The fifth generation of mobile technology or 5G as we typically call it is upon us (already in testing in certain areas of the United States), but what are the largest differences compared to our current 4G LTE networks?
The next generation is primarily enhancing what we already have in order to have more capabilities to connect more devices such as cellphone and tablets, on a network and expand the range of cellular, by implementing a type of relay system. This is an important enhancement to the technology for:
- Adoption of self-driving vehicles—these automobiles that highly rely on mobile data technology.
- Mobile devices currently rely on millimetre waves at different frequencies on the radio frequency spectrum—most mobile devices work under 6 GHz (gigahertz). The frequency that mobile devices work on are currently becoming overcrowded—due to having more users and more mobile devices—5G hopes to expand on the frequency range for mobile devices.
- Certain devices could work higher and lower on the frequency, which would allow more devices to connect at one time.
Expanding on the current infrastructure by implementing a type of relay system (a system of smaller towers that are strategically placed to reduce interference), the system would relay signals around interference from your device to the tower then back to your device. This system would be similar to a cellular or data booster that some of you may have at your cottage or camps, but able to accommodate more users—this may help lessen the amount of “dead zones” or “dropped signals” you may have experienced.
Why is a new generation of wireless communication needed?
This newer generation of mobile technology is important since there has been a steady increase in mobile users and devices using the current bandwidth of the radio frequency spectrum. Devices such as drones, mobile phones, Smartwatches, self-driving vehicles, are currently operating on the same frequency, which causes a lag or slow signal speed.
An example of possible personal experiences you may have had with frequency overcrowding include:
- Dropped calls
- Calls not being able to go out
- Calls suddenly cutting out
- Messages failing to send
- Messages taking a longer time to send
- Messages taking a while to receive
These personal experiences could be in relation to the high number of devices connecting to one frequency at once. This also uses more bandwidth.
“An example of bandwidth: think of bandwidth similar to a garden hose, the flow of water is bandwidth, the larger the hose the more capacity you have. When cellular providers hit capacity on their networks at their current frequencies, they require additional frequencies to accommodate the rapid growth and popularity of cellular usage. This will also increase the bandwidth for users (creating a larger garden hose).”
With the possibility of having devices on a larger stream of radio frequencies, it will additionally increase speed for the user—speed is the amount of data that can be uploaded and downloaded per user in a matter of time. This could mean users would be able to download a large video or file in milliseconds to seconds.
No matter how you might look at the rollout of the next generation of mobile technology, the more users becoming active on the mobile network requires the increase of technology.
Some carriers and mobile device manufacturers are beginning to release the devices capable of connecting to the 5G network later this year, and hope to begin implementing this technology in 2020. For more information on 5G and more examples of the benefits of this generation: