5G (fifth generation) is a generation of mobile communications, which operates in accordance with the telecommunications standards following the existing LTE (4G) technology.
3GPP consortium began to form the 5G-NR specification (NR - New Radio, radio access technology for mobile networks of the 5th generation) in 2015. At that time, plans for the preparation of specifications were announced. According to these plans, Phase 1 of the specifications was to be completed by the second half of 2018 (as part of 3GPP Release 15) and Phase 2 by December 2019 (as part of 3GPP Release 16).
The 3GPP standards and specifications were created by market participants and take into account a variety of business objectives, each of which, of course, has its own specific requirements. So, 3GPP recommendation TR 38.913 defined the following key indicators of the new generation networks:
And now briefly about some of the technologies through which the actual implementation of the fifth generation networks becomes possible.
3GPP specification TS 38.211 V1.2.0 (2017-11) defined new radio frequency bands for 5G (see Table 1) and divided them into two frequency blocks: FR1 (frequencies up to 6GHz or sub6G) and FR2 (frequencies above 6GHz or mmWave).
Operating on the higher frequency bands eliminates various interference in the network that distorts data transmission. In addition, higher frequency - higher bandwidth, and it directly affects the bandwidth of the channel.
So, for block FR1, depending on the used SCS (Sub-Carrier Spacing, a variant of subcarrier frequency diversity) is allowed the width of one radio channel to 100 MHz, for block FR2 - from 50 to 400 MHz! This is in contrast to LTE networks, which only allow channels as wide as 1.4, 3, 5, 10, 15 and 20 MHz.
And if you combine channel width with frequency aggregation (CA), you can achieve a spectrum of 2 GHz or more for a single connection.
Beam forming with MIMO antennas is not a new concept and already exists in the cellular market as AAS (Active Antenna System). AAS MIMO antenna installed on the tower allows you to split the coverage area into static cells, thereby increasing the efficiency of spectrum use, and thus increases the number of channels. But today's congested networks need dynamic digital beamforming to maximize spectrum efficiency.
Applying the concept of MIMO antennas in the millimeter band FR2 becomes even more interesting because millimeter radio waves have good directivity characteristics due to the multiplication of the number of antenna elements per antenna. An array of such antenna elements (256 or more) can be combined to form a single so called Massive MIMO antenna.
By controlling the phase and amplitude of the signals, such an antenna is able to dynamically generate multiple strong and sharp beams in the directions of specific users. Thus, with Massive MIMO we get:
The technology, known since the 14th release of 3GPP, is an important addition to Beamforming. It allows the base station to know the quality of the channel through a special packet sent from the UE. Normally, most UEs can only support sending SRS through their main transmitting antenna. Consequently, the base station can only receive channel information for that antenna.
However, by using transmit antenna selection technology, full channel information of all UE antennas can be obtained. Consequently, the base station can generate a beam in the direction of the UE in the best possible way. As a result, the UE's throughput will increase significantly, especially at long and medium distances from the base station (up to +40%).
According to the logic of this concept, mobile operators will be able to deploy isolated networks, each of which can be assigned/assigned a different set of key indicators - for the Internet of Things, wide coverage, for urban transport - a wide band and low response. The operation of this technology will be possible with the transition to a next-generation core network.
If you notice, some of the previously listed metrics, such as, for example, peak data rate and autonomy, are simply incompatible and even mutually exclusive. But all at once these indicators and do not have to be performed by one device at a time or in principle supported by the entire list.
The idea is to distinguish between different types of radio traffic service scenarios, depending on the degree of importance (high, medium, low) of one or another indicator. In the Network Slicing concept, the physical 5G architecture will be divided into many virtual networks or layers, each designed for a different use case scenario.
Each of the scenarios will satisfy one or another set of previously mentioned indicators and, accordingly, is aimed at a different market segment.
The specification defines only three scenarios:
mMTC is a machine-to-machine communication scenario where human involvement is minimal and all processes are automated. The mMTC devices include: water, gas, electricity meters; street lighting controllers; parking space sensors; GPS/GLONASS bookmarks; various smoke/fire sensors; burglary sensors; "smart" garbage cans and other IoT devices.
