What is 5G

Interesting facts about 5G

The development in mobile communications is advancing rapidly: while the network operators in Germany have recently invested significantly in the expansion of LTE mobile communications networks, the so-called fourth generation, the successor technology is being developed in parallel. The first tests of the fifth generation of mobile communications, 5G for short, are currently taking place. A first, globally uniform standard was adopted in December 2017, and the date for the auction of 5G frequencies in Germany is scheduled for the beginning of 2019.

The technical basics of 5G

The main difference between 5G and the predecessor networks LTE (4G) and UMTS (3G) will be that the number of mobile radio stations transmitting in an area will no longer depend as much on the population density in the 5G networks as has been the case up to now. What do you mean with that? The architecture of the network of the 5th generation of mobile communications depends heavily on the requirements of the users on site: whether in a commercial area a very broadband network with high data rates, on a traffic route a fast network with a focus on extremely short response times and high reliability or in a factory hall a network is set up that allows an extremely large number of devices and people to work with each other at the same time - this is decided by the users on site with their wishes. At the same time, the coverage requirements for frequency allocation must be taken into account when expanding the network. First of all, partial improvements of 5G, which are based on 4G, will probably spread across the board. 4G and 5G networks are operated jointly or in parallel, so that the expansion can take place in stages. This further development is based on existing trends, some of which have already become recognizable with LTE, so there will be no technological break.

Today's cellular networks consist of classic rooftop locations and free-standing masts that provide both the area coverage and the network capacity for a specific area. With 5G, there will not only be greater spatial deviations in the density of locations, but the locations will also differ visually and in terms of their performance more clearly than before. In addition to the roof locations that are still required, the small-cell network architecture in particular is being expanded. The large number of sometimes competing requirements means that there will be no uniform 5G network for everyone, but many individual, virtual special networks that will be tailored to the respective applications. These networks are operated under a kind of “5G roof”, that is, on the basis of a common physical infrastructure. Despite all the innovations, the existing locations will also form the basic framework for the 5G network. The existing locations will gradually be equipped with new technology, which will also include increased connections to the fiber optic network.

Application-specific networks

The technicians differentiate between three different areas of application in the 5G network: ultra-fast mobile broadband (Enhanced Mobile Broadband), communication between machines and applications (Massive Machine Type Communications, M2M;) and a high-reliability network with short response times (Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communications). There are different challenges and technical framework conditions for all three areas. The network of the future must be highly flexible in order to meet all requirements as far as possible. The 5G standard promises more throughput, capacity and, at the same time, lower operating costs. The direct connection of the mobile radio stations to the fiber optic network is gaining in importance with the 5th generation of mobile communications. In addition to the expansion of the mobile infrastructure, there will also have to be a further expansion of the fiber optic networks so that 5G can be fully used.

  • 5G for ultra-fast mobile broadband

In the last few years, mobile internet usage has increased significantly, from year to year the amount of data transmitted via mobile devices has grown by more than 50%. It is to be expected that usage will continue to increase significantly in the future. For the expected high volume of data, for example through high-resolution videos (4K or 8K videos), users need both high data rates and a high capacity of the mobile network. With data rates in the range of up to 10 gigabits per second, 5G offers the suitable technical basis for this. Applications in the field of virtual or augmented reality (virtual reality and augmented reality) can also be represented with 5G technology. Such applications require high data rates and a large capacity to the point. Their area of ​​application can be used from the mobile repair service of local craftsmen to the medical operating theater.

  • 5G for communication between machines (M2M)

The networking of markets, sectors, industries and society will continue to change. If the focus today is the networking of people, in the future it will be about the networking of things. Terms such as Industry 4.0, machine-to-machine communication (M2M) or the Internet of Things (IoT) describe the networking of machines and devices of all kinds Connection and networking of many everyday things such as refrigerators, building services or everyday objects such as sports shoes. All applications have one thing in common: They usually only transfer small amounts of data. However, experts expect a rapidly increasing number of networked devices. Small amounts of data with a large spatial distribution require a large network that can process a large number of communicating devices. The transmission speed only plays a subordinate role in these applications; the low energy consumption is more important

  • 5G as a high-reliability network

Networked driving, which is currently much discussed, and autonomous public transport, have different demands on the networks: the information must be transmitted extremely quickly and reliably. This is where the short latency of 5G technology comes into play. The response time in the 3G networks was around 100 milliseconds, in the 4G network around 30 milliseconds and in the 5G network just one millisecond. This means that data is transmitted almost in real time. In applications such as autonomous driving, there is also the need for the transmission network to be extremely reliable. Such networks are also necessary for special, fast-running processes, such as imaging processes in medicine or industry.

Technology for more efficiency - methods for better use of frequencies

  1. Channel bundling - carrier aggregation

Technically, an extremely high bandwidth can be achieved through so-called channel bundling (carrier aggregation). The bundling of the radio frequency ranges used by a network operator (channels in a frequency block) makes it possible to increase the data rate per user. A user is assigned several individual carriers, i.e. frequency blocks. The maximum data rate per user increases by the number of frequency blocks. The overall data rate per cell is also increased through improved utilization of the frequencies available to an operator. The disadvantage is that the high capacity goes hand in hand with a short range, since frequencies with a lower range are also used for bundling. Overall, these concepts of frequency bundling are already in use with 4G / LTE and will be further developed with 5G.

