New mobile standard: 5G should make both data-hungry consumers and companies happy. But it’s about more than bandwidth. The networks have to be adapted to new tasks.
First of all, with the envisaged enormous transmission bandwidth of theoretically 10 gigabits per second (GBit / s). That’s 10,000 megabits per second (Mbps). In current LTE networks, theoretical 300 Mbps are the highest of emotions, and many smartphone users surf in fares with a maximum of 50 Mbps.
But you should not have exaggerated expectations for the 5G data rates – especially in the initial phase. “10 GBit / s will come,” says Professor Slamowir Stanczak, head of the wireless communication and networks department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications (Heinrich-Hertz-Institut, HHI), which is showing its research and development work around 5G at the trade fair ,”But not everywhere and not for everyone.” The achievable rates in a radio cell must continue to be shared among all users who are in it.
5G is intended to shorten the duration of the signals
For many applications anyway much more important: 5G is to shorten the duration of the signals in the network compared to LTE up to a factor of 40. The signal delay (latency) is then ideally only one millisecond or less.
This means drastically shortened, human-perceived response times for Internet-driven applications. And not only online gamers are interested in this.
“The network operators currently do their business mainly with high data rates,” explains Professor Stanczak. “But the industry needs low latency, high reliability, high security and high availability.”
5G aims to be the solution and make happy data-hungry consumers as well as companies interested in real-time control and control of their networked machines and vehicles.
Benefits for the Internet of Things
“Massive benefits for the Internet of Things” sees Phil Twist, Head of Communications of Nokia’s Mobile Networks division, also in the upcoming 5G networks. “They offer 1000 times more capacity to network things,” Twist draws the comparison to LTE.
That is necessary too. In the future, 5G will not only be required by the Internet of Things through countless connected wearables: cars should communicate in real time. And virtual (VR) or augmented reality (AR) is also becoming mobile – for example, for service technicians who are given instructions or plans in data glasses, for any delay-free human-machine interactions, such as remote-controlled robots, or interactive 360-degree live broadcasts on VR glasses of spectators at events.
The first version of a 5G standard was approved by the responsible Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) at the end of December 2017. On this basis, many companies have already developed the first 5G chips for smartphones , radio cells or routers as well as matching devices, network equipment and antenna technology, which they brought to the fair.
Number of antennas is increased
But how can higher data rates and shorter response times be technically achieved? Stanczak explains that there are three directions of development: the number of antennas is being drastically increased, so that in some cases there are more antennas than users in one cell. Such antenna systems are referred to as Massive MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output).
“But even the average number of users in a cell will change,” says the Fraunhofer researcher. “Because there is a move towards denser networks, which means the average distance between base stations will be much smaller than LTE.”
And since the frequency spectrum currently used ranges from 0.8 to 2.6 gigahertz (GHz), higher frequencies need to be used for data transmission to achieve more bandwidth, Stanczak said. “That’s the range between 6 and 300 GHz, this is called millimeter-wave technology.”
In order for the signal delays to remain in the millisecond range, mobile networks must also be organized in a more decentralized manner. This means that certain data from a radio cell need not be widely sent for specific applications, but must be filtered or processed directly in the associated base station. This is done by computer modules with which the stations are equipped.
Mobile Edge Computing important for autonomous driving
Mobile-edge computing, for example, could be used in traffic in the future: “Trucks that drive independently in a network in an association may need extremely short latencies for networking with high reliability,” explains Stanczak.
“When the vehicle is networked, the vehicle sees more, it can even look to the future – and prevent or avoid accidents before they happen,” says network information theorist Stanczak, summarizing the benefits of 5G networking and edge computing.
The 5G networks can also take into account that not everything is equally important, not all the same bandwidth needs or not everything can be addressed equally fast. 5G networks and resources can be categorized and distributed using software: “Network slicing generates the capacity that is needed right now,” says Phil Twist.
The one subnet then has a particularly large bandwidth for streaming videos, the other is particularly responsive and could be used for networking cars. But network slicing works only in 5G networks, 4G networks do not offer such possibilities, explains Twist.
LTE is not exhausted yet
Nokia is currently testing a 5G network in the Port of Hamburg with applications such as traffic light controls, real-time transmission of environmental data or virtual reality monitoring of locks or construction sites. There is a separate, virtual network (Network Slice) for each application, which should increase security, reliability and adaptability.
The super net will not be there overnight, but slowly evolve. Because still LTE is not exhausted. “4G gives you gigabit speed,” says Twist. “The specification is always evolving.” This intermediate step on the way to 5G is often referred to as 4.5G.
Also with this bridge technology MIMO antenna systems already play an important role. “4G will remain the mainstream mobile network for the next five years,” predicts Twist. The first 5G islands would first emerge from 2020 onwards for specific applications and then continue to grow.