June 1, 2017
A lot has been written about 5G, considering 5G networks don’t actually exist yet. But as we’ll see at the 2017 International Microwave Symposium (IMS) in Hawaii, from Qorvo and others there’s plenty to be excited about.
5G is the undisputed future of RF, promising unparalleled speeds and bandwidth. The network will reach to frequencies beyond what we ever thought possible for cellular wireless. Mobile users will benefit in a big way, with data speeds tens of times faster than 4G, for quicker downloads and uploads.
Beyond smartphones, the applications of 5G get even more hype-worthy. 5G promises low latency to power the future of connected everything. Near real-time connections will enable autonomous vehicles, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), remote medical procedures, drone deliveries and, of course, the Internet of Things (IoT).
So yes, there are many reasons to catch the 5G wave at IMS 2017 next week. But before you get swept out to sea by a rogue wave of 5G hype, consider what 5G is today.
The short answer is no. The longer answer — for those who’ve made it past the hype to this point — is that the path to 5G runs through 4G infrastructure. 5G builds on 4G LTE as an overlay, using fixed wireless, enhanced mobile broadband, low latency and automated data communication to enable a larger diversity of applications that 4G cannot address.
While 5G builds on the 4G foundation, the next-gen network does require a few infrastructure upgrades. This includes the deployment of 5G small cells. A small cell is essentially a mini base station that helps increase capacity and speed on the edge of the network or in high traffic areas, like city centers, airports and sports stadiums.
Fortunately, a lot of technology for 5G infrastructure can be borrowed from mobile and defense. Qorvo is leveraging BAW technology and Wi-Fi for massive MIMO and GaN technology and integration expertise for 5G base stations.
Industry players like Qorvo are working with standards bodies like 3GPP to define 5G standards. Nothing happens until 5G standards are determined and ratified.
The good news? In addition to carrier-specific standards, the first 3GPP approved standard will be finalized by the end of 2017 (this year)! Only then can carriers begin building 5G infrastructure, ultimately delivering 5G services to a mobile phone.
With defined standards on the horizon, we’re likely to see the first 5G services in 2018.
Smartphone-wielding teenagers, rejoice! Right? Well, not yet.
The first services will be largely fixed wireless access (FWA) for delivering internet to homes over a wireless network. Mobile applications at 3.5 GHz will come later, around 2019 to 2020, and 5G will hit mobile in the early-to-mid 2020s.
For now, anyway, a 5G handset is like a bigfoot sighting.
5G will enable low latency, real-time applications, but you don’t need that kind of speed for your smart thermostat or activity tracker — or smart egg tray, for that matter. 5G speeds are critical for applications that require little to no delay, like vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. As a rule, if you’re not streaming three movies at the same time or can wait more than a few milliseconds for a signal, you don’t need 5G.
To learn more about 5G, you may need 5G RF For Dummies®. Enjoy!
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