4G versus 5G
To begin with, 4G and 5G don’t actually stand for any specific definition of capabilities – they merely stand for 4th Generation and 5th Generation wireless technology. They do, however, require that certain standards be met to use the branding.
4G is actually a combination of two standards, with LTE Advanced being the primary standard followed. An upgrade of the LTE standards bumped the data speeds from a peak upload of 50 Mbit/s and a peak download speed of 100 Mbit/s up to a peak upload of 500 mbps and a peak download of 1000 mbps.
The 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), a group that has overseen cellular communications standards since the third generation of wireless and put forth the LTE and LTE Advanced standards, has already established specifics for potential 5G technology. Among these are latency under one millisecond, the capability of delivering a 1 Gbps downlink to start and multi-gigabit downlink in the future, and improved energy efficiency to improve battery life and reduce power drain across the grid.
The Aim of 5G
5G aims to improve integration of technology and the Internet of Things, as highlighted by Ericsson’s CEO, Hans Vestberg. This means having localized networks that are service-aware, and can prioritize situation and connection based on the urgency of a device – changing latency and connection speed to meet specific needs.
As mentioned above, improving the efficiency is a major aim as well, as data communication uses a great deal of power. Being able to reduce pings when data is not necessary, or increase them at peak usage, can make new technology only use large amounts of power when necessary. This reduces the hassle on consumers of constant recharging, and can reduce the cost of use over the life of a device.
Also, 5G systems will tend to be much more localized than the current 4G systems. This means that instead of the hulking wireless towers you see, or the towers disguised as “Frankentrees” in order to make them “blend” into the background for 3G and 4G systems, the 5G systems will consist of many more “mini-cells”, some of which could be the size of a current at-home router and located at various points around the neighborhood or countryside. This will greatly increase the coverage, and reduce the unsightly presence of large scale cellular installations. Also, it will increase amount of data that a system as a whole will handle by paring down the amount that each individual point will need to handle.
Once fully implemented, it is likely that true 5G systems could replace hardwired telephony, hardwired cable TV, and hardwired internet service. AT&T, for instance, is exploring the potential to use 5G systems to replace all of its DSL services, allowing them to offer a complete package of TV service, 5G internet, wireless, and home phone services. 5G implementation would also allow carriers to offer “true” unlimited data plans to their home customers.
Potential Timeline and Problems Facing 5G
Still in its trial period, 5G wireless certainly appears to be a few years off. Even optimists are expecting that initial specs will be completed by late 2018, with Phase 2 specs completed in 2020. That being said, AT&T has made the bold move of announcing rollout of 5G technology in Austin and Indianapolis by the end of 2017.
What this means for tech companies and consumers is the potential for better communication and automation. Of course, the big hurdle that 5G faces is adoption – the cost to upgrade will be substantial at the beginning and, if it is anything like 4G, the time from inception to commercial use could be 5-6 years.
Design Challenges For 5G Base Stations And The Future
Because the base station systems will be shrunken in size and spread around in higher numbers, in addition to operating in a broader spectrum of high and low frequencies, there are numerous challenges for the enclosure design engineer to overcome. Many, if not most, of the systems will be located outdoors, and must provide robust moisture sealing and EMI shielding in a small package. Because of their proliferation, the systems must provide performance with low maintenance and low cost. These requirements make these systems ideal applications for our Ultra-Vanshield and Microbridge shielding gaskets.
We’re excited to continue our involvement in the telecommunications industry in the “5G future” with our unique capabilities, and look forward to expanding our work with them in the future.