What does 5G mean?
5G stands for ” fifth generation “, the natural evolution of a nomenclature that had previously labeled the previous generations of connectivity as 2G, 3G and 4G. According to the white paper of the Next Generation Mobile Networks, 5G technology will have to take root from the year 2020 and it is expected that “it enables a fully connected and mobile society, allowing socio-economic transformations in many directions, many of which are not imaginable to date, including the areas of productivity, sustainability and well-being “.
The second generation of connectivity was mainly focused on voice services, where the connected mobile devices were still defined as “mobile phones”: they were the 90s. The third generation is that of the first smartphones and the first navigation on the move, without particular traffic requirements since the devices allowed only small exchanges and did not require particular speed. The fourth generation is today, the one put under stress by audio and video streams, by browsing, by apps and by a growing need for bandwidth for any operation.
The fifth generation, that of the 5G technology is that of the instant-on instantaneous, breaking down the limits of the current 4G to transform mobility into something much more pervasive. The victory of the middleware, the exaltation of the cloud, the demolition of ancient barriers: the 5G is a revolution that will become increasingly evident as applications and devices are born that can exploit its peculiarities.
But it is not just a matter of bandwidth in download and upload: it is also and above all the way of managing communications and coverage, making the networks more intelligent and able to really integrate people and the Internet of Things to the inside of a single information ecosystem.
How it works, what it is for
5G technology is therefore described starting from experience, since it is in everyday life that a revolutionary impact is expected. The fields of application in which 5G will make the difference are the following:
- densely populated environments (locations, crowded urban centers, etc.): where today the signal and equipment were easily sunk by a few hundred users connected at the same time, with 5G the problem does not arise thanks to more efficient bandwidth and connection management;
- high speed, since 5G allows you to easily reach over 50Mbps anywhere (from city to rural areas);
- high-speed mobile connections: smart mobility will be one of the crucial elements of 5G connectivity, both as regards the management of the vehicles themselves, and for the functions related to the personal devices of the traveling users. It follows that the impact on vehicles such as cars, airplanes or trains can be very powerful, completely changing the situation with respect to the current problematic connections which, in addition to certain speeds, make any wish to surf, communicate or enjoy online content completely problematic. Particularly important is the so-called “3D connectivity”, which is able to trace the displacement of a connection point in space in order to be able to better serve it while moving;
- Internet of Things: the new generation allows you to connect a variety of devices without any problem: this is reflected in the realization of that context on which the sensors and devices of the IoT world will be able to play their role;
- real-time: the low latency makes it possible to make instant communication between two distant points. By breaking down the temporal distances, the geographical distance is virtually reduced, virtualizing presences to bring them to live the same experiences. It follows that it will be possible to have remote operating rooms, as well as remotely controllable cars and more: it is man who will establish dreams and limits within which to develop such opportunities. Among the great explorable frontiers there is that of tactile feedback, where with appropriate apparatus it becomes possible to “touch” objects located at a great distance, as if they were really touching them;
- natural disasters : the capacity of 5G can give a big hand in the management of natural disasters, both in the preventive phase and in the terrible phases of post-disaster management: among the determining aspects in these areas there is the high efficiency of the components useful for the construction of new generation networks and the low consumption that the network implies;
- services of e-health : the remote monitoring of parameters related to a health condition, the ability to track trends over time, the ability to communicate in real-time problems with alarm control units and control. Also in this case, so far unexplored land has opened up, going to undermine an ancient and outdated way of understanding the monitoring of one’s physical parameters;
- broadcasting services: sending and receiving video streams is simplified by making possible services, until now limited by network technologies, also and especially when the signal conveys information that has local relevance (services during events, traffic information, etc.).
At the same time, from the early stages of development of the new technology, it focused on some specific features that the connectivity of the future should have had in order to become an essential component of a new way of understanding the network and connectivity. In particular:
- extreme reduction of the Total Cost of Ownership, so that the network infrastructures can be adopted quickly at minimal costs;
- energy efficiency, so that a very high data traffic can be managed without weighing heavily on management costs, which are largely related to energy consumption;
- ease of upgrade, allowing further future evolution of the network without burdening the costs of the entire infrastructure;
- simplicity: the 5G network must be simple to design, to build and manage also thanks to plug & play technologies and self-configurations;
- flexibility and scalability of network infrastructures, goals that can only be achieved following an optimal definition of standards;
- fixed-mobile convergence, which would also allow users to be managed in the same way, without differences related to the technology used for data transmission;
- extremely low costs to reach those low-performance areas that have so far experienced a digital divide situation: 5G where they can also bridge this gap, truly connecting the entire planet without discrimination and without areas obscured by the reduced economic advantage of investments.
