G smartphones compatible with their own 5G network. Apple’s iPhone 7S and 8 are also expected to be 5G compatible.
Future scope and technology
5G is expected to enable $12.3 trillion of global economic output by 2035. Also, the global 5G value chain is anticipated to generate $3.5 trillion in output and support 22 million jobs by 2035. Companies such as Skyworks Solution has already registered an 18% increase in its share prices. Nokia is investing in security for the upcoming IoT platform through its acquisition of Canadian software company Nakina.
The future is automation of everything; 5G technology directly involves IoT through smart cities, smart homes, home automation, remote monitoring and services through autonomous vehicles, drones, and industrial automation. 5G technology will have to meet all the basic parameters required for its successful implementation into the market for commercial use. For now, it does seem to create a revolution in the communication era.