5G’s proliferation is unprecedented, leading to the amalgamation of ground-breaking technologies of this decade such as AI and edge computing. The inherent synergies of these technologies are not only pushing the performance of 5G for mission-critical services but also scaling down 5G NR with NR-Light to meet diverse use cases, while exploring the broader massive Internet of things (IoT) use cases.
It has been estimated that by year 2022, the average consumer is expected to consume 11 GB of data per month, on their smartphone, against current usage of 2.3 GB of data per month. This is driven by explosive growth in video traffic as mobile is increasingly becoming the source of media and entertainment, as well as the massive growth in always-connected cloud computing and experiences. The 4G technology has completely changed the way how we consume information. During the last ten years, the mobile app industry has witnessed an unprecedented growth in services like video streaming, ecommerce, ride sharing, etc.
What actually 5G is?
The 5G enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices. The 5G wireless technology is meant to deliver higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds, massive network capacity, , increased availability with more reliability, more reliability, increased availability, and a more uniform user experience to more users. Higher performance and improved efficiency empower new user experiences and connects new industries.
5G will expand the mobile ecosystem to new industries. This will contribute to cutting-edge user experiences such as boundless extreme reality (XR), seamless IoT capabilities, new enterprise applications, local interactive content and instant cloud access, to name a few.
Who owns 5G?
Nobody owns 5G, but there are several companies within the mobile ecosystem that are contributing to bringing 5G to life. Qualcomm has played a major role in inventing the many foundational technologies that drive the industry forward and make up 5G, the next wireless standard. We are at the heart of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the industry organization that defines the global specifications for 3G UMTS (including HSPA), 4G LTE, and 5G technologies.
3GPP is driving many essential inventions across all aspects of 5G design, from the air interface to the service layer. Other 3GPP 5G members range from infrastructure vendors and component/device manufacturers to mobile network operators and vertical service providers.
The 5G technology
5G is based on OFDM (Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing), a method of modulating a digital signal across several different channels to reduce interference. 5G uses 5G NR air interface alongside OFDM principles. 5G also uses wider bandwidth technologies such as sub-6 GHz and mmWave.
Like 4G LTE, 5G OFDM operates based on the same mobile networking principles. However, the new 5G NR air interface can further enhance OFDM to deliver a much higher degree of flexibility and scalability. This could provide more 5G access to more people and things for a variety of different use cases. 5G will bring wider bandwidths by expanding the usage of spectrum resources, from sub-3 GHz used in 4G to 100 GHz and beyond. 5G can operate in both lower bands (e.g., sub-6 GHz) as well as mmWave (e.g., 24 GHz and up), which will bring extreme capacity, multi-Gbps throughput, and low latency. 5G is designed to not only deliver faster, better mobile broadband services compared to 4G LTE, but can also expand into new service areas such as mission-critical communications and connecting the massive IoT.
5G is a unified, more capable air interface. It has been designed with an extended capacity to enable next-generation user experiences, empower new deployment models and deliver new services. With high speeds, superior reliability and negligible latency, 5G will expand the mobile ecosystem into new realms. 5G will impact every industry, making safer transportation, remote healthcare, precision agriculture, digitized logistics, etc.
The 5G infrastructure
Cellular infrastructure is the least understood element. A strong infrastructure is very important for the operation of any wireless network; right from cell towers to all the bits of networking and computing equipment that works behind the scenes. As with many aspects of the telecom business, the details of network infrastructure equipment and how it works can be extraordinarily complicated. With the roll-out of 5G, not only in the technologies being used to power network infrastructure, but also in the companies that are starting to do some of the work. The additional technical requirements that 5G demands, that the widespread move to software-defined networking (which is helping drive many of these changes) just happened to coincide with the development and deployment of 5G. Over the past two weeks, virtually all of the major semiconductor companies made announcements of either new products, new partnerships, or new technologies focused on enabling more 5G infrastructure.
What’s at cellular companies’ end?
Intel kicked things off with the debut of a range of chips designed for various parts of the 5G infrastructure chain. Its new Atom P5900 is a low-power x86-based CPU that’s optimized for wireless base stations. The company also announced the debut of a new type of chip design called a structured ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit)—the first iteration is codenamed Diamond Mesa—that’s also specifically intended for network infrastructure. Much of the traditional infrastructure equipment has used FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays), in order to process network-critical data. FPGAs are a flexible type of chip that can be programmed (and even reprogrammed) to accelerate specific functions. The Diamond Mesa part provides some of that same level of flexibility, but without the power consumption and pricing concerns that some FPGAs demand.
Marvell, launched several significant additions to its 5G infrastructure-focused product line, notably the Octeon Fusion and Octeon Tx2 processors, both of which are based around Arm core architectures. The Octeon Fusion combines multiple Arm V8 cores with several programmable DSP (digital signal processing) cores and hardware-accelerated baseband processors all designed to handle the increase in network data flow and processing that 5G networks will require.
Qualcomm’s is progressing with the Snapdragon 865 processor in a range of forthcoming 5G phones and also unveiled a 3rd generation X60 5G modem coming in 2021. Qualcomm first unveiled the FMS100 line back in 2018, but only now is starting to see more widespread usage of the platform, with Rakuten and Samsung Networks.
It is easy to presume that the traditional infrastructure players could be challenged but a few other announcements highlight how even the existing players are taking new approaches to 5G infrastructure. AMD is working with Nokia to power its 5G core network with 2nd generation Epyc server processors. Marvell also announced a partnership with Nokia on 5G infrastructure-focused products, with a specific emphasis on combining some customized Marvell components along with Nokia’s ReefShark chipsets to enable 5G multi-RAT (Radio Access Technology).
Though, shifts in infrastructure typically don’t happen very quickly. However, there’s no doubt that the world of 5G network is going to be something that receives a lot more attention from a lot more people in the months and years to come.
[box type=”note” align=”” class=”” width=””]The author, Nazir Ahmed Shaikh, is a freelance columnist. He is an educationist by profession and writes articles on diversified topics. He could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.[/box]