After almost a decade of its creation, the 5G network is becoming a reality. Operators began developing fixed 5G systems in 2018, and the mobile 5G network is already available in several US cities in 2019, with a major implementation planned for 2020.
But there are still more questions than answers. Do people know exactly what the 5G network is? In addition, the first 5G smart phones are also being developed and launched. Of course, there is the debate about which operator to offer the best service. Surely you have questions, and we are here to help you. We tell you in this guide everything you need to know about the 5G network.
What is the 5G network and how does it work?
Before explaining how it works, it is probably a good idea to explain what 5G is. There are many specific details that we will discuss later in this publication, but here is a quick introduction.
5G is the next generation of mobile broadband that will eventually replace or at least increase your 4G LTE connection. With 5G vers upload and download speeds will be exponentially faster. The latency or the time it takes for devices to communicate with each other and in wireless networks will also decrease dramatically.
Now that we know what 5G is, we have to understand how it works, since it does it differently than the traditional 4G LTE network. From spectrum bands to small cells, here you will find everything you need to know about the internal operation of the 5G network.
Unlike LTE, 5G operates in three different spectrum bands. Although this may seem to us that it is not important, the truth is that it has a transcendental effect on your daily use.
He low band spectrum It can also be described as a sub 1GHz spectrum. It is mainly the spectrum band used by operators in the US. UU. for LTE, and it's running out quickly. While the low band spectrum offers a great coverage and penetration area, there is a major drawback: maximum data rates will reach 100Mbps.
T-Mobile is the key player when it comes to the low band spectrum. The operator acquired a massive amount of 600MHz spectrum at an FCC auction in 2017 and is rapidly developing its national 5G network.
The middle band spectrum It provides faster coverage and better latency than that found in the low band. However, it fails to penetrate buildings, as well as the low band spectrum. Expect maximum speeds of up to 1 Gbps in the midband spectrum.
The print has the majority of the mid-band spectrum not used in the US. UU. The operator is using Massive MIMO to improve the coverage area and penetration in the middle band. Massive MIMO groups multiple antennas in a single box, and in a single cellular tower, they create multiple simultaneous beams to different users.
Sprint also use Beamforming to improve the 5G service in the middle band. Beam formation sends a unique signal focused on each and every user of the cell, and the systems that use it monitor each user to ensure they have a consistent signal.
But really, the high band spectrum It is what most people think when you name it 5G. It is often referred to as mmWave. The high band spectrum can offer maximum speeds of up to 10 Gbps and has a very low latency. The main drawback of the high band is that it has a low coverage area and the penetration of the building is poor.
Both AT&T and Verizon are being deployed in the high band spectrum. 5G coverage for both operators will be carried out by LTE, while they work to build networks nationwide. Since the high band spectrum moves outside the penetration and user area for the high speed and coverage area, they will depend on small cells.
The small cells they are low power base stations that cover small geographical areas. With small cells, carriers using mmWave for 5G can improve the overall coverage area. Combined with beam formation, small cells can offer extremely fast coverage with low latency.
5G uses and benefits
Undoubtedly, the 5G transformation will change the way we interact with technology every day, but it also has a serious purpose. It is an absolute necessity if we want to continue using mobile broadband.
Carriers are running out of LTE capacity in many major metropolitan areas. In some cities, users are already experiencing slowdowns during peak hours of the day. 5G adds huge amounts of spectrum in bands that have not been used for commercial broadband traffic.
Autonomous vehicles are expected to increase at the same rate as 5G is implemented in the US. UU. In the future, your vehicle will communicate with other cars on the road, provide information to other cars on road conditions and provide performance information to drivers and car manufacturers. If a car brakes quickly forward, yours can learn immediately and also brake to prevent a collision.
Public security and infrastructure
5G allow cities and other municipalities to operate more efficiently. Public service companies can easily track distance use, sensors can notify public works departments when street lights or street lights go out, and municipalities can quickly and economically install surveillance cameras.
Device remote control
As 5G has a remarkably low latency, the heavy machinery remote control becomes a reality. While the main objective is to reduce risk in hazardous environments, it also allows technicians with specialized skills to control machinery from anywhere in the world.
