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The 5G technology

Introduced in July 2016, 5G is the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks, which cellular phone companies began deploying worldwide in 2019. They are the successors to the 4G networks which provide connectivity to most current cell phones. Today we hear a lot of devices claiming them to be 5G ready. But what is 5G? How does it work? And mostly importantly what parameters define it.

The constant buzz regarding 5G has made some people believe that it will bring to life the sci-fi experience and will enable the working of the Internet of Things (IOT) to its full potential, by bringing to reality the concept of connected homes, office spaces, vehicles, and more. But to know about this more, we need to understand the three basic parameters of 5G which have created a much-awaited hype. These are,

  • Data transfer speeds- It is the maximum volume of information transferred between two systems every second. For instance, if a broadband connection has 100Mbps speed; it can handle up to 100 Megabits of data every second. A higher data transfer speed is more appreciable, as it means more volume of data can be transferred every second.

  • Latency rate- The total time taken for a piece of information to move from one location to another is regarded as its latency rate. Two simple concepts which explain this concept are, voice lag during internet calls and skipped frame rates during online gaming sessions. These mainly occur due to high latency rate, which causes a delay in the exchange of information. This is calculated in milliseconds. A lower latency rate translates into a faster connection speed.

  • Throughput- Throughput is a network's capacity to handle active connections simultaneously. What we call ‘network congestion’, basically is the result of a network getting overloaded beyond its throughput limit. It determines the rate of successful message delivery over a communication channel.

Now, let’s understand what 5G is. Just like its predecessors 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G; 5G too, offers a completely different spectrum of the network ensuring that it can connect to everyone and bring forth all the devices, and machines together. The previous generations of the mobile networks were

1. First Generation (1G): the first-ever implementation of the mobile network with the delivery of analog voice. These telecommunications standards were introduced in the 1980s and continued until being replaced by 2G digital telecommunications.

2. Second Generation (2G): 2G brought the introduction of digital voice. 2G network allowed for much greater penetration intensity. They enabled various mobile phone networks to provide the services such as text messages, picture messages and MMS (multi-media messages).

3. Third Generation (3G): The implementation and mass usage of mobile data occurred when 3G was announced. The introduction of 3G was an upgrade for 2.5G GPRS and 2.75G EDGE networks, enabling faster data transfer.

4. Fourth Generation (4G): An enhancement to the era of mobile broadbands, even though it is not as fast as 5G, it does offer a significant speed improvement over legacy 3G networks.

Let us now move on to 5G. Currently, there are two types of globally accepted 5G networks – non-standalone and standalone.

  • The non-standalone (NSA) deployment model of 5G NR (new radio) is where 5G services are delivered through a combination of 5G and 4G networks. NSA requires an existing 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) infrastructure to enable 5G connectivity, which means having to rely on some parts of the 4G LTE network to connect 5G devices. It is a cost-effective option as it allows mobile operators with existing 4G LTE networks to basically “sweat their assets” and launch 5G quickly without investing in an end-to-end 5G network.

  • The standalone 5G is an independent 5G network deployment model that allows mobile operators to launch a full end-to-end 5G New Radio - NR network. The standalone model, SA, can deliver the futuristic use cases of 5G that require more than just high-speed data. Standalone 5G can support higher frequency bands to deliver ultra-low latency. It can also support lower frequency bands, e.g., 600 MHz and 700 MHz, to connect billions of low-powered devices. Standalone 5G enables massive machine type communication (mMTC) and ultra-reliable low latency communication (uRLLC) use cases, including self-driving cars, smart cities, and many other B2B use cases in the manufacturing industry.

5G helps in offering flexibility for forwarding compatibility, which means it, can support devices in the distant future that are completely unknown today.

  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband: Not only in smartphones, but 5G enables new opportunities for both Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. With its faster, uniform data rates, users can expect a lower latency along with reduced cost-per-bit.

  • Mission-Critical Communities: 5G can offer new services that can completely revolutionize the industry with its super reliable, always available, and stable network. This can benefit the remote operations of critical infrastructure, vehicles as well as any medical procedures.

  • Massive IoT: 5G has the capabilities to seamlessly connect with a large number of embedded sensors. This again can be beneficial over scaling down the cost of data rates along with better mobility and power. With such lower connectivity costs, enterprises can mass-produce IoT devices.

Speaking about the 5G race in India, the development hasn’t been too positive. 4G still remains to be dominant in the nation. According to a statistic, 4G availability has grown in India as the 4G service metric recorded an increase from 93.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 96 per cent in the second quarter of 2021. The median download speed increased from 10.64 Mbps in the first quarter of 2020, to 15.67 Mbps in the second quarter of 2021. It is highly possible that in the coming years too, 4G will continue to play a significant role in the market. To incorporate 5G in their telecom, companies have started their trial series. For instance, Airtel conducted India’s first cloud-gaming session in a 5G environment, which the company claimed was successful. Airtel also successfully demonstrated 5G services over a live 4G network in Hyderabad, marking an industry first. Apart from this, Jio also started its 5G trials in Mumbai using its indigenously developed equipment. Furthermore; the Standing Committee on Information Technology was informed that 5G will roll out in India to some extent for specific uses by 2022 as 4G is expected to continue in India for at least another 5-6 years.

It is no news to us, that 5G networks are best known for their high-speed network. For a better understanding, just imagine that, with a 5G network, you would be able to download a 2 hours movie within 10 seconds as compared to 7 minutes for 4G, while at the same time considering factors such as location, network traffic, which determine the download speed. To use this network, users will require having a 5G enabled consumer devices to reap the benefits of 5G. Already major smartphone manufacturers including Apple, Samsung, Motorola, and OnePlus have released their 5G devices.

With the entrance of 5G our lives will be impacted in many ways. The technology will be able to support the remote control of critical services. It will advance autonomous driving, the Internet of things, personal communications, and the way our businesses work in terms of accessing, storing, sharing and protecting data. It will impact AI and augmented reality, the two most promising technologies available for mobile developers.




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