The advantages of 5G can therefore be experienced both indoors and outdoors; they will be evident both in heavily populated areas (stadiums, airports, urban centers) and in rural areas; they will be available both on smartphones and in areas such as smart homes, smart mobility and the Internet of Things. The future at 5G is in fact all to be built, since the first will be the years of network and device development: the generation of a critical mass of users will be rapid and will give immediate market opportunities.
According to Ericsson, one of the main players in the development of 5G network infrastructures, the new network is essential to allow operators to offer enough bandwidth: mobile traffic is destined to increase by 523 by 2023 and only a transition to 5G will allow do not reach the point of exhaustion of the 4G possibilities. At the same time, 5G will see its importance emerge especially in the business area, where the provision of services will be the real disruptive element that the new networks promise to generate.
One of the aspects that 5G changes dramatically compared to the past is a consequence of the very low signal latency, defined by the standard in the order of a single millisecond. In short, between sending and receiving, time is reduced to a minimum, so much so as to really give a sense of immediacy. This perception can make the difference in many areas because, thanks to the implementation of a network of this type, the space-time pattern between two events that occur simultaneously, but at a distance of many kilometers, is somehow shaped. Following the concept of instantanity, therefore, the concept of contemporaneity becomes space which opens up to a multitude of possible applications.
The experiment proposed by Ericsson at the Mobile World Congress 2017 was very famous when, thanks to a video-game station at the Barcelona Fair, it was possible to drive a small car positioned in a circuit at tens of kilometers away. Not only the testers were able to drive the car, but they also received “tactile” feedback on driving sensations and on passing over some bumps scattered on the track. Only the immediacy of the signal can restore this perception and perception makes the difference between attending an event and experiencing it in the first person.
Remote control of vehicles operating in dangerous situations or assisting at a distance in a surgical operation, as well as managing specific industrial operations directly, or allowing cars that are traveling along the same road section to communicate, means building a new way of imagining space thanks to the cancellation of time between an input and an output: when this difference is reduced below the threshold of human perception, it means that a decisive step has been taken towards a new way of understanding the network, the space and the interactions between man and the surrounding environment.
The first 5G smartphone
If 5G is set to explode by 2020, the smartphone industry will want to be ready: the first 5G smartphones have made their appearance at the Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona and represent true avant-garde since they will not be able to exploit this feature at least until when the first 5G networks will not be officially available.
Based on what the respective brands have announced, the first 5G smartphones will be the various Samsung Galaxy S10s, the LG V50 ThinQ 5G, the Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 5G, the Galaxy Fold and Mate X folding decals, as well as the next models in the OnePlus series. But it is only the beginning: in all likelihood all medium-high end devices planned for the second half of 2019 are born with the 5G modem included and are thus preparing for a possible use on next-generation networks.
The information is provisional at the moment, but these are the major producers who intend to position their smartphones at the top of the market and ride the 5G wave clearly represents an indispensable opportunity. It is also difficult to understand what the offers of the operators will be, since 5G represents a breaking point with respect to the past and it is unlikely that the offers will be calibrated on the same paradigms used up until now for the 4G offers.
In the long run it will instead be necessary to understand something more also in relation to how the 5G can be enhanced on smartphones, what new uses could enable and how the low latency of the signal can offer experiences of greater caliber in terms of augmented reality, live broadcasts, IoT and more. The smartphone, a fundamental interface between man and his digital dimension, will find an even more rooted centrality in 5G, seeing the possible uses that can be done multiply.
The first 5G smartphone
The first 5G smartphone to have connected OTA (over the air) in Europe. The device is connected on frequencies 3,4-3,8 GHz (spectrum of which TIM has obtained the license) thanks to Snapdragon X50 chipset produced by Qualcomm. Network technology was provided by Ericsson and was based on Release 15 of 3GPP (Massive MIMO).