  1. Use of small cells

Small cells are already being used today, especially in locations with a high number of users. For example, in pedestrian zones or in highly frequented places, small cells can remove bottlenecks in the existing network. Small cells do not replace the classic mobile telephony rooftop locations, but complement them and consolidate the network in locations with particularly high demand (hotspots). More cells in a small area also means that the capacity, i.e. the number of possible simultaneous users with simultaneously high data throughput, is significantly increased. Small cells are therefore suitable for very high capacitive requirements in a small area (city centers, event centers, festival areas, stadiums, etc.). The users of mobile devices benefit from the power regulation between the transmitter and the cell phone, since the battery is less stressed.

A small cell is a cellular cell with low transmission power and the resulting small coverage area, similar to a WLAN hotspot, but with the integration of the general cellular network. The supply radius is around 150 meters. Because these are installed very close to the users, a corresponding number of cells must be installed for uninterrupted supply in an area such as a pedestrian zone. Small cells are operated with a low transmission power (less than 10 watts EIRP) and therefore do not require a location certificate. However, they will still be displayed to the Federal Network Agency. The antennas used are significantly smaller than conventional cell phone antennas. They can be mounted on house walls, advertising pillars or public telephone systems. In the future, such cells may also be installed in lines along traffic routes, for example in street lamps.

  1. Multi-antenna systems - Massive Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO)

Larger multi-antenna systems (Massive M.ultimate I.nput M.ultiple output / MiMo) is used. The multiple antenna systems enable the use of several transmitting and receiving antennas for wireless communication. A special coding method uses both the temporal and the spatial dimension to transmit information (space-time coding). In this way, the quality and the data rate can be significantly improved, although no more frequencies are used. Since frequencies are the most important commodity in mobile data transmission, this is an enormous advantage: the performance of 5G networks can be significantly increased with large multi-antenna systems. The networks and the users benefit from higher data rates and improved reliability. The technology is currently based on 4G and can be integrated into existing networks. Multiple antenna systems with up to 200 antenna elements are currently being developed, and the first tests with 64 x 64 transmitter and receiver units are already underway.

  1. Variable alignment to the end devices - beamforming

Another technical possibility in the context of multiple antennas (MiMo) is the targeted supply of individual subscriber devices through what is known as beamforming. The antenna transmission direction is changed in such a way that a maximum signal arrives at the desired location (terminal). With the bundling of the radio waves, instead of the usual circular propagation of the radio signals, a precise alignment of the signal in the direction of the customer or the device can be achieved. With beamforming, the main transmission direction is spatially aligned in such a way that individual end devices are addressed with the signal assigned to them - be it directly with a line of sight or indirectly via reflective surfaces in the vicinity. On the one hand, the energy requirement in the transmitter is significantly reduced, and on the other hand, there is less interference. The transmission power can be adjusted according to the application. The best result is achieved when there is a line of sight. Beamforming also provides a clearer signal as it stands out clearly against the background noise. This allows data to be transmitted to several mobile devices in the same frequency range at the same time. In addition, there is less scattering of the transmission power, which contributes to an increase in efficiency. The first tests with beamforming are already running.

  1. Virtually divided network - network slicing and relocation of intelligence to the radio station

Since different users and applications have individual requirements for capacity, data rates and reliability, it makes sense to design future networks flexibly. The so-called network slicing enables the division of a network for different needs at the level of the entire network. A network operator can thus provide certain quality features for a customer category. For example, with a guaranteed data capacity or a certain response time (latency).

A network operator can therefore manage and operate several virtual networks via a common physical infrastructure. Figuratively speaking, the network operator "cuts" the slice from the network that fits the respective application. The catchphrase “Network-as-a-Service” is often used in this context.

Another component of the 5-G network architecture is the possibility of shifting the majority of the computing power required for the transmission to the respective radio stations depending on the situation. Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) is a standardized concept that provides flexible computing resources in close proximity to mobile users. To this end, the base stations are being expanded with the nearby IT infrastructure. This enables a shorter response time for communication. For example, in connected driving, sensors and cameras in cars ahead could measure whether the road (not just in front of the user's vehicle) is free and send the information to the user's car via the cellular network. A server uses the data to calculate, for example, whether it is safe to overtake or not. The installation of the necessary computing power in the vicinity of the mobile radio transmitter ensures that the information reaches the networked car as quickly as possible.

When will 5G come in Germany?

In mid-May 2018, the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA for short) announced the frequency allocation process. One of the tasks of the Federal Network Agency is to ensure an objective, transparent and non-discriminatory procedure. In the first step, the award conditions are regulated. These define the rights and obligations associated with the use of the frequencies. Among other things, these can also be requirements to improve cell phone coverage. In the second step, the Federal Network Agency defines the auction rules for the specific implementation of the frequency auction. The final specifications for the auction should be available by the end of 2018, so that the actual auction can probably take place in the first quarter of 2019.

In addition to nationwide frequency usage rights for classic mobile network operators, the explicit allocation of frequencies for regional use is also being discussed for the first time. Interest in this has already been signaled from business and industry. The Federal Network Agency continuously publishes the information on the procedure on its website: www.bundesnetzagentur.de/mobilesbreitband

Requirements for the 5G network expansion

However, before 5G can be fully used in Germany, further prerequisites must first be created. Here, the expansion of fiber optics is of particular importance, because without connecting the mobile radio stations to the fiber optic network, the many advantages of the new technology can only be used to a limited extent. International standardization for 5G technology is running in parallel: In June 2018, 5G standards were adopted by the responsible Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) committee. On this basis, some companies have already developed the first 5G chips for smartphones, radio cells or routers as well as system technology, network equipment and antenna technology, which they are currently using for laboratory and field tests. This suggests that the commercial rollout of 5G will take place from 2019. Overall, the roll-out of 5G technology means an investment-intensive network expansion. The expansion is strongly influenced by at least three factors: the amount of investment funds available after an auction, general requirements for the award and the approval procedures for new locations.