5G, simply put, is the latest iteration of mobile broadband internet that is designed to replace (and in certain locations have replaced) 4G LTE connection. As the number five in the name suggests, 5G is the 5th generation of wireless technology for digital cellular networks.
5G development began as far back as in 2008 and was recently deployed (partially) in 2019. However, “fixed” 5G connection was rolled out to select cities a few years back.
Being more than a decade in the making, 5G technology is a very significant upgrade over the 4G LTE connection with exponentially faster upload and download speeds and a significant decrease in network latency.
What is 5G Technology?
5G is very different compared to LTE architecture-wise since it operates on three different spectrum bands that are much more complex than its predecessors. On the surface, this might not seem like a big deal, however, it will have profound impacts on boosting 5G network’s stability and reliability. These spectrum bands are:
- The low-band spectrum, which technically is sub-1GHz spectrum, is the most commonly used spectrum band by the U.S. carriers. The low-band spectrum is great with wall penetration and can cover great areas, but can only achieve peak data speeds of only 225Mbps.
- The mid-band spectrum can produce much faster speed and significantly lower latency while compromising wall penetration. It can reach up to 1Gbps of speed.
- The high-band spectrum, also referred to as mmWave, can produce the best performance (speed-wise) for 5G connection and can offer top speeds of up to 10Gbps with extremely low network latency. However, as you might have guessed, it also has the major weakness of very low wall penetration capability and small coverage area.
Different carriers (in the U.S. and all over the world) might specialize in different spectrum’s. T-Mobile, for example, invested in mainly low-band spectrum while also rolling out high-band spectrum’s with 4G LTE as the foundation to tackle the issues of building penetration and coverage area. Sprint, on the other hand, is focused on the mid-band spectrum while using Massive MIMO technology to improve penetration and coverage area.
4G used the term “LTE”, which stands for Long Term Evolution, the industry has settled on NR (New Radio) for 5G—so, 5G NR—. The term New Radio is mainly used since 5G is designed as a new way of encoding radio data through the air, which is faster and much more efficient than 4G LTE.
5G NR can use wider channels, lower latency in communicating with remote servers, and especially send and receive more data in a single radio cycle. 5G NR can also communicate with more devices per square mile than 4G.
5G Wi-Fi (5GHz) vs 5G Cellular
It’s very important to understand that 5GHz Wi-Fi—which is often mistakenly marketed as “5G Wi-Fi” — is not 5G technology. Here we will learn about the key difference(s) between the two.
5G cellular network, which we have discussed above, is in its most basic form, a cell phone network and the “G” here stands for generation, referring to how 5G is the fifth iteration (fifth generation) of broadband mobile data network. On the other hand, the “G(Hz)” on 5GHz Wi-Fi stands for five gigahertz, the frequency band of which the Wi-Fi network operates.
5GHz Wi-Fi is, simply put, a short-range wireless network system (for your home or office use) that operates in the five gigahertz frequency. It’s actually not a very new technology and has been around since 1999. However, home routers only started to support 5GHz frequency around 2009, which allowed for its rise in popularity. It’s important to note that most Wi-Fi routers today do support 5GHz Wi-Fi.
Many Wi-Fi routers and devices nowadays support dual-radio frequencies: 5GHz and 2.4GHz. 5GHz Wi-Fi is much faster but has a shorter range than 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi. If you’re looking for a top performing router for your home office, you’ll want to make sure it performs in terms of coverage and throughput. Check out this article for a review on some top performing routers.
What Is 5G Speed, Frequency, and Bandwidth
Unless you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t used broadband internet, then you should know that the download/upload speed of your internet is more complex than one might think.
4G LTE, for example, theoretically has a maximum speed of 100 Mbps (megabits per second), but in most cases, the practical speed is only 12-30 Mbps for download speed and 7-10 Mbps for upload speed, on average.
With that being said, 5G is promised to be able to produce a maximum speed of 10 gigabits per second, or 10,000 Mbps. Let these numbers sink in for a moment: 4G LTE is already fast enough for most of us, but the 5G connection a hundred times faster than 4G LTE— at least, theoretically—.
To put that in context, the Consumer Technology Association pointed out that we can download a two-hour film in just slightly over 3 and a half seconds with 5G NR. With 4G, we’ll achieve that in 6 minutes (360 seconds) with 4G LTE.
Also, 5G NR will significantly lower latency, vastly improving the responsiveness of websites, mobile apps, and any platforms on the internet. To be exact, theoretically, 5G promises a maximum latency of 4ms, five times lower than 4G LTE (20ms).
5G Frequency Ranges and Bandwidth
5G frequency ranges can be divided into two different frequency bands: Frequency Range 1/FR1 (below 6GHz) and Frequency Range 2/FR2 (mmWave). We briefly discuss these two concepts below, however, it’s important to note that these two different frequency spectrum’s offer different bandwidth capabilities:
- FR1 (< 6 GHz): the maximum channel bandwidth here is 100MHz, mainly because this is a crowded frequency range so it’s difficult to find continuous frequency spectrum’s.
