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.