The ultra reliable low latency communications component (URLLC) of 5G fundamentally change medical care. Since URLLC reduces 5G latency even more than you do with enhanced mobile broadband, a world of new possibilities opens up. He hopes to see improvements in telemedicine, remote recovery and physical therapy through RA, precision surgery and even remote surgery in the coming years.
Do you remember massive machine-type communications? mMTC also play a key role in health care. Hospitals can create massive sensor networks to monitor patients, doctors can prescribe smart pills to track compliance, and insurers can even monitor subscribers to determine appropriate treatments and processes.
One of the most exciting and crucial aspects of 5G is its effect on the Internet of things. While we currently have sensors that can communicate with each other, they tend to require many resources and are rapidly depleting the capacity of LTE data.
With 5G speeds and low latencies, the IoT will be powered by communications between sensors and smart devices (here is the mMTC again). Compared to current smart devices on the market, mMTC devices will require less resources, since a large number of these devices can be connected to a single base station, which makes them much more efficient.
When will we see the 5G network?
So when should you see the 5G network in your neighborhood? This question is a little harder to answer than we would like. The main US operators They are working hard to create 5G networks, but their deployment across the country, however, take several years.
It is also worth noting that each operator has a different launch strategy. This means that your experience with the 5G network may vary greatly, depending on the company you choose. We mention below some details. If you are looking smartphones, check our guide on the 5G phones that come in the future.
In its quest to be the first company to provide 5G to its customers, Verizon began offering a fixed-standard 5G network in homes in October 2018. Verizon's 5G fixed service is currently available in some parts of Houston, Indianpolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento. However, since then, Verizon has also started launching its 5G mobile offering and has so far reached parts of Denver, Colorado, Minneapolis and Providence.
The largest operator in the United States plans to launch the 5G mobile phone in 2019; in fact, it is deploying 5G in a higher frequency spectrum known as mmWave (28-39GHz). This means that while the Verizon 5G offer incredibly high speeds when available, it will shrink its LTE spectrum over the next few years.
As for the hardware, Verizon has already announced two 5G mobile devices. In December 2018, Samsung and Verizon announced that they will partner to launch a 5G phone in the first half of 2019. The operator also announced that it will launch a Moto Mod 5G for the Moto Z3 in the coming months. And we cannot forget the Inseego Mi-Fi 5G access point, which includes a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, scheduled for 2019.
AT&T officially won the race to be the first operator to implement the true 5G service. In December 2018, it began offering 5G in parts of Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianpolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, San Antonio and Waco.
In early 2019, the operator also began deploying its network in parts of Orlando, Las Vegas, Nashville, Los Angeles, Austin, Dallas and more.
AT&T is initially limiting its 5G service to a select group of companies and consumers. It plans to provide free services and equipment to this group for at least three months, before extending the service to a broader public. The service will be available to the general public in early 2019, and initially be available as an access point service, at a cost of $ 70 per month for 15 GB of data.
Like Verizon, AT&T is deploying its 5G mobile network in the mmWave spectrum. This December 2018, AT&T said it will work with Samsung to launch a 5G phone in the spring of 2019. The operator also announced the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Access Point earlier this year.
With regard to the 5G fixed service, this will take a little more time. The commercial publication SDX Central has said that AT&T will implement the fixed LTE service at the end of 2019 in the spectrum of the Broadband Citizen Radio Service (CBRS) and eventually migrate to the 5G service.
Instead of competing to be the first company, T-Mobile wants to provide a more reliable service with more coverage.
In early 2018, T-Mobile announced that it was building its 5G network in 30 cities. In mid-2019, the company announced that the 5G mobile was available in six cities, including parts of Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York. And the forecast is for the T-Mobile 5G network to reach 30 cities by the end of 2019. The operator plans to offer 5G throughout the country by 2020. It also offers the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G for those who live in areas with 5G and They want to take advantage of the new speeds.
T-Mobile is using a range of frequency bands for its 5G deployment. Although the operator was initially thought to depend primarily on the low-band spectrum, T-Mobile is also using mmWave technology, which includes 39GHz in some cities and more 28GHz mid-band in other areas.