As you can see, high speed and ultra-low latency are not important here, but autonomy and a huge number of connections in the network are very important. We are talking about the so-called LPWA (Low Power Wide Area) devices - about mass, simple and cheap devices with ultra-low power consumption, capable of working on one battery for up to 10 years.
Standards and specifications for LPWA networks have been laid out in 3GPP releases 13 (Cat.NB1 and Cat.M1) and 14 (Cat.NB2 and Cat.M2) and NB-IoT (aka LTE Cat.NB1/NB2) and eMTC (LTE Cat.M1/M2) networks are now commercially available.
Networks for these devices are characterized by low transfer rates (up to 150 kbit/sec in LTE Cat.NB2 and up to 1 Mbit/sec in LTE Cat.M1), wide and "deep" coverage.
The beauty of NB-IoT and eMTC is that deployment of networks by mobile operators does not require huge investments and allocation of separate frequency bands - these LPWA networks can operate in existing frequency bands and on existing network equipment, and one base station can serve more territory than the existing 2G, 3G or LTE networks.
You can read about how to access NB-IoT networks with SIMCom Wireless Solutions cellular modules in our articles.
Technically, NB-IoT and eMTC networks can be categorized as 5G networks, but in this article talking about 5G we will talk about high speed technology. So, the URRLC (to be included in 3GPP Release 16) and eMBB (already defined in 3GPP Release 15) scenarios are in the 5G domain.
The URRLC scenario, from its name, means ultra-reliable, low latency communications. And eMBB means ultra-broadband, which means high-speed communications.
In the early stages of commercial 5G deployment, with the exception of smartphones, the key 5G product is expected to be the Sky Office-connected laptop. Sky Office is the concept of moving a laptop's computing power to the cloud, while equipping the laptop with a built-in 5G modem.
Thus, the cloud can host not only user files (Cloud Drive), but also software, such as MS Office 365 (Cloud Office) or gaming software (Cloud Games). In this concept, the laptop becomes, simply put, a screen with a keyboard and camera.
If cellular networks provide latency of a few milliseconds and provide a dedicated reliable channel on an unlimited basis (Network Slice), then working with Sky Office may become a popular application for the laptop in the future. At the same time, the consumer will get a number of interesting consumer qualities, unattainable with conventional laptops:
The entertainment industry has always been a driving force in the development of consumer electronics. The highest demands for performance come precisely from consumers of game consoles. The most advanced, but less common technologies in the world of gaming are virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
The well-known Sony and Microsoft companies have been offering VR accessories and corresponding 3D games for several years.
Gradually, VR and AR will go beyond the gaming industry and inevitably spill over into education, medicine, and industry - the potential is hard to overestimate. Figures 10-13 show some examples of AR applications from the "Microsoft Hololens 2" presentation.
The next step in the industry will be to combine AR and VR with 5G. Technically, this is already feasible thanks to the new Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chipset, which combines a 5G modem and a specialized XR (from VR+AR) processor with support for artificial intelligence that reacts to the mimicry of the "pilot".
It's clear that with 5G, online gaming will only gain. With the transfer of computing power to the cloud (Cloud Gaming) gaming consoles will become less busy, making video smoother, more detailed and more dynamic. Having overcome the technological barrier with 5G, the AR/VR gaming market will become more in demand.
Many will discover virtual journeys to other cities, diving to the bottom of the ocean, and even flying into space. It is a well-known fact that a person's perception of the world strongly depends on what he sees, with XR+5G the average person's outlook will expand significantly, changing society's approach to exploring the world and creative activities in all spheres.
To say that 5G networks have acquired their mature, final form is still too early. We have to wait for the 16th release, which is the consortium's plan to close Phase 2 specifications and determine the start of mass deployment of 5G core networks.
However, this does not prevent today to begin work on the study of new technology, which will lay the foundation for future projects, as 5G-NR radio access networks are already generally available, albeit in a limited form.
We must understand that 5G networks sooner or later will become our daily routine and the transition from NSA mode to SA will be smooth and imperceptible, and the developments made today, will not be wasted.