Home / Blogs

The Evolution of 5G

Technology always evolves, and I've been reading about where scientists envision the evolution of 5G. The first generation of 5G, which will be rolled out over the next 3-5 years, is mostly aimed at increasing the throughput of cellular networks. According to Cisco, North American cellular data volumes are growing at a torrid 36% per year, and even faster than that in some urban markets where the volumes of data are doubling every two years. The main goal of the first-generation 5G is to increase network capacity to handle that growth.

However, if 5G is deployed only for that purpose, we won't see the giant increases in speed that the public thinks is coming with 5G. Cisco is predicting that the average North American cellular speed in 2026 will be around 70 Mbps — a far cry from the gigabit speed predictions you can find splattered all over the press.

There is already academic and lab work looking into what is being labeled as 6G. That will use the terabit spectrum and promises to potentially be able to deliver wireless speeds up to as much as one terabit per second. I've already seen a few articles touting this as a giant breakthrough, but the articles didn't mention that the effective distance for this spectrum can be measured in a few feet — this will be an indoor technology and will not be the next cellular replacement for 5G.

This means that to some degree, 5G is the end of the line in terms of cellular delivery. This is likely why the cellular carriers are gobbling up as much spectrum as they can. That spectrum isn't all needed today but will be needed by the end of the decade. The cellular carriers will use every spectrum block now to preserve the licenses, but the heavy lifting for most of the spectrum being purchased today will come into play a decade or more from now — the carriers are playing the long game so that they aren't irrelevant in the not-too-distant future.

This doesn't mean that 5G is a dead-end, and the technology will continue to evolve. Here are a few of the ideas being explored in labs today that will enhance 5G performance a decade from now:

  • Large Massive Network MIMO. This means expanding the density and capacity of cellular antennas to simultaneously be able to handle multiple spectrum bands. We need much better antennas if we are to get vastly greater data volumes into and out of cellular devices. For now, data speeds on cellphones are being limited by the capacity of the antennas.
  • Ultra Dense Networks (UDN). This envisions the end of cell sites in the way we think about them today. This would come first in urban networks where there will be a hyper-dense deployment of small cell devices that would likely also incorporate small cells, WiFi routers, femtocells, and M2M gateways. In such an environment, cellphones can interact with the cloud rather than with a traditional cell site. This eliminates the traditional cellular standard of one cell site controlling a transaction. In a UDN network, a cellular device could connect anywhere.
  • Device-to-Device (D2D) Connectivity. The smart 5G network in the future will let nearby devices communicate with each other without having to pass traffic back and forth to a data hub. This would move some cellular transactions to the edge, and would significantly reduce logjams at data centers and on middle-mile fiber routes.
  • A Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Layer. A huge portion of future web traffic will be communications between devices and the cloud. This research envisions a separate cellular network for such traffic that maximizes M2M communications separately from traffic used by people.
  • Use of AI. Smart networks will be able to shift and react to changing demands and will be able to shuffle and share network resources as needed. For example, if there is a street fair in a neighborhood that is usually vehicle traffic, the network would smartly reconfigure to recognize the changing demand for connectivity.
  • Better Batteries. None of the improvements come along until there are better 'lifetime' batteries that can allow devices to use more antennas and process more data.

Wireless marketing folks will be challenged to find ways to describe these future improvements in the 5G network. If the term 6G becomes associated with terabit spectrum, marketers are going to find something other than a 'G' term to over-hype the new technologies.

By Doug Dawson, President at CCG Consulting – Dawson has worked in the telecom industry since 1978 and has both a consulting and operational background. He and CCG specialize in helping clients launch new broadband markets, develop new products, and finance new ventures. Visit Page

CircleID Newsletter The Weekly Wrap

More and more professionals are choosing to publish critical posts on CircleID from all corners of the Internet industry. If you find it hard to keep up daily, consider subscribing to our weekly digest. We will provide you a convenient summary report once a week sent directly to your inbox. It's a quick and easy read.

I make a point of reading CircleID. There is no getting around the utility of knowing what thoughtful people are thinking and saying about our industry.

VINTON CERF
Co-designer of the TCP/IP Protocols & the Architecture of the Internet

Comments

5G is aimed at infrastructure virtualisation By Anthony Rutkowski  –  May 09, 2020 10:16 am PST

There is really only one authoritative articulation of 5G.  It is the ongoing work and specifications of 3GPP and related bodies, coupled with the implementation requirements of GSMA, CableLabs, 5GPPP and other operator organizations.  PR announcements and lobbying activity promoting "5G" - which are largely devoted to getting additional spectrum - does not constitute 5G - and exists it its own alternative reality.  There is no 6G.

Stand-Alone (SA) 5G is primarily focussed on the virualisation of network architecture and services initially developed by the NFV group.  It is described in Release 16 and being extended subsequent releases.  Anyone can see exactly what constitutes 5G at the 3GPP Work Item project management site

For the various operator segment implementation of the specifications, see GSMA, CableLabs, and 5G PPP.  The articulation of Fixed 5G implementations are also described in the F5G Fixed 5G Industry Specification Group and Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) Group .  The increased access bandwidth dimension of 5G is substantially less significant.

Add Your Comments

 To post your comments, please login or create an account.

Related

Topics

Brand Protection

Sponsored byAppdetex

DNS Security

Sponsored byAfilias

IP Addressing

Sponsored byIPv4.Global

Cybersecurity

Sponsored byVerisign

Cybercrime

Sponsored byThreat Intelligence Platform

New TLDs

Sponsored byAfilias

Domain Names

Sponsored byVerisign

Whois

Sponsored byWhoisXML API