By Jeff Gudewicz, Chief Product Officer, Wilson Electronics
Separating Hype from Reality
in the Transition to 5G
Though the definition of the wireless standard has been developed and companies are starting their preparations, it will be a while
before the average user sees the change on their devices.
With the proliferation of 5G coverage in the news, it’s easy getting pulled into the hype and minimize the
many steps that still need to be completed before 5G is
ready to be implemented nationwide.
What is 5G?
5G is more than faster data speeds
on cell phones. The “G” in 5G
refers to the generation of wireless
technology—in this case, the fifth
generation of wireless technology.
Each generation is defined not only
by its data transmission speeds,
but also by its encoding methods.
At its foundation, 5G is simply
a standard designed to deliver greater than 1 Gbps data
speeds and low latency in a cellular environment, among
5G promises to introduce three new innovations:
greater speed (more data transmitted in less time), lower
latency (increased responsiveness), and the ability to
connect more devices (for example, smart devices) at
one time. This technology will aid in connecting many
far-reaching areas of technology such as virtual reality,
drones, smart devices, self-driving cars, and more. It
could even enable “smart cities” by connecting traffic
signals, emergency services, and other vital applications to
increase efficiencies. As technology becomes increasingly
connected (Gartner predicts the number of internet-connected devices will rise from 6. 4 billion in 2016 to
20. 8 billion by 2020), 5G is quickly moving from a luxury
to a necessity in order to support an anticipated increase
in the proliferation of Internet of Things (Io T) products.
The Timeline for Full Implementation of 5G
The telecommunications industry is hard at work laying
the groundwork for 5G. In fact, Verizon and AT&T
have already begun limited trials in select locations.
Although cellular carriers and solutions integrators are
actively preparing for the 5G transition, it likely won’t
be completely ready for widespread implementation for
another two or three years.
Historically, each new generation of wireless technology
has taken about 10 years to develop. 1G began around
1982, 2G in 1991, 3G around 2010, etc. Following this
pattern, 5G is likely to begin to roll out in the early 2020s.
More than determining when 5G will be ready to step
into the limelight, the real question is how 5G will be
accomplished. LTE is “Long-Term Evolution” for a reason;
it simply takes a long time to develop a standard that can
accomplish this, and integrate into the existing macro
cellular network, while allowing users and devices to
become forward and backwards compatible.
In the early stages, it’s imperative that cellular carriers
and solutions integrators prioritize flexibility. We look at
the path to 5G as consisting of two steps:
1. The most near-term approach is utilizing radio
frequencies less than 6 GHz.
2. The longer-term approach is building a radio network
with higher millimeter wave frequencies, like those
approved by the FCC in 2016, consisting of 28 GHz,
37 GHz, and 39 GHz bands.
With both of these steps, solutions providers will
have to provide carrier-agnostic solutions to help
improve service during the transitionary period.
Demonstrations using existing frequency bands have
shown capability of delivering 1 Gbps throughput
using existing 3G/4G spectrum. To do this, carrier
aggregation is required. In one demonstration, the high
data rate was accomplished by aggregating 20 MHz
of 1800 MHz spectrum plus two bands of 35 MHz
spectrum in the 2600 MHz band. This doesn’t require
new towers on the macro side, but does need greater
bandwidth, resulting in fewer simultaneous users.
Simply put, the greater available bandwidth means
more data can be transmitted. Thus, a macro network
based on millimeter wave frequencies promises higher