5G Networks are "Completely Different"
Fifth-generation mobile networks are coming, but even the nomenclature underplays the magnitude of the shift. The shift from first generation to second generation was the shift from analog to digital.
The change from second generation to third generation was about data capacity and potential new apps. The move to fourth generation was about speed.
“5G is completely different,” said Australian consultant and former regulator Bob Horton. “5G is a convergence of mobile, Internet and Internet of Things,” Horton said at the Spectrum Futures conference.
In fact, the notion that 5G primarily is about “speed, throughput and mobile broadband” is a bit of a myth, said Reza Arefi, In tel director of spectrum strategy. In fact, 5G also is about applications and especially low-latency applications.
“An autonomous vehicle can generate a gigabyte of data each second,” said Arefi. Some of that processing is required because a vehicle has to detect and respond quickly to obstacles, traffic lights and the presence of pedestrians.
5G also is proving to be the impetus for an unprecedented expansion of bandwidth available for communications purposes. In addition to use of spectrum below 6 GHz, 5G is going to use spectrum at 28 GHz, 34 GHz, 37 GHz, 38 GHz and 60 GHz, said Arefi.
One way of comparing the amount of bandwidth is to note that today’s 4G Long Term Evolution services use 20-MHz channels (sometimes less). At 28 GHz, channels will be 100 MHz wide, and it will be possible to aggregate as many as eight such channels, implying the possibility of 800-MHz channels.
What that means is much higher bandwidth, as bandwidth efficiency varies directly with the amount of spectrum available and the amount of contiguous spectrum. As much as 90 percent of all potentially usable communications spectrum lies in the millimeter wave regions between 3 GHz and 300 GHz.
In fact, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission already has said it will authorize new communications spectrum representing 29 GHz of additional capacity. Keep in mind that all presently-available mobile and Wi-Fi spectrum totals less than 1 GHz of capacity.