All You Need to Know About 5G

5G Technology Development and Future Applications

Joshua Yeung
Jan 23 · 10 min read
Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels

In this series All You Need to Know About 5G, I am going to introduce you to the development of the new generation of mobile communication technology — 5G, the fifth-generation wireless technology including the motivation of 5G and the usage scenarios, 5G network architecture, key technologies of new air interface, transmission networks, and finally to explain to you a key technology of 5G: network slicing technology. I hope you have a preliminary understanding of 5G through this series.

Introduction

We all know that humans’ pursuit of technology is endless. When the development of 4G is in the ascendant, 5G has become the focus and hot spot of the industry. The rapid advancement of 5G will profoundly change our society. To meet the mobile communication users’ vision of the future life of various industries, the data volume of mobile communication will show explosive growth. 5G networks will use a series of new key technologies to realize the interconnection of all things. 5G will penetrate all fields and industries of the future society, and build a comprehensive information ecosystem centered on users. We can say that 4G has changed lives, and 5G will change society.

5G Driving Force and Usage Scenarios

Let me introduce you to the 5G driving force and the main usage scenarios. First, I will take you back to the development history of mobile communications, and then take a look at the development of 4G’s LTE network. Finally, I will tell you about the main usage scenarios and typical applications of 5G.

The Evolution of Mobile Communications

1G mobile phone
1G mobile phone
1G mobile phone

1G

Let me take you back to the entire history of our mobile communications. Everyone may know that mobile communication will be upgraded every 10 years. From the 1G era in the 1980s to the 4G network that we are now actively commercializing, it can be said that communication technology will undergo a relatively large change every ten years. The most typical terminal in the 1G era is this brick machine, which is very bulky. Although it is bulky, it is also the first time that wireless communication has been made possible, and people’s communication has crossed geographical restrictions.

Nokia 3310
Nokia 3310
Nokia 3310

2G

In the emergence of feature phones in the 2G era, many of you may have used it. This is the most typical type of mobile phone with a very small screen and a black and white screen. This kind of mobile phone realized a roaming and a low-speed data service. The most typical applications were the emergence of short messages and short multimedia messages.

Evolution of mobile phones, to an early smartphone
Evolution of mobile phones, to an early smartphone

3G

In the 3G era in 2000, smartphones appeared. In this era, the network speed was greatly improved. Various applications have begun to appear, including some video calls and some simple online games. Although the network speed was not very fast, the data traffic has been greatly improved.

Smartphone
Smartphone
Smartphone, Photo by Rahul Chakraborty on Unsplash

4G

By 2010, the 4G network we are currently commercializing, that is, the LTE network was established. At that time, the smartphone also got a very large development, and an advanced smartphone with a relatively large screen appeared. The various applications (now called APPs) has developed vigorously, and mobile Internet access has gained great popularity. Mobile phone Internet users account for about 90% of the entire Internet users. Let me give you a more typical example: When we go out now, we can solve all things with only one mobile phone, including mobile payment, reservations. The vigorous development of 4G networks, including the emergence of such intelligent devices, has led to a very large reform of social informatization.

Mobile payment
Mobile payment
Mobile Payment, Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Why We Need 5G?

So many people will ask, we have developed so well from 1G to 4G network, and then there are so many mobile applications, and the use situation is relatively good. In this case, why do we need to carry out a 5G network including network design and network construction? You can notice that when I talked about from 1G to 4G, we are more concerned about the communication between people and the exchange of information between people. But when it comes to 5G, we are focusing on a new scenario, which is the interconnection between people and things, and between things, and our goal is to achieve a fully connected world. The devices will also have a relatively large variety of changes. Not only various mobile phones, iPads, and various devices, there may be various bracelets, including various household appliances, may be used as terminal devices for 5G networks.

Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash

4G LTE: The Core Foundation of Mobile Internet Prosperity

The construction of the LTE network is the core foundation of the development of 5G. We have invested a lot of manpower and material resources to build 4G networks all over the world. The total number of mobile subscriptions was around 8 billion in Q3 2019, with 61 million subscriptions added during the quarter. The number of mobile broadband subscriptions grew 10 percent year-on-year, increasing by 120 million in Q3 2019. The number of 4G (LTE) subscriptions increased by 190 million during the quarter to reach a total of 4.2 billion. That is to say, the vigorous development of the LTE network has brought about the development of the entire information society. The mobile Internet has flourished, and various applications of APP have emerged at the historic moment.

The total number of mobile subscriptions was around 8 billion in Q3 2019
The total number of mobile subscriptions was around 8 billion in Q3 2019
Mobile subscriptions outlook, Ericsson Mobility Report 2019

New Usage Scenarios and Typical Applications of 5G

I just mentioned that the connection of things or the Internet of Things (IoT) is a very typical application in 5G. We can take a look at a few data. Between 2018 and 2024, the number of IoT connected devices is expected to grow 17% percent annually, of which cellular IoT is forecast to have the highest growth rate. Of the 34 billion total devices that will be connected by 2024, close to 22.3 billion will be IoT devices. The number of cellular IoT connections is expected to reach 4.1 billion in 2024 — increasing with a compound annual growth rate of 27 percent.

