Introduction to 5G network:

Hello everybody, I hope this article will give you some insight into the hottest topic: 5G network mobile cellular technology. Before jumping into the next subtopics, we need to make a stop and learn/revise how mobile cellular networks work.

How does a mobile call work?

Consider two friends A and B.

  • A gives a call to B. A’s voice is picked by A’s phone’s microphone.
  • The microphone converts it to digital signal of 0s and 1s. This digital signal is transmitted by A’s phone’s antenna as an electromagnetic wave.
  • This electromagnetic wave needs to be received by B’s phone, only then the call is established.
  • But electromagnetic waves cannot travel long distances and there would be so many obstacles in its way like buildings, trees and environmental factors like heavy winds and rainfall.
  • To overcome the transmission problems associated with electromagnetic waves, cellular towers are established. Let us imagine a city which needs a cellular network, then that city is divided into hexagonal cells such that each cell contains a cellular tower.
  • There is at least one path of connection from one cellular tower to another. Two cellular towers are connected via an optical fibre which are laid underground or under oceans (for international calls).
what is 5g network
  • Back to A and B’s story. Now electromagnetic wave transmitted by A’s phone is received by the nearest cellular tower, which transmits the wave to B’s nearest cell tower. This tower sends the electromagnetic wave to B’s phone and B’s phone converts the wave back to voice signal. Thus, when B picks up the call, he/she will hear A’s voice.

But A and B are not the only people living the world. There are so many people and they all have one thing in common: Cell phone. As the number of people using a cell phone increased, the need for better mobile cellular networks aroused. Technology of cellular networks is becoming better and their standards are classified as generations. Soon we are going to welcome 5G into this world, so let’s look into its ancestors.

Generations of cellular network technology (From 1G to 5G network):

1G:

  • This was the first wireless mobile communication technology. It was introduced in 1979.
    • In this technology, the voice was not converted into a digital signal. The voice was transmitted as a modulated analog signal (using Frequency modulation and Frequency Shift Keying), due to which the bit rate was very less i.e. 2.4kpbs.
    • Most popular 1G analog cellular system was ironically named as Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS).
    • AMPS used Frequency Division Multiple Access (FDMA) to divide the available bandwidth into frequency bands.
what is 5g network
  • Main disadvantages of 1G were:
    • Less data speed
      • The voice was prone to noise and has less quality
      • It is not advised for large areas which would contain large population of mobile users because it has less bandwidth. 

2G:

  • It was introduced in the 1990s.
    • In this standard, the voice was transmitted as a digital signal (using Pulse Code Modulation) instead of analog signal, the data speed was higher than 1G i.e. 50kbps to 64kbps
    • Various countries adopted different 2G cellular systems which were D-AMPS, GSM and IS-95.
    • Widely used 2G cellular system is GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication)
    • In 2G standard, cellular systems used CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) for distributing available bandwidth which was very efficient.
    • 2G also introduced services other than wireless phone call which were Short Messaging Services (SMS), Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS) and conference calls.
  • 2G was the first generation to support international roaming calls.
    • Before moving to 3G, 2G evolved into 2.5G and 2.75G, in which GSM cellular system followed protocols like GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and EDGE (Enhanced Data GSM Evolution) which improved bit rate to 384kbps.
    • Disadvantages of 2G were:
      • EDGE protocol has a drawback in packet transferring which leads to lower efficiency
      • Different countries use different 2G cellular systems
      • The data speed was still low to surf Internet for audio and video.

3G:

  • This standard was introduced in 2001.
    • Objectives of 3G standard were:
      • To standardise a single global mobile network protocol. This was accomplished by International Telecommunication Union (ITU) when it issued International mobile Communication 2000 (IMT-2000) to define the criteria for 3G technology
      • Cellular telephony for Internet and voice calling
      • Data transmission at lower costs
      • Higher bandwidth (2MHz)
    • 3G uses WCDMA (Wideband CDMA) for distributing available bandwidth
    • Data speed — 2Mbps.
    • 3G made universal personal communication possible. It also provided high speed Internet services, video calling, GPS and Navigation and video streaming
  • In 3G standard, we made a lot of progress in terms of making mobile communication affordable to everyone and by linking Internet with every mobile phone.

4G:

  • This standard was introduced in 2010.
    • This standard comprises of two technologies mainly:
      • LTE (Long Term Evolution) Advanced
      • 802.16m standardized by IEEE or Mobile WiMAX
  • As of 2010, there were 295.5 million mobile users across the world and they all wanted high data speed on their mobile phones to surf the Internet. 4G standard set out to provide higher speed, higher data, higher capacity and higher bandwidth than that of 3G.
    • 4G standard uses Orthogonal FDMA, interleaved FDMA and Multicarrier CDMA for distributing available bandwidth
    • In this standard a new antenna system was introduced which consists of two branches: Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO), Multiuser MIMO. This antenna system increases the data rate and mitigates interference.
    • A 4G standard mobile network should provide 275Mbit/s in download link and 75Mbit/s in upload link. We are all witnesses that these data speeds are not being provided by 4G mobile network services and we also face a fluctuation of data speed in 4G.

Welcome the newcomer: 5G network

Even in 2020, many places around the globe have service problems with 4G standard like, fluctuation in data speed, low data speed etc. With these problems yet to solve with 4G network, why shift our focus to 5G network?

5G standard is promising to solve all the problems present in 4G standard and it is a standard not only for cell-to-cell communication, it also supports device-to-device communication i.e. IOT (Internet Of Things).

While continuing to operate in spectrums of 4G, 5G network is also expanding its spectrum ranging from 3GHz to sub-6 GHz. It is also using millimetre waves or mmWaves of frequency above 24GHz. The use of mmWaves in 5G ushers in better and faster connectivity in mobile networks.

mmWaves were considered as unsuitable frequencies for mobile networks because they travel very less distances and can be easily blocked. To overcome this problem, beamforming is applied i.e. arrays of antennas in a cell tower concentrate all radio waves to extend the range of mmWaves. 5G uses Massive MIMO for distributing available bandwidth. It has very less latency periods when compared to 4G. 5G also promises to consume less battery while providing wide range of services.

According to ITU’s IMT-2020, a 5G mobile network should provide 20Gbit/s in download link and 10Gbit/s in upload link. 5G NR (5G New Radio) is the global 5G standard specified by ITU. For making 5G network standard accessible to every user, mobile networks need to make a lot of changes to existing cell towers and establish new cell towers if necessary.

Do you need to change your mobile phone to use 5G standard?

Yes, you need to buy a mobile phone that supports 5G network standard mobile technology. Generations of mobile technology are backward compatible i.e. 5G mobile phones can support 4G mobile services, but 4G mobile phones do not support 5G mobile services.

Many major mobile phone companies like Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Redmi etc. are preparing to launch their first 5G network standard mobile phones in 2020.

Is 5G network safe?

Safety of 5G standard was questioned under the guidelines of 1998 International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) that it may give EMF exposure, but these guidelines have been updated in March 2020 and the president of GSMA assured that 5G network does not pose any threat to human life.

South Korea, China and United States of America are leading the world in adopting 5G standard with most of the population changing their mobile services from 4G to 5G network standard. In India, Jio mobile service has recently announced they are adopting to 5G network standard. As Jio has large number of subscribers in India, India’s mobile technology will also become a 5G network.

Conclusion:

Generations of mobile communication have come a long way, starting from use of mobile phone only for voice calls to use of mobile phones to control your home devices. 5G network standard is the mobile communication technology is going to provide high quality voice calls, tremendous data speed, unbelievable low latency and a new user experience by introducing IOT into commoner’s life.

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