The 5th Generation of Mobile Wireless (Not to be confused with $5,000 Large)

Feb. 19, 2019

The 5th Generation of Mobile Wireless (5G) has been a hot topic of discussion for the past several years, and is likely about to be a hot economic topic and 5G trials and rollouts begin this year and next year. Most people are familiar with the upgrade from 3G to 4G, and appreciate the ability to better surf the web and use cloud-based apps and services from their smartphones that 4G enabled. The transition from 4G to 5G, however, is going to be an entirely different experience. Where 4G was largely an incremental improvement in technology and performance over 3G systems, 5G is planned and predicted to be a complete wireless and connectivity revolution.

The main goals for 5G is to provide a platform for connecting everyone, and everything, everywhere in the world. Also, the wireless performance capabilities of 5G systems are planned to offer data rates many times what 4G can provide, and do so using less energy, with greater coverage, presenting lower latency, providing for faster moving user equipment (UE), be more reliable, and allow for massive machine-type communications to fuel the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0. This includes the technology to support many other markets and industries with enhanced wireless connectivity, not just mobile wireless users, including automotive, augmented reality/virtual reality, machines, smart homes, and more. To do so, many countries, international standards organizations, and international industry consortiums have been discussing and debating the exact specifications and performance parameters of 5G for the past several years.

The finalized specifications were being planned to be released by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) at the International Mobile Telecommunications event in 2020 (IMT-2020). However, the market forces for mobile operators and service providers have encouraged these companies to accelerate their timetables, and in turn, encourage the specification and standardization bodies to shorten theirs. With 5G spectrum still being discussed and reorganized around the world, the upcoming early releases of 5G are taking a slightly different image that was previously predicated.

The non-standalone 5G new radio (NSA 5G NR) is the interim 5G specification, as part of the 3GPP Release 15, that will help bridge the gap between 4G and 5G. Mainly, NSA 5G NR provides the specifications for the sub-6 GHz spectrum, frequency bands, carrier aggregation (CA), and MIMO aspects of 5G, and provides for millimeter-wave (mmWave) 5G operation for enhanced throughput using an LTE control plane signal. The new 5G frequency bands and enhanced CA and MIMO specifications for NSA 5G NR are allowing for 5G-like performance while leveraging existing technologies and infrastructure. This interim specification will also provide the foundation for upcoming trials and deployments of early 5G systems, so that the technology, especially the mmWave technology, can be better understood for the full 5G specifications in 3GPP Release 16 and IMT-2020.

Interesting new business opportunities have emerged for early 5G, as handset and UE manufacturers are not likely to have smartphones and other UE with NSA 5G capabilities until the end of 2019. One of the most talked about, and available, new opportunities is fixed wireless services (FWS) to the home, which is the use of 5G wireless technologies to deliver last mile data services, including television, home internet, and voice-over-IP (VoIP) phone calling. As other opportunities are found from the increased data rate, lower latency, and enhanced reliability of 5G services, new uses for wireless connectivity will emerge.

All of the 5G trials, deployments, and product/service developments will require sourcing of RF and microwave components at a much faster rate and with greater accessibility and knowledgeable support than what telecommunications operators have had to contend with while sourcing in the past. Fortunately, Pasternack has a proven track record, and a substantial staff of RF product experts, ready to facilitate the transition to a more connected world.

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