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Overview of the 5G Network

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From the very first generation of the wireless communication networks, the unprecedented evolution from 1G onwards has had an immense impact on our daily lives. This exponential development in the wireless spectrum has transcended our insights (Gul et al., 2016). According to Ott, Himayat and Shipla (2016), Intel’s mission for this decade was “to create and extend computing technology to connect and enrich the lives of every person on earth”. Experts claim that the breakthrough of 4G from 3G emerged earlier than anticipated- prompted by the increasing usage of the Internet, social-media and smart devices. Moreover, the demand for higher quality video was also a driving factor for this advancement (Gul et al., 2016). Similarly, the enhancement of complex digital devices in people’s daily lives requires telecommunications networks and infrastructure that meet these standards, so our digital world must have a fifth generation (5G) network.

This report explores the 5G network as a whole while providing special emphasis on the wave analysis as well as benefits and repercussions when enforced in the real world. Additionally, it also magnifies on future trends and presents feasible recommendations for the implementation of this technology.

Fundamentals of Waves

Before traversing over definitions, a simple concept must be acknowledged. Waves are a flow of energy. They may be perceived as a rope which is being hauled up and down continuously, or such as a coil spring motioning back and forth. Two of the main types of waves include longitudinal and transverse waves. This report, however, will analyze the class of waves, namely electromagnetic (EM) waves under transverse waves. Particles in a transverse wave vibrate at a perpendicular angle to the direction of the wave. All waves under the EM spectrum are transverse waves (Arnold, Johnson and Woolley, 2017).

The EM spectrum consists of seven principal waves under which radio waves, microwaves and infrared radiation are employed for communicative purposes on a frequent note. The premature generations of cellular networks functioned on the basis of radio waves. These waves are at the lowest sector of EM waves and are prospectively harmless to humans. The 5G technology, however, is equipped with transferring data packets over high frequency millimeter waves (mmWaves).

MmWaves are a band of spectrum between 30 GHz and 300GHz, residing between microwaves and infrared waves (Tracy, 2016). Their frequency, and increased propagations, means that a multitude of data packets- units of data, can be transferred per unit of time. This facet enables it to meet contemporary standards of high access to technology and data transmission demands, such as video streaming services including high-definition video transfer and data intensive tasks. The frequency and wavelength of a wave are inversely proportional (The Physics Classroom, no date). Therefore, despite the excellent cellular connections, mmWaves are limited to a range of around 500 ft. Additionally, they are also associated with vulnerabilities hindering humidity, rain, fog or other unfavorable atmospheric conditions (Tracy, 2016). Hence, mmWaves are more suited for shorter range applications with high transmission demands (Zhang, 2015).

5G: An Overview

5G is a global, wireless standard that contains flexibility and bandwidth for a wide range of users, protocols, services and applications (Holtmanns et al., 2019). The 5G network revolution was initially adapted and invested in, by companies such as Ericsson, Nokia and Qualcomm (Carpenter, 2020) and towards the end of 2019, approximately 5% of the global population received 5G coverage. Having confronted the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the increment of this value is expected to sequence steadily. Nevertheless, the deployment of the 5G spectrum is anticipated to undergo the fastest mode of mobile communication technology in history (Ericsson, no date).

A unique feature of this technology is its operation over millimeter waves. With the increasing use of digital devices, providing connections with the same radio-frequency spectrum for generations results in less band-with and slower service rates. The 5G spectrum employs a higher frequency than the radio waves. These millimeter waves are transmitted at frequencies between 30 and 300 gigahertz and therefore are given their name as their wavelength varies from 1 to 10mm (Nordrum and Clark, 2017). With this in mind, 5G is able to facilitate a:

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  1. High-speed data and transfer rate;
  2. Low latency;
  3. High connectivity and capacity;
  4. High bandwidth and durability per area (Li, 2019).

With regard to transmission speeds, 5G provides a data transmission rate of up to 10 Gbps (Thales, 2020). This is nearly a 10 – 100-fold improvement over 4G and 4G LTE. In addition, the latency of 5G amounts up to approximately 1 milli second- equivalent to a null data response period in the real world (Li, 2019). On the other hand, this rate for 4G was around 250 milliseconds (Thales, 2020).

Applying and Establishing 5G

Having become a market reality for networks on a global scale, the introduction of 5G roles out to not only advance mobile network communications but also facilitates the use of other technologies such as cloud computing, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), bulk data transferring and Internet of things (IoT), under which smart cities, autonomous vehicles and eHealth (IEEE Future Networks, 2018) are classified (IOTSWC, 2019). Depending on connection circumstances, 5G transmission rates can also reach a potential speed on 15 to 20 Gbps. This expeditious feature augments the use of the cloud on a frequent note. Hence, devices will exhibit less dependance on their internal storage such as being able to download and execute applications from the cloud rather than their local storage. The IoT contains a relatively small number of devices on a single network. According to Meng et al., 2019, on-going research proves the possibility of utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to provide wider coverage for devices residing within the IoT network. These UAVs will consist features of massive multiple input multiple output (MIMO) technology, beamforming, mmWave frequency bands, minute dense networks, line of sight connections (LoS), as well as mobile base stations (BS). These continuously navigating BSs will reach the area of highest coverage to high efficiency and low latency. The benefits of the enactment of 5G UAV-BSs will further be discussed in the latter sectors of this report.

