The new 5G mobile communications system will enable many new mobile capabilities to be realised – offering high speed, enormous capacity, IoT capability, low latency and much more it provides the bearer for many new applications.
The 5G mobile cellular communications system provides a far higher level of performance than the previous generations of mobile communications systems.
The new 5G technology is not just the next version of mobile communications, evolving from 1G to 2G, 3G, 4G and now 5G.
Instead 5G technology is very different. Previous systems had evolved driven more by what could be done with the latest technology. The new 5G technology has been driven by specific uses ad applications.
5G has been driven by the need to provide ubiquitous connectivity for applications as diverse as automotive communications, remote control with haptic style feedback, huge video downloads, as well as the very low data rate applications like remote sensors and what is being termed the IoT, Internet of Things.
The current status of the 5G technology for cellular systems is very much in the early development stages. Very many companies are looking into the technologies that could be used to become part of the system. In addition to this a number of universities have set up 5G research units focussed on developing the technologies for 5G
In addition to this the standards bodies, particularly 3GPP are aware of the development but are not actively planning the 5G systems yet.
Many of the technologies to be used for 5G will start to appear in the systems used for 4G and then as the new 5G cellular system starts to formulate in a more concrete manner, they will be incorporated into the new 5G cellular system.
The major issue with 5G technology is that there is such an enormously wide variation in the requirements: superfast downloads to small data requirements for IoT than any one system will not be able to meet these needs. Accordingly a layer approach is likely to be adopted. As one commentator stated: 5G is not just a mobile technology. It is ubiquitous access to high & low data rate services.
5G cellular systems overview
As the different generations of cellular telecommunications have evolved, each one has brought its own improvements. The same will be true of 5G technology.
First generation, 1G: These phones were analogue and were the first mobile or cellular phones to be used. Although revolutionary in their time they offered very low levels of spectrum efficiency and security.
Second generation, 2G: These were based around digital technology and offered much better spectrum efficiency, security and new features such as text messages and low data rate communications.
Third generation, 3G: The aim of this technology was to provide high speed data. The original technology was enhanced to allow data up to 14 Mbps and more.
Fourth generation, 4G: This was an all-IP based technology capable of providing data rates up to 1 Gbps.
Any new 5th generation, 5G cellular technology needs to provide significant gains over previous systems to provide an adequate business case for mobile operators to invest in any new system.
Facilities that might be seen with 5G technology include far better levels of connectivity and coverage. The term World Wide Wireless Web, or WWWW is being coined for this.
For 5G technology to be able to achieve this, new methods of connecting will be required as one of the main drawbacks with previous generations is lack of coverage, dropped calls and low performance at cell edges. 5G technology will need to address this.
As work moves forwards in the standards bodies the over-riding specifications for the mobile communications system have been defined by the ITU as part of IMT2020.
The currently agreed standards for 5G are summarised below:
Suggested 5G Wireless Performance
Peak data rate
At least 20Gbps downlink and 10Gbps uplink per mobile base station. This represents a 20 fold increase on the downlink over LTE.
5G connection density
At least 1 million connected devices per square kilometre (to enable IoT support).
0km/h to “500km/h high speed vehicular” access.
5G energy efficiency
The 5G spec calls for radio interfaces that are energy efficient when under load, but also drop into a low energy mode quickly when not in use.
5G spectral efficiency
30bits/Hz downlink and 15 bits/Hz uplink. This assumes 8×4 MIMO (8 spatial layers down, 4 spatial layers up).
5G real-world data rate
The spec “only” calls for a per-user download speed of 100Mbps and upload speed of 50Mbps.
Under ideal circumstances, 5G networks should offer users a maximum latency of just 4ms (compared to 20ms for LTE).
5G communications system
The 5G mobile cellular communications system will be a major shift in the way mobile communications networks operate. To achieve this a totally new radio access network and a new core network are required to provide the performance required.
5G New Radio, 5G NR: 5G new radio is the new name for the 5G radio access network. It consists of the different elements needed for the new radio access network. Using a far more flexible technology the system is able to respond to the different and changing needs of mobile users whether they be a small IoT node, or a high data user, stationary or mobile.
5G NextGen Core Network: Although initial deployments of 5G will utilise the core network of LTE or possibly even 3G networks, the ultimate aim is to have a new network that is able to handle the much higher data volumes whilst also being able to provide a much lower level of latency.
There are many new 5G technologies and techniques that are being discussed and being developed for inclusion in the 5G standards.
These new technologies and techniques will enable 5G to provide a more flexible and dynamic service.
The technologies being developed for 5G include:
Millimetre-Wave communications: Using frequencies much higher in the frequency spectrum opens up more spectrum and also provides the possibility of having much wide channel bandwidth – possibly 1 – 2 GHz. However this poses new challenges for handset development where maximum frequencies of around 2 GHz and bandwidths of 10 – 20 MHz are currently in use. For 5G, frequencies of above 50GHz are being considered and this will present some real challenges in terms of the circuit design, the technology, and also the way the system is used as these frequencies do not travel as far and are absorbed almost completely by obstacles. Different countries are allocating different spectrum for 5G.
Waveforms : One key area of interest is that of the new waveforms that may be seen. OFDM has been used very successfully in 4G LTE as well as a number of other high data rate systems, but it does have some limitations in some circumstances. Other waveform formats that are being discussed include: GFDM, Generalised Frequency Division Multiplexing, as well as FBMC, Filter Bank Multi-Carrier, UFMC, Universal Filtered MultiCarrier. There is no perfect waveform, and it is possible that OFDM in the form of OFDMA is used as this provides excellent overall performance without being too heavy on the level of processing required.
Multiple Access: Again a variety of new access schemes are being investigated for 5G technology. Techniques including OFDMA, SCMA, NOMA, PDMA, MUSA and IDMA have all been mentioned. As mentioned above it appears that the most likely format could be OFDMA
Massive MIMO with beamsteering: Although MIMO is being used in many applications from LTE to Wi-Fi, etc, the numbers of antennas is fairly limited. Using microwave frequencies opens up the possibility of using many tens of antennas on a single equipment becomes a real possibility because of the antenna sizes and spacings in terms of a wavelength. This would enable beams to be steered to provide enhanced performance.
Dense networks: Reducing the size of cells provides a much more overall effective use of the available spectrum. Techniques to ensure that small cells in the macro-network and deployed as femtocells can operate satisfactorily are required. There is a significant challenge in adding huge numbers of additional cells to a network, and techniques are being developed to enable this.
These are a few of the main techniques being developed and discuss for use within 5G.
5G timeline & dates
5G is developoing rapidly and it needs to meet some demanding timelines. Some trial deployments have occurred and some of the first real deploymets are anticipayed in 2020.
Many countries are rushing to deply 5G as effective communications enable economimc growth and are seen as an essential element of modern day life and industry.
5G is rapidly developing and it is becoming the technology that everyone is moving towards. Not only will it be able to accommodate the superfast speeds required of it, but it will also be possible to accommodate the low data rate requiremets for IoT and IIoT applications. As such 5G will be able to encompass a huge number of different applications, and accommodate very many differnet data types.