5G - Overview of Technology

What is 5G?

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5G is the latest generation of mobile phone technologies. It is, in part, an evolution from the current 4G networks. Indeed it is envisaged that 4G and 5G will work together to give a better network for all. The aim of 5G is to provide 100Gbps and a low 1ms latency. There is not a single technology that drives 5G, rather a development of a number of existing technologies.

5G will be delivered (in UK) using a mix of 3 spectrum bands :

  1. 700Mhz - to provide the capacity over large areas of the UK
  2. 3.4GHz - to provide bandwidth for the large demand urban areas. This frequency does not pass through walls as well as lower frequencies but does have much greater capacity
  3. 24GHz to provide ultra high capacity in small cells.

(July 2019)Currently OfCom have only released licenses fo 5G at 3.4GHz, and all 5G services will initially run within this frequency band. EE have released their 5G network in 4 cities UK for those users with a 5G phone. Vodafone plan to release their 5G offerring at the end of July 2019. O2 have begun trials and are looking to release their 5G later in the year. Three have started with their ultra-fast 5G network but with no release data set. All of these initial 5G networks are being released in a few UK cities first before rollout to further urban areas. As the 3.4GHz band is being used, the offerring with be urban based until a more rural friendly frequency is released by OfCom.

There are 2 distinct aspects of 5G mobile phone technology. The 5G that will be used at 700MHz and 3.4GHz. This is essentially an evolution of 4G. The other aspect is 5G that will be delivered at 26GHz providing fantastic capacity but with difficult to manage waves.

5G will support network slicing. This means that an operator will be able to run virtual networks over their real network; thus dedicating part of the spectrum to specific needs. For example the control of autonomous vehicles has a different requirement than viewing a 4K video. Different virtual networks will be available.

4G provided MIMO technology on the network. 5G uses this extensively in Massive MIMO. A number of technologies involved in beam positioning and beam bending are used to get the capacity to the users and avoid obstacles. The MIMO technology is able to send the data over different frequency bands, putting this back together at the client.

The ultra high frequencies, providing ultra high urban capacity, will need many masts within these urban areas and mobile operators are seeking to attach masts onto street furniture making 5G a ubiquitous urban network. One main feature within 5G technology is the management of the interaction and handover between these small cells, and between small and normal or macro cells.

To provide a faster, and a network with less lag, changes have been made to the core. As much as possible, processing is to be carried out at the periphery rather than the core. This adds greater capacity and less data travel. Additionally the core services are being moved from centralised servers to the cloud this leading to faster and more reliable service.