What’s 5G Going to Look Like?

Everyone is buying phones that support 4G LTE”s high speed networks in hopes that they’ll be able to tap into that wonderful vein of wireless glory. Still, it seems as if though 4G is not quite cutting it. The required density of access points and the sluggish spectrum situation around most of the world are making the development and proliferation of 4G network difficult in some places and a pipe dream in others. A couple of international powers have decided that it’s time to move on to another generation of mobile networking, which will hereby be known as 5G, or 5th generation mobile networking.

Upon hearing about 5G,  any marginally-savvy individual might ask, “Why does anyone want to move forward another generation when 4G isn’t properly implemented in much of the developed world?”

There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that we’re running out of radio spectrum (see the link I gave you above). We need a new network that will not experience the same caveats that 4G in this department. You see, 5G’s specification calls for spectrum access below the 4 GHz line. That area of the spectrum is largely unoccupied in many parts of the world. It’s noisy and unreliable for other types of communication. By clustering several access points within one location, it’s easy to get around all of the problems that come with using frequencies that low. Setting the threshold there will allow mobile providers to freely run their networks without an excess of interference. Using something known as dynamic spectrum management (DSM), we could also eliminate crosstalk through the same methods that prevented DSL lines from interfering with phone lines.

Also, this is another power play from the EU and South Korea to lift their heads above the water and come out ahead of the global competition. They were rather slow to adopt 4G.

5g-4gcoverage

Countries shown in red have strong commercial LTE presences. Blue countries on the map are still deploying their networks. Light blue signifies that a country is just running trials and hasn’t considered fully committing to LTE yet. You can see that some EU member states are behind Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Brazil, the U.S., Canada, and a couple of other countries. South Korea, despite having committed tons of resources to developing 4G LTE, wants to come out ahead of others who have done the same.

Implementation-wise, 5G will be crowded. It has to provide higher speeds than 4G, which requires tons of hardware to process all of the bandwidth. This is exactly what might make it difficult for some countries to implement. To make this possible, each cell providing network coverage will have to include several tightly-packed antennas that service multiple users simultaneously. It’s very easy to make service slightly unreliable at the most inconvenient times if the density is not at least twice what we currently require for a 4G cell.

Here’s a demonstration of how higher-bandwidth implementations require higher cell density:

5g-4gcelldensity

As you walk around, you may start seeing more funny-looking boxes attached to the sides of buildings. These will be providing you with bandwidth of up to 10 Gbps, according to this report. I emphasize the words “up to” in the previous sentence. It certainly won’t be providing absolutely breakneck speeds when your local cell is heavily occupied, but it will provide higher speeds than what 4G is giving you. Currently, most phones and tablets don’t process information so quickly anyway.

5G might be a stunt, but it will define the future of networking whether we like it or not. It’s now your turn to talk about it. What do you think of this new possible development? Let’s discuss it in the comments below!

Base Station Density image provided by TEKTELIC Communications, Inc.