5G – When Can You Really Expect to See Next-Gen Mobile Technology?

These days there are lots of talks about “5G”, the new Fifth Generation of mobile connectivity technology. Many of major operators such as Samsung, AT&T, Verizon, Nokia, and Huawei are working full force to make 5G happen in a tight competition.

But what exactly is 5G and when will it be in use?

What is 5G?

Until now, the only issue that can be confidently said about 5G is that obviously it is the fifth generation of mobile network technology, and it promises 4 major improvements:

1) Much Higher Speed

5G promises to provide speeds as high as 10Gbps (in theory) and as high as 100Mbps in congested networks which is multiple times higher than the current 4G platform.

2) Lower Latency

While 4G has a latency of about 30-50ms, the latency of 5G is expected to be in the range of 1ms or less.

3) Number of Connections

While 4G networks can provide up to thousands of connections, a 5G network is expected to increase that to millions of connections per square kilometer. This is especially important with regards to the expected explosive growth of IoT devices to about 20 billion devices by 2020.

4) Lower power consumption

5G is expected to consume less battery power than 4G.

Apart from the above assumptions, the actual technical details of 5G is not yet defined, and there is a fierce competition to finalize the standard, which is expected no sooner than 2018.

When will 5G become available?

The current estimates are talking about 2020 as the year when we can start using 5G. There are talks about providing limited 5G services as early as 2018 to cover the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

However, when considering all the remaining challenges that need to be resolved before 5G actually replaces the 4G infrastructure, it seems we still are a few more years away from having a widely-spread 5G network.

Some of these challenges are:

1) Defining the final standard

2) Providing the required backbone infrastructure that can handle the very high speeds that is required

3) Embedding the required hardware in all mobile cells and other mobile devices.

Conclusion

5G network is inevitable – for sure it is the required communication infrastructure for the 3rd decade of the 21st century to complement other emerging technologies such as , Artificial Intelligence (AI), and live video communications. However it seems we would need to wait for 5 more years to see a wide coverage of 5G for our daily use.

What is WiMAX and How Does it Differ from WiFi?

When speaking about wireless networks, you might have heard the term WiMAX increasingly used as a technology that will replace WiFi. If you are curious on what the differences between these two are, then this article is meant to exactly answer your questions.

WiMAX stands for “Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access” and is a standard-based technology for providing a wireless alternative to cable and DSL connections.

This however is also one of the usages of WiFi. Although WiFi wireless devices are mainly used for short-range wireless connection of end user devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones, they are also used for site-to-site interconnections.

Before I explain the core difference of the two, let’s first take a look at the table below which gives some of the basic differences between the two wireless standards:

Specifications WiMAX WiFi
IEEE Standard 802.16x 802.11x
Versions of standard 802.16a, 802.16d and 802.16e 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
Official Release 1997 2004
Frequency bands supported 2.5,3.5 and 5.8GHz supported 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz supported
Data rate 30-40Mbps, but lately updated to 1Gbps 54Mbps, but lately up to 1.2Gbps
Channel Bandwidth Flexible (1.25 to 20 MHz) 10 or 20 or 40 MHz
Normal Ranges 30+ Km 100m for end-user devices (up to 5Km for outdoor point to point connections)

What is the main technical benefit of WiMAX?

WiMAX is not a replacement technology to WiFi – instead, while WiFi is the de-facto global standard for wireless interconnection of end-user devices, WiMAX has addressed a specific technical deficiency of WiFi for interconnection of multiple sites.

The main drawback of WiFi technology for a point-to-multipoint connection is that it is a connectionless type of protocol named CSMA/CA (Carrier sense multiple access with collision avoidance). Without going into deep technical details, this means that as in WiFi networks all the devices of the network share the same frequency channel, to prevent collision in data transmissions, each device “listens” to make sure no other device is transmitting and then it transmits its data. I.e. there is no centralized management in the network. While this makes the network setup very simple and straightforward (which is a benefit for end-user devices), it creates major problems in larger networks especially when the distances are increased.

scheduling algorithm. Unlike a WiFi network, in WiMAX you should define and setup each subscriber station (SS) on the base station including specifying what bandwidth each SS should be given. By doing this, the base station knows the exact number of subscriber stations and allocates a time slot (access slot) to each. This protocol synchronizes the transmission of data between all the stations on the network and totally eliminates the collision issues of a WiFi network. This enables efficient and reliable connection of as many as 80 subscribers on a WiMAX network with guaranteed QoS (Quality of Service), while on an outdoor WiFi network, adding more than 10 CPEs would cause great deficiency with unpredictable quality of service.

