5G. Is it really necessary

Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance.

Robert Quillen

We now know briefly the beginnings of technology. If you are wondering what this is, then you should give the chapter The Inception of technology a glance.

While doing my own research, I stumbled across thousands of blogs and also accompanying research stating how we don’t need 5G. Some argued 4G is sufficient and stated how Gigabit LTE can solve the high data rates requirement. Some argued that 5G will be deployed between the frequency bands of 3GHz to 300GHz which is completely wrong, because 5G has an all band deployment ranging from 700 MHz (remote areas) to 40 GHz (busy cities).

Finally, some are arguing that just because 5G is in a high frequency band, we will all die of cancer! Okay that was an exaggeration, but you know what I mean. There are so many articles and research papers in this topic that I decided to dedicate a separate and special chapter for it in an another post.

So, instead of just providing you with my opinion, I would like to provide the technical requirements and reasons for us to move towards 5G.

ITU and 3GPP

Telecom Standardising bodies

Before we begin, I think it is imperative to know who are the organisations that set the standards and controls the development and distribution of telecommunication networks and devices. For those who want to skip this section can jump to 5G Use Cases, Requirements and Services.

One of the oldest global international organisation. Around the year 1865, ITU or International Telecommunication Union was founded to facilitate the international connectivity in communication networks. This union is responsible for allocating the global radio spectrum and satellite orbits. Today any and all wireless communications from our cellphones to satellites are operating at the frequencies allocated by ITU. Finally, they are also responsible for providing technical standards for all the technologies to interconnect with each other. Fair enough! So what is 3GPP?

Launched around the end of 20th century by AT&T and Nortel Networks, 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) was a group of organisations whose sole purpose was to improve global cellular and mobile communication. This group was originally formed to produce standards for 3G. Later the scope was increased to maintain GSM, GPRS and EDGE to be backwards compatible and also to provide standards to the next generation development.

In short, ITU sets standards that 3GPP as one of its member groups should follow and deliver its work.

3GPP Introduces 5G

Image from SpiroProjects

Until 5G was introduced, every new G underwent significant changes in the underlying radio access technologies (technologies that allow us to access radio signals). They made large back-bone changes to the way we can access the network via our devices. But for 5G there is no major back-bone changes, but rather changes in the way the network should service to every access request. These changes are what one should know to decide whether we need this technology or not.

5G Use cases, requirements and services

Use Case 1: High Data Rates

Global Compound Annual Growth Rate of mobile data traffic

It is no longer a shock that the telecommunication industry always underestimates the timeline for their new solutions to reach its maximum capacity. Even at the time of this writing (Dec’19), only 8 countries have more than 80% coverage for 4G and many have started adopting 5G. If we carefully see the graph above, the Compound Annual Growth Rate or the rate at which the mobile data traffic has increased over time is at least 35%.

Also, from the below chart we can see a dramatic increase (approx 80%) in per smartphone data traffic requirements.

Source: Ericsson

So evidently, we need more juice for our internet. But, isn’t 4G enough? Why do we need 5G again?

Why 5G?

Yes for our requirements today, 4G is enough. But what about tomorrow? when more countries will be digitally connected!

Use Case 2: Massive Internet of Things

Source: Forbes

This other chart shows how the number of smart devices is going to increase over time. And lets be honest we love to have an AI vacuum cleaner.

But, apart from consumer electronics other industries are also taking pace in adopting smart hardware to reduce cost of production and increase the production efficiency. And any of the current generation technology is not sufficient to support billion devices at a time using the same network.

Imagine no WiFi and all the devices are connected straight to the internet. It will be difficult then to watch Netflix or Youtube without buffering. The network operators assume that at a particular time of the day not everyone will be connected to the 4G network and that a lot of us will be using WiFi instead. This assumption allows them to manage the network efficiently providing us the required data rates. This mechanism is called offloading.

Why 5G?

But offloading cannot work if you have surgeon in one country performing a surgery in another.

Use Case 3: Ultra reliable low-latency services

5G vs 4G

If this simple chart is analysed, we can easily understand that 5G is aiming to be 10 times faster than 4G. But this is the best case scenario. However, the one of the major specifications for 5G put down by ITU was to achieve an ultra reliable low-latency service in order to realise real-time communication.

Why 5G?

Over seas surgery cannot take place if the connection is unreliable and there are delays between the time of command and the time of action.

Checkpoint

Our 1st checkpoint. Lets see what we learned.

  • Who standardizes and develops the technology for telecom
  • What are the different use cases and requirements that led to the development of an advanced mobile communication technology

Summary

To summarize, I believe 5G technology is super complicated but yet solving the most basic requirements of a growing population, reliable seamless connectivity in the entire globe.

Below spider diagram summarizes this entire chapter.

Here we stand with the technical reasons for why 5G is introduced in the communication world and where it is going to play a major role. I believe with this knowledge you and I can make a better conversation when we talk about 5G.