Benefits and Drawbacks of 5G

The exploitation of higher frequency mmWaves directly paves the path for towering transmission rates. It functions as one of the basic and immediate benefits of the 5G spectrum (IOTSWC, 2019) with a rate of 10Gbps while at extremely low latency (Commscope, 2020). This means that a relatively large file, i, e. a film, that may take approximately 8 minutes under a 4G network will consume time period lower than 5 seconds under a 5G connection (Sound and Vision, 2016). Reduced latency that endorses with 5G drives the possibility of human operation being the only limiting factor to devices operating on the network. This attribute is guaranteed to ameliorate the seamless and immersive experiences created by AR and VR. Furthermore, the intensified capacity constitutes to be 1000 times larger than that in 4G and 4G LTE (Intel, no date). The one such produce of this characteristic includes crucial maturation of Massive IoT, as the network non-disruptively connects an extensive amount of sensors while simultaneously maintaining lower costs and power consumption rates (Qualcomm, 2020).

On the other hand, it is of paramount importance to explore the downsides of the seemingly popular network. Despite having very high transmission rates, capacity and low latency, as mentioned previously, this generation of cellular network technology operates at much higher frequencies than previous generations – around 28 and 39 GHz (Verizon, 2019a). This, in-turn, imposes restrictions on the range of connectivity. In other words, as the frequency of a wave increases, the wave-length decreases causing the transmission range to reduce simultaneously. Physical barriers or any other obtrusions such as buildings, monuments, trees or walls could further block, derange or absorb these signals (ECN, no date). A depletion of network range will require elevated quantities of 5G nodes with a minimum separating distance of at least 500ft (Vertical Consultants, 2018). Eventually, the expenditure of installing an efficient cellular network will summit- placing the burden on the local taxpayer. According to Oughton and Frias (2018), for example, the conjectured initiation costs of 5G in the UK mounted up to a sum of ₤2.5 bn per annum over the course of 5 years.

Another repercussion involves public discomposure concerning the potential health issues associated with EM waves from 5G network base stations (Koh et al., 2020). For example, the protests in Korea: the first ever country to adapt to 5G for cellular transmission (Deutsche Welle, 2019), have delayed the construction of base stations. Evidently, this repulsion may also prompt a lag in the 5G deployment. Increments in unemployment levels are also implicit reverberations of executing this network as manual labor may substantially be reinstated by sophisticated technology (Deutsche Welle, 2019).

Future Trends and Recommendations

Newer methodologies and infrastructure must be recognized to facilitate the complete enactment of 5G. According to Nordrum and Clark (2017), portable miniature base stations with reduced power consumption rates may efficiently accommodate strong signals if placed within every about 250 m in cities. Additionally, it is recommended that the implementation of 5G UAV-BSs, as discussed previously, will ease signal transmission over high frequency waves. The proficiency of recruiting the massive MIMO technology becomes schematic with its association alongside beam forming. Beamforming will aim signals at a concentrated direction thereby reinforcing the strength of the transmitted wave to prevent distortion. Modern targets are acquainted with focusing the beam only towards devices requesting data. The dilemma on interference will therefore be minimized for massive MIMO technology as cellular signals can be directed at a limited number of required destinations with multiplied signal strength. Moreover, LoS connections will also reduce the occurrences of packet losses (Darsena, Gelli and Verde, 2020).

Conclusion

As the priorities of different generations of networks change, so does the methods in which they are fulfilled. For instance, the introduction of wireless voice communication in 1G was enhanced by the addition of encryption into this technology in 2G to safeguard security and privacy (Ahmad, Suomalainen and Huusko, 2019). Despite the primary principal revolving around the transmission of audio, various attributes are included to facilitate the execution of this mechanism over time. Similarly, 5G is an extensive development for the cellular network. The use of mmWaves to increase transmission speeds drastically and reduce latency rates will be extremely beneficial to our digital world by enhancing the development of AR, VR and IoT technologies. Repercussions of this spectrum in terms of expenditure and signal ranges can be tolerated if implemented in the correct methodologies as discussed above. This may pave the way to ensure that not one, but every universal citizen has access to this auspicious advancement. By doing so, we will be able to bring what was once a fantasy in the 20th century to a fact in the 21st century.

References

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Overview of the 5G Network. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/overview-of-the-5g-network/
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