To give an example, WiFi is like a crossroad with no traffic light where cars need to check and make sure no-one else is crossing before moving on, while WiMAX is when you have a traffic police (the base station) giving turn to each car to pass.

Conclusion

While WiFi is and will be widely used for short-range wireless connection of end-user devices, WiMAX is the correct, efficient wireless solution for long-range connection of multiple sites such as providing internet connection to multiple homes or interconnection of multiple buildings in a large compound.

5 Key Factors in Designing a Wireless Network for your Business

Wireless networks have become an integral part of any business environment these days, especially due to the increased prominence of all kinds of wireless devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Wireless networks are now ubiquitous because they provide the expected convenience, portability, and flexibility demanded by any serious business today. Another reason you see such an increase in demand for setup of wireless networks in business environments is due to the fact that a wireless network is now much faster and more reliable than before.

In this article, I will try to briefly explain some key factors that any business person who wants to set up or request a wireless network should be familiar with. It greatly helps to professionally communicate with your team and the company you contract to setup your wireless network.

What do we mean by “Wireless”?

The term wireless is of course a very broad and general term and can be applied to any device or technology that works without wires! Wireless communications include GSM, WIMAX, satellite, radio, microwave, Bluetooth, and many other means of communications.

However when we are talking about wireless network for computers, we are loosely using the term to refer to “WiFi” or the IEEE 802.11 standard. This is the common wireless (WiFi) connection you have on your laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

5 Key factors of a Wireless Network

Below are 5 key factors you would need to ensure about in any wireless network that is setup you’re your business:

1) Indoor / Outdoor Access Points

Regardless of the brand, the wireless access points are divided to indoor and outdoor devices. Indoor access points are not weatherproof but cost less and are installed on wall or ceiling of offices.

Outdoor access points on the other hand are designed to withstand outdoor climates and are usually used to cover the outside premises of your office or compound.

There are however cases where outdoor access points are used to provide coverage for indoor use – this is when you have disbursed, separate prefab caravans or trailers or tents (like oil rigs or man camps) where providing coverage for inside these rooms more efficient by utilizing outdoor access points.

2)  Number of Access Points
Determining the correct number of required access points and their proper positioning to provide proper coverage is probably the most critical step that determines the success of a wireless network.

There are many factors for determining the required number of access points, but the two main ones are:

a. You need to make sure you have all locations within the range of the wireless access point.

b. You need to make sure you have enough access points in crowded areas (one per every 20-30 users).

3) Access Point Bandwidth/Speed

The speed and bandwidth offered by wireless access points is increasing year by year at an incredible speed. While the speed of access points was in range of 11 to a maximum of 54Mbps back in 2000’s (IEEE 802.11 a/b/g standards), now thanks to the advent of many new technologies such as MIMO, the common standard is IEEE 802.11ac which provides speeds as high as 780Mbps. New standards are expected as early as 2017 to support speeds up to 100Gbps! If you are planning to setup your wireless network this year, you should go for the 802.11ac standard or newer.

4) Access Point Frequency Spectrum/Band

Older access points tended to support 2.4GHz band. The new 802.11ac standard also supports 5GHz band, enabling higher bandwidth and speed.

5) WLAN Controller

While for a very small office a standalone access point might be sufficient, in larger premises where you have to setup multiple access points, a WLAN controller would become quite critical.

The WLAN controller enables management of multiple access points, not only simplifying the management of all the access points from a single control point, but also to enable the seamless roaming of wireless devices on the move. Some manufacturers now provide software services as an alternative to hardware WLAN controllers which would provide a very attractive and cost effective alternative for SMBs.

Who can design and implement a successful wireless network?

Whether you want to test the wireless knowledge of your in-house team or the capabilities of a potential contractor, the above information will give an idea of some of the key concepts any wireless implementer should be well aware of.

The successful design of a wireless network is much more than that of course. Unless if you simply need 1-2 access points to provide coverage for a small office, make sure for larger networks you do get a professional to do it for you.