T-Mobile is also using 600MHz for a more reliable and stable connection. For the fixed 5G network, it seems that T-Mobile, according to a statement sent to the FCC, the company said it projects more than 1.9 million wireless broadband customers at home by 2021. By 2024, the operator wants to provide the 5G network sets more than half of the postal codes in the US UU.
Since the CEO of T-Mobile, John Legere, publicly criticized AT&T and Verizon for the launch of its 5G network with mobile hotspots, it is a fairly safe bet that the operator does not plan to launch its own hotspot.
Sprint also does not run to be the first operator to implement a 5G network, but finally began to implement its 5G technology and its mobile network is already available in Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and Kansas City, although soon these cities will be followed by 0s like New York , Phoenix, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington DC. Additional markets will also be added in the near future.
Sprint initially launched its 5G network in its broad spectrum of medium band (2.5 GHz). That is the same spectrum that the operator uses for its 4G data network, and plans to use massive 128-radio MIMO equipment in its towers to create a 4G / 5G division.
Since Sprint is one of the few operators with a lot of additional 2.5GHz spectrum, you can use the excess average bandwidth to implement the 5G service quickly and relatively inexpensively in larger cities.
In terms of hardware, Sprint has promised three 5G products for 2019. Sprint offers its customers the LG V50 ThinQ, a 5G Mobile Smart Hub with HTC and the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.
T-Mobile and Sprint merger
But what happens if T-Mobile and Sprint merge? Well, both companies say the merger will be good for the economy and for the country. The companies also claim that together like the New T-Mobile, they will have the assets and the spectrum in multiple bands to become the first 5G operator nationwide.
While the combined bandwidth of the two companies is likely to lead to a faster and more reliable nationwide 5G network launch, there are some problems. For starters, there will be fewer options in the US operator market and that means less competition for both consumers and mobile virtual network operators (MVNO).
There is also the issue of foreign ownership. T-Mobile's parent company is Germany's Deutsche Telekom, and Sprint is owned by Japanese investment giant SoftBank. While Deutsche Telekom cannot draw attention during the FCC or DOJ review, there is a small chance that these agencies will have problems with SoftBank, as it has important links with Chinese telecommunications companies.
The latest news suggests that T-Mobile and Sprint will have to sell some of their assets to help create a fourth operator, and Dish is expected to buy many of those assets.
Who are the main actors of 5G?
Different passes are in the 5G race. While the United States, South Korea, Japan and China were the first, others follow in their footsteps. Large-scale deployment requires investments in infrastructure and six are the main companies in this area.
Telecom giant Qualcomm owns 15 percent of all 5G patents and far outpaces its rivals. From phones to small cells, Qualcomm participates in almost every facet of 5G.
In recent years, Qualcomm announced several pieces to boost the mobile 5G revolution. In 2016, it launched the world's first 5G modem, the X50 5G. In 2018, I introduced the first integrated mmWave RF antenna for cell phones and the second for the 6GHz band. In late 2018, we revealed Snapdragon 855, the world's first commercial mobile platform with 5G, AI and multi-gigabit extended reality (XR) capabilities.
Qualcomm also works on network hardware. He created the first 5G NR solution for small cells and remote radio heads, and partnered with Samsung to create small commercial cells.
Huawei was emerging as the leader in this race, until it faces obstacles in 2018. The United States blocks the Chinese giant for security reasons and, according to some versions, has pressed Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan to do so as well.
The United States, India and Australia banned Huawei from providing 5G equipment. New Zealand stopped working with the firm, but the reasons are not clear. Germany will be planning a ban, although it has not been confirmed.
Huawei has 46 5G commercial contracts worldwide. He claims that his equipment is safe and that the bans are due to political problems and not security issues.
The giant Nokia finlands is partnering with countries and operators around the world to provide 5G equipment.