Of the 34 billion total devices that will be connected by 2024, close to 22.3 billion will be IoT devices.
Of the 34 billion total devices that will be connected by 2024, close to 22.3 billion will be IoT devices.
Special Edition — World Economic Forum, January 2019

We have also analyzed various industries, including transportation, industry, living, office, urban, health, and industry. The number of 5G connections in all industries will be a three to five-fold increase. This thriving physical connection creates a major historical opportunity for telecommunications operators to create this massive connection and achieve new growth. The Mobile Internet and the Internet of Everything have started the 5G era. The 4G era boomed the development of the mobile Internet. When it comes to 5G, we will see that mobile communication has become more than just a pipe, it may have become a service enabler. This in-depth integration with all walks of life, including agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, sideline, and fishing, will drive the development of new connections, new applications, new industries, all kinds of new, and provide a great opportunity for the development of that information industry in the whole society.

5G provides a great opportunity for the development of that information industry in the whole society
5G provides a great opportunity for the development of that information industry in the whole society
Photo by Andreas Brücker on Unsplash

Major Usage Scenarios of 5G

There are three major usage scenarios of 5G released by the ITU in 2015. They are Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications (URLLC), and Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC).

Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB)

Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) uses 5G as a progression from 4G LTE mobile broadband services, with faster connections, higher throughput, and more capacity. One application is the matching 4K / 8K ultra-high-definition video, and the other is AR / VR glasses. Maybe we are more familiar now. In many exhibitions, Technology exhibitions, and museums are now widely used AR / VR technology. Another is cloud games and naked eye 3D.

AR / VR used in museums
AR / VR used in museums
AR / VR used in museums, Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos on Unsplash

China’s IMT-2020 5G promotion group has further subdivided the eMBB scenario according to different use cases and divided them into two categories. The first category is continuous wide area coverage, and the second category is hotspot high capacity. The most typical technical indicators for each application scenario are introduced below.

Continuous wide area coverage application scenario is the most basic scenario of mobile communications, that is, a service that guarantees users to have a connection when they are moving. There are two most typical technical indicators for this application scenario. The first is the user experience rate, which is required to reach 100Mbps, and then the mobility reaches 500 kilometers per hour. This is mainly considering the scenario of high-speed rail.

Traffic rate can reach 100Mbps on a high-speed rail
Traffic rate can reach 100Mbps on a high-speed rail
Traffic rate can reach 100Mbps on a high-speed rail, Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Hotspot high capacity is mainly used in the most typical applications in some hotspot areas and office areas, including some stadiums with matches. When commuting on the subway, the area is very densely populated. The most typical technical indicator of this kind of scenario is that its user experience rate and peak rate are very high. The user experience rate can reach 1Gbps and the peak rate can reach 20Gbps. The traffic density is very large, which is required to reach 10 Tbps per square kilometer.

We can enjoy high-speed Internet even in crowd area like a stadium
We can enjoy high-speed Internet even in crowd area like a stadium
We can enjoy high-speed Internet even in crowd area like a stadium, Photo by Mitch Rosen on Unsplash

Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC)

Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications (URLLC) refer to using the network for mission-critical applications that require uninterrupted and robust data exchange. One of the technical indicators proposed by these two types of scenarios for the network is that the latency is very low, and it is required that the air interface latency (that is, the terminal-to-base station delay) can reach 1 millisecond. They both require very high reliability, achieving the reliability of five nines 99.999% when the downtime is less than 5.26 minutes per year.

Cars can communicate with each other in the future
Cars can communicate with each other in the future
Cars can communicate with each other in the future, Photo by Patricia Jekki on Unsplash

The most typical applications of URLLC are the connected vehicle, industrial control, and smart grid. The smart grid is a modern power transmission network. Many people think that the smart grid is just a monitoring device and wonder why it needs low-latency and ultra high-reliability. The reason is that the application of the smart grid mainly refers to the grid’s real-time power adjustment based on the real-time user’s reported power. Signals are used to detect and collect the power supply status at the supply end and the power use status at the user end. Then use this information to adjust the production and transmission of electricity, or adjust the power consumption of household appliances and business users, to achieve the purpose of saving energy, reducing losses and enhancing the reliability of the power grid.

The smart grid can adjust its power production in real-time
The smart grid can adjust its power production in real-time
The smart grid can adjust its power production in real-time, Photo by Mihály Köles on Unsplash

Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC)

Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC) would be used to connect to a large number of low power, low-cost devices, which have high scalability and increased battery lifetime, in a wide area, including some environmental monitoring, marine monitoring, and logistics monitoring.

Internet of Things
Internet of Things
Internet of Things, Image from jeferrb on Pixabay

Its number of connections is very large, requiring millions of connections per square kilometer. Besides, it requires low power consumption, such as sensors for environmental monitoring or forest monitoring. Once it is sprinkled into the forest, it cannot be recycled. Therefore, it is required that its battery can reach up to ten years of life without replacing the battery. Because its volume is very large, the cost must be very low. Standard technical specifications require that the chip can reach $1, and then the module can reach $5.

Everything at smart home can be connected
Everything at smart home can be connected
Everything at smart home can be connected, Photo by Stephan Bechert on Unsplash

The most typical applications of the mMTC include sensors, smart meter reading, environmental monitoring, smart homes, including our refrigerators and washing machines at home.

Conclusion

We glanced through the history of the development of mobile communications, people have connected thanks to mobile technology. In the 5G era, our goal is to achieve a fully connected world, people to people, people to things and things to things. We are interested in these three typical usage scenarios of 5G, namely eMBB, URLLC, and mMTC and will be excited to see how 5G will change our society. In the next article, I will show you how the 5G network architecture is designed so that it makes those three typical usage scenarios of 5G possible.


This series introduces 5G network knowledge, including 5G usage scenarios, network architecture, air interface key technologies, transmission network evolution, candidate spectrum, network slicing, etc. to help you understand 5G technology and business application scenarios.

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Joshua Yeung

Written by

Data Scientist in Telecom Industry

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