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5G Network; The Development of Cellular Networks

by Elijah Mwalukuku

The internet is one of the most popular and important innovations of our Century. Since early 2000, the usage of the internet has skyrocketed. Engineers have developed systems that have evolved, and we now expect to experience the 5G network in 2020. Before we dive into what is 5G network and why it’s important, let’s understand the history of cellular networks.

The First Generation Network (1G)

This technology was developed in 1980. The most common systems using this technology were advanced mobile phone systems(AMPS), nordic mobile telephones (NMTS), and total access communication systems (TACS). The USA used AMPS, the Scandinavian countries, used NMTS, and the UK used TACS. This network was analog and provided voice calls only.


The Second Generation Network (2G)

The early 90s enjoyed the 2G network. The most popular systems using this technology were global systems for mobile communication (GSM), digital AMPS (D-AMPS), and CdmaOne or IS-95. Europe used GSM, AND the USA used D-AMPS. This technology introduced SMS, call encryption, roaming services, and internet speeds of 9.6-14.4 kbps.
Within the 2G network, general packet radio service (GPRS), and enhanced data GSM environment (EDGE), developed. GPRS provided maximum theoretical 171 kbps and EDGE 473.6 kbps.

The Third Generation Network (3G)

In the mid-2000s, the 3G network developed. WCDMA or UMTS systems delivered 384 bps. Later, HSDPA, HSUPA, and HSPA+ systems provided maximum theoretical 1.8-20 Mbps. This technology introduced faster download speeds, tv streaming capabilities, video conferencing, 3D gaming, and high-speed browsing.

The Fourth Generation Network (4G)

4G network gained popularity after its introduction in the late 2000s. 4G LTE is the most common network in use today across all devices. LTE provides a theoretical maximum100 Mbps downlink and 50 Mbps in the uplink. This technology provided wireless technology, more security, low-cost per-bit, and higher internet speeds.

The Fifth Generation Network (5G)

The 5G network is the latest high-speed mobile innovation promising to multiply wireless internet speeds, and increase coverage. 5G network will aid Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, autonomous cars, the Internet of Things, and Artificial Intelligence. The 5G network uses different technologies to function including; millimeter wave, massive MIMO, small cell, beamforming, NIMO, and MEC.

How 5G Technology works

We are currently using 1GHz – 6GHz radio frequencies. The 5G Millimeter waves make use of 24GHz – 100GHz, which are less utilized. These millimeter waves allow the use of massive MIMO antennas. The antenna size is inversely proportional to the wave frequency. Since the 5G network uses higher frequency signals, we can use small size antennas.
High-frequency signals used in this technology are easily affected by weather, buildings, and other objects. To solve this situation, 5G uses small cell stations. Each small cell station serves a small area.

Beamforming technology makes the transmission between users and cell stations more directional, leading to faster internet speeds. 5G also uses Non-Orthogonal Multiple Access (NOMA). NOMA uses the power level of user devices to access base stations. NOMA allows different signals to share the same channel simultaneously.

Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) utilizes cloud computing and brings it closer to the users. MEC reduces latency while using cloud computing services like Augmented Reality.

Implementing 5G Technology

The main challenges facing service providers across the globe is the need for space, power, and connectivity. 5G places additional demands for fiber connectivity, MIMO radios, and high band wave radios. In deployment, concealment and permits are the main challenges. Both Huawei and Samsung have developed 5G capable devices. In 2020, we expect to see other manufacturers do the same. Internet providers across the globe are working on making 5G networks a reality.


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