In 2018, it partnered with the British operator O2 to develop two large-scale MIMO tests in London. In early 2019, I signed a $ 3.5 billion agreement to build the T-Mobile network in the 600MHz and 28GHz spectrum. In addition, provide 5G networks for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The Swedish company Ericsson also wants to enter the 5G market. Although it does not have such a large participation in the United States, it is working with the main Chinese operators in field tests.
In addition, it is partnering with the automotive industry. In 2018, the company signed a five-year partnership with Volvo to collaborate on a series of vehicle initiatives connected to 5G.
When you talk about Samsung, you immediately think of their phones, but the company also offers network solutions. In 2018, Verizon turned to Samsung to provide fixed 5G network solutions for its first commercial launch. It was also chosen by AT&T to supply 5G equipment for the CBRS network.
Samsung also works elsewhere. At the end of 2018, it was selected by South Korea Telecom to provide 5G solutions. In addition, the Galaxy S10 5G is available on Verizon and other operators.
The Chinese firm ZTE also wants to become one of the greats of 5G. In 2018, I worked with the Chinese government in core and middle band tests. In addition, it signed an agreement with the Ooredoo Group operator, based in Qatar, to provide solutions for its 164 million customers.
What exactly is 5G? A brief history
5G is the fifth generation of mobile cellular communications. Replace 4G LTE to provide faster and more reliable service with lower latency. But who decides what 5G is?
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is a United Nations agency that develops standards for communication technologies and sets the rules for the use of the radio spectrum and the interoperability of telecommunications. In 2012, I created the IMT-2020 program to investigate and establish the minimum requirements of 5G. In 2017, I presented a draft with 13 minimum requirements.
With that document, the 3rd Generation Partnership Group (3GPP), a group of telecommunications organizations, designed the standards. In December 2017, I completed the non-autonomous specifications (NSA), and in June 2018 I continued with the independent ones (SA).
5G objectives and standards
ITU developed three usage scenarios for 5G:
- Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB): It mainly deals with consumer use. With eMBB, there will be access to a faster and more reliable mobile broadband for tasks such as HD video and augmented reality / virtual reality. It handles traffic more efficiently and guarantees a data transmission rate of at least 100Mbps.
- Ultra reliable and low latency communications (URLLC): URLLC was created for real-time services that require extremely low latency. It is intended for critical mission tasks, such as remote surgeries, autonomous vehicle interaction and industrial automation. It provides ultra reliable data coverage with a thermal latency of less than 1 millisecond.
- Mass communications machine type (mMTC): According to ITU, it is characterized by a ?large number of connected devices that normally transmit a relatively low volume of non-delay sensitive data?. It requires low-cost devices and a long-lasting battery.
The NSA and SA standards share the same specifications, but the first uses existing LTE networks, while the SA will need a next generation core network. Operators started with the NSA, so turn to 4G LTE in an environment other than 5G.
The standards established by 3GPP are linked to performance objectives:
- Data rate: 5G offer significantly faster speeds. They can reach 20 Gbps down and 10 Gbps up per mobile base station. It is not the speed you will experience with 5G (unless you have a dedicated connection), but the one that the users of the cell will share.
- Real World Speeds: Actual speeds will not be the same as maximum speeds. The specification requires download speeds of 100Mbps and 50Mbps for upload.
- Latency: The time it takes for data to travel from one point to another must be 4 milliseconds in ideal circumstances and 1 millisecond for URLLCs.
- Efficiency: When in use, radio interfaces must be energy efficient and, when not, fall into a low energy mode. They must change state in 10 milliseconds when it is no longer in use.
- Spectral efficiency: It is the bandwidth so that the maximum amount of data is transmitted with the least amount of transmission errors. 5G should have a slightly improved efficiency over LTE, reaching a downlink of 30 bits / Hz, and 15 bits / Hz up.
- Mobility: with 5G, base stations must withstand movements from 0 to 310 mph. While with LTE networks it is easy, this can be a challenge in the new millimeter wave networks.
- Connection Density: 5G should support a greater number of connected devices than LTE. The standard indicates that it should be 1 million per square kilometer. It is a high number, which considers the number of devices that will drive the Internet of things (IoT).
* Article updated on October 28, 2019 by Rodrigo Orellana.