- FR2 (> 24 GHz): the channel bandwidth is between 50MHz and 400MHz. The higher the frequency, the better the network can support data transfer speeds without interfering with other signals. FR2 5G networks can support up to 1,000 more devices per meter compared to 4G LTE.
What Will 5G Security, Coverage, and Reliability Look Like?
As the new standard for mobile cellular network become mainstream, 5G’s network security is based on the following components:
- Network design: standardization for functional network systems and elements, which must be followed by network vendors, designers, and developers. This will play a good part in ensuring the security and functionality of the network as the end product.
- Functional standardization: an ongoing process where network operators, developers, and other stakeholders set standards for how 5G networks will operate all around the world, including how best to protect networks and users from data breaches and malicious attacks
- Network configuration: networks are configured to achieve a targeted security standard before it is deployed. This is the key to achieving security parameters and further strengthening the network’s resilience and security.
- Network deployment and operation: proper deployment and operations of the 5G network to achieve the intended functionality and security levels.
With the significantly increased speed of 5G networks, there are strong concerns about the following:
- Security of standards, products, deployments, and operations
- Proactive cyber-security measures and defense mechanisms
- Dependencies between online and offline (physical) worlds
- Increased value at stake, decreased risk tolerance
- Vulnerability management
- Supply chain security
5G Coverage in the U.S. (February 2020)
Check out Amazon for the latest pricing and features available on 5G capable cell phones.
Ensuring 5G Reliability
Due to its very high-speed capabilities, 5G will require more infrastructure and processing power to maintain its stability and reliability. Without enough reliability, the 5G network will simply be a really fast super car that we can’t steer.
With that being said, various carriers in the U.S. and all around the world are focusing on the following development in technologies:
- Developments in carrier internal networks
- Network protocol extensions allowing near-instantaneous fail-over
- Advanced SDN (Software-Defined Networking) routing
- Developments to packet processing systems in the carrier’s core
- Advanced traffic slicing that allows application-aware implementations
- Network virtualization and cloud technologies
- Redundant network topology with high availability
- The advanced and diverse network paths
- Constructions and deployments of more cell towers to produce more spatial and frequency redundancy
Reliability for 5G networks is actually specified as URLLC (Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication) that requires no more than 10^-5 (0.001%) of 20-byte packets can fail within a 1ms of delivery.
Too technical? In short, a 5G network is considered not reliable if:
- Too many packets are lost (more than 0.001% or 20-byte packets)
- Too many arrive too late (more than 1ms delivery)
- The packets contain errors
How Will 5G Impact Factory Automation
Since automation is very reliant on I/O transfer, data processing and computational speed, the potential for 5G networks to have a significant impact is massive.
In general, there are three major benefits of 5G in factory automation:
- Vastly increased network speeds (up to 100Gbps, 1-20Gbps on average)
- Less than 1ms latency
- Larger network scalability and overall capacity
5G connectivity allows us to better achieve how we can connect automation robots to the cloud using more communication technologies. Here are some notable benefits produced by this fact:
- Capability to use more powerful cloud-based automation software and resources (the faster the network processing, the more data can be processed in the cloud).
- Improved cost-efficiency for every automation system, since more functionalities are processed by the cloud.
- Use and analyze more data from the internet for machine-learning and decision making functions
- The capability to perform a data backup when an automation system “goes downs” by using an up-to-date backup in the cloud.
- Easier operation and maintenance via software updates, data monitoring, automated configuration changes, and so on.
- Increased reliability of functions by deploying multiple instances for standby by leveraging cloud technologies. For example, operations can be taken over by the other (redundant) instances without interruption during faulty primary functions.
How Will 5G Impact Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
Industrial IoT is focused on optimizing operational efficiencies and productivity gains in factories by improving communications and insights delivery between machines, people, and various other assets.
With 5G capabilities, there are at least three main areas that are vastly improved in the world of Industrial IoT:
Improved Data Transfer Speeds
Any IoT devices, and in this case IIoT devices in factories are ultimately tied to how fast and reliable they can communicate with other IoT devices, computers (including smartphones/tablets) and software. 5G will obviously improve these data-transfer speeds.
5G networks are designed to operate more reliably to create more stable connections, which is very important for any IoT applications. Various industry IoT devices depend on real-time updates and cloud processing, of which network stability is a must.
More Connected Devices
5G is able to handle more connected devices (in conjunction with Wi-Fi 6), and so we can have a network of more IIoT devices in one single factory.
High-speed connectivity of 5G networks, combined with very low latency and greater coverage will significantly improve IoT in general and industrial IoT.
After a decade of hype about gigabit internet speeds that will let us download tens of gigabytes of data (a full-feature movie or even a game) in just mere seconds, 5G finally became a reality in 2019.
However, it’s important to note that by the time this article is published (March 2020), the deployment of 5G networks in the U.S. is far from complete and hasn’t really made a significant impact on the masses. We can, however, expect to see a nationwide 5G coverage from most carriers by the end of 2020.
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