5G Network: Overcoming Challenges to Achieve ‘Real’ 5G Deployment
The latest 5G technology is expected to bring the biggest surge of technological advancements and open doors to new achievements in the telecom sector. It’s our ability to cost-effectively connect with many Internet of Things (IoT)-type devices using the 5G network along with lower latency and faster data speeds that would define how effectively we can utilize these opportunities to their fullest. With everything starting from autonomous vehicles, industrial machinery and home appliances potentially connecting to one central network connection, the need to deliver top performance and service reliability has increased exponentially. There is a need to address key transport and fibre-optic infrastructure challenges before deploying this technology and moving towards a future of smarter cities.
As per research by Ovum, 5G should start taking off in earnest by 2020. By 2023, 5G is forecasted to account for nearly 15% of global subscriptions (excluding IoT), accounting for 1.31 billion subscribers, globally. China, South Korea, and Japan, as well as North America, are leading the 5G race; Europe follows close behind, while the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa are lagging for now.
In India as well, the telecommunication department allowed leading telecom service providers to start trials with 5G technology network and work towards its applications.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been rapidly developing and expanding over the past decade. One factor the continues to limit its expansion is the bandwidth. Our regular cellular networks have a good range but limited bandwidth whereas wi-fi has good bandwidth but limited range. with 5G coming into the picture the cellular bandwidth is expected to increase in multi-folds helping IoT to network a large number of devices together. That’s precisely where you would need IoT testing services to swoop in and ensure they conduct end to end interoperability testing for all your IoT enabled devices.
Why Transit from 4G to 5G Network Anyway??
Talking about the latest transition we had from 3G to 4G, it was more of an evolutionary change. With just one gear shift, almost every stakeholder to 4G could derive the benefits because the required specification was very similar. The transition from 4G to 5G on the other hand is more of a fundamental/revolutionary change. 5G designs have to weave in five brand new technologies that claim to be the foundation of 5G:
- Millimetre waves
- Small cells
- Massive MIMO
Reduced Bandwidth? Millimetre Waves to Rescue
The topmost issue network providers are facing today is the fact that more people and devices are consuming more data than ever which is cramming the same bands of radio frequency spectrums that mobile providers have always used resulting in more and more dropped connections.
Hence, network providers have been experimenting with millimetre waves that use higher frequencies than radio waves. Millimetre waves broadcast at frequencies between 30 and 300 gigahertz, much higher than those used for mobile devices that were below 6 GHz.
But this technology comes with its own set of drawbacks. Two of the most basic ones include:
- They cannot travel easily through building and obstacles
- They can be absorbed by foliage and rain
That’s where small cells come into the picture.
Overcome Network Obstacles with Small Cells
Small cells are portable mini base stations that require less power to operate and can be placed after every 250 meters throughout the locality and create a dense network that prevents signals from dropping. It will act as a relay team, by receiving signals from the base station and delivering data to the user at any location.
Multiple stations mean the frequencies one station uses to connect with devices in one area can be easily reused in another area to serve a different customer.
The only issue here is the inability to set up such a grant 5G network infrastructure in rural areas. The base stations will have many more antennas compared to our regular base stations that can utilise a new technology: massive MIMO.
Increase 5G Network Capacity by Massive MIMO
The base stations operating 4G networks we handle today have a dozen ports for antennas that can handle cellular traffics, which includes a weight for transmitters and 4 for receivers. 5G base stations on the other hand can support about a hundred such ports in a single array that can increase the capacity of mobile networks by a factor of 22 or more. This latest technology is called massive MIMO.
MIMO here stands for multiple-input multiple-output technologies. It’s the wireless systems that use more than two transmitters and receivers to send and receive data at one go. Massive MIMO on the other hand is merely an advanced version of the same concept.
The challenge here is that fact that too many antennas clustered around one area can cause interference if their signal intersects with each other. To avoid such chaos 5G network station incorporate beamforming.
Avoid Signal Interference by Beamforming
Beamforming can be understood with the famously used GPS tracking system that shows the shortest route from point A to point B. it’s more like a traffic signalling system for cellular base stations that defines the most efficient data transfer route for a particular user and reduces interference for other users in the process.
Beamforming helps massive MIMO arrays better utilise the spectrum around them. The most basic challenge faced by massive MIMO is to reduce interference while transmitting information from multiple antennas at once. There are signal processing algorithms strategically plotted to the base stations that direct the best transmission route for the data. These data can be efficiently bounced off the buildings and other objects allowing users and antennas on a massive MIMO array to exchange much more information at once.
Wireless engineers have been constantly trying to deliver high throughput and low latency essentially required for 5G through the duplex, which works towards modifying the way antennas deliver and receive data.
Race Towards Smarter Cities 5G Networks
5G networks are expected to have a wide-reaching impact across a range of applications, devices, technologies, etc. Reasons, why we do need to prepare the world for a 5G network, are worth admitting. The above list is not exhaustive but covers a majority of challenges that cities/network providers may have to face before 5G becomes a reality for all across the world.
5G has made the latest move for mobile network technologies. This along with IoT is expected to be a game-changer in the coming years to come that’s all set to transform the world into smart cities.
The most essential part of this 5G revolution is the level of automation that can be achieved in the process that has become a necessity. This means there’s a need to make the radio and core networks more dynamic than the fixed and static architectures of the past and would mostly depend on artificial intelligence and predictive analysis. Engineers today are overwhelmed by data and with the coming in of 5G networks, the situation would only deteriorate. This means there would be a sudden demand for the latest tools to analyse the data and fix abnormalities at the earliest. Additionally, this would enable the engineers to have a deeper insight into probable network service issues and enable them to take preventive measure towards them accordingly. Network testing solution providers or broadly software testing companies will have a major role to play in this entire 5G implementation and automation of the 5G services that would ensure ultra-low latency, ultra-reliability and massive connectivity to the world.