Today’s mobile users have great expectations on higher data rates as well as more reliable and uninterruptible service. The wireless mobile networks which had been evolved from analog systems to present digital systems through GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) and 3G had reached the milestone of delivering the data rate of 100 Mbps to the subscriber through the LTE (Long-term Evolution) technology which is termed as 4thGeneration (4G). The evolution of technology had not stagnated at the above said milestone, but it goes further forward creating the next generation, 5G. 5G promises to deliver ultra-high data rates even superseding 4G with highly improved service parameters including the most important network reliability to reach the expectations of customers. With 5G network, users will be able to download a high definition movie in less than a second (a task that could take about 10 minutes on 4G LTE network). Further it is believed that these networks will boost the room for development of other new technologies namely, autonomous vehicles, virtual reality and the Internet of Things (IoT) etc.. At this point, it would be interesting to discuss the history and evolution of various telecommunication technologies to a certain extent with the novel solutions that new technologies are capable in delivering to mankind in overcoming the barriers they face in the life to uplift the quality of living. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell made the first ever telephone call laying the foundation stone for a powerful communication mechanism. The first wireless communication system was built in 1894 using radio waves by an Italian inventor named Guglielmo Marconi.
Wireless communications have existed for over a century, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s and early 1980s that they became a commercially viable consumer service. In the 1980’s, the cellular networks were established marking the first generation (1G) of mobile communications. 1G was purely analog & designed to carry voice alone. There were no value-added services (VAS) namely SMS, MMS, or Internet services bundled with voice in the first generation.
In the early 90’s,with a transition from analog to digital, where networks transports data via digital signal, the second generation (2G) systems were established in the market. 2G was capable of bundling SMS and MMS services realizing the beauty of digital systems to thepublic. 2G systems offered up to 64 Kbps of data rate for each subscriber.
2.5G was a technology between 2G and 3G using 2G system frameworks, introducing packet switching for data communication along with the traditional circuit switching for voice services. 2.5G could deliver a data rate up to 144 kbps for each subscriber. The main services enabled with this stage of evolution were General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), Enhanced Data Rate for GSM Evolution (EDGE), and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA).
By early 2000’s, using the features developed on the handsets at that time, several facilities were introduced using the third generation (3G) of the evolution. Accessing to the e-mails and surfing of internet on the mobile phone were major facilities introduced to the lifestyles powered by the comparatively high data rates enabled through 3G. It offered significantly improved uplink and downlink speeds ranging between 200 Kbps up to 3 Mbps.
With the launching of 4G services, it was an advanced technology with higher data rates. 4G consists of a complete and reliable solution based on IP. Services like voice, data and multimedia are easily accessible to subscribers with a seamless experience because of the inherent ability of 4G technology to deliver very high data rates in the scale of multiple Mbps per subscriber.
As the Internet of Things and cloud based solutions are becoming more popular, it is expected that mobile and wireless traffic volume will increase by thousand times over the next decade. The 4G networks will not be sufficient to cater the massive number of connected devices with demanded low latency values maintaining a significant spectral efficiency in the subscriber access network.
These situations urge the need to shift towards a new technology, addressing the challenges that are not effectively addressed by the existing mobile networks. Here’s where 5G becomes significant which addresses the requirements of higher data rate, lower end-to-end latency, higher capacity to handle massive number of device connectivity with uncompromised reliability and consistent Quality of Experience at a reduced cost.
Future networks demand “Everything on Mobile”. Considering connectivity of embedded devices, the numbers of devices on a network generating traffic could rise exponentially. A 5G network is expected to provide up to a million connections per square kilometer.
Latency is the round-trip delay experienced by the user while using the mobile device. Compared to 3G technology, the latency reduced tremendously in 4G. Even then, the delay is still too high for many real time applications. The aim with 5G is to reduce latency to less than 1mS.
Fast Data Throughput
The throughput of a 4G network is 10 times higher than that of a 3G network. Upcoming networks are designed to provide advanced services such as virtual and Augmented Reality, Ultra High Definition video conferencing and fast access cloud based services over mobile. This demands a system with high throughput.
As the future networks include sensors and meters requiring a battery life of up to 10 years, 5G network infrastructure and devices will also need to be immensely energy efficient.
5G will need to be flexible enough to efficiently handle a wide range of devices ranging from very simple ones that send only small, rare bursts of data to advanced ones that send large amounts of data at a rapid rate.
Optical fiber will necessarily be the backbone of the networks that support 5G. The majority of the data consumption may take place on a wireless device, but wireline broadband access supports up to 90% of all internet traffic. Access Engineering has contributed for fiber network development of Dialog Axiata Group by constructing over 2,000 km of optical fiber routes in the country over last decade, connecting more than 500 base station locations which is nearly 50% of the total fiber connected locations of Dialog Axiata Group. In the last year Dialog Axiata PLC had announced the commissioning of South Asia’s first 5G pilot transmission project using commercial grade base stations and end user devices.
Most of the telecommunications operators around the world plan to commission their commercial 5G networks in the early 2020s. Right now, leading telecommunication operators in Sri Lanka have done their initial trials & demonstrations so that we can expect 5G networks mainly in city areas covering a considerable footprint in very near future.