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Work in Progress - September 25, 2019
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5G - To 5G or Not to 5G. That Is The Question

The cellular industry is saying 2019 is going to be the year of 5G. It will change the way we live, work, learn, play, and improve our global society. Whoopee!

Oh wait, some in the industry are now saying maybe in the early 2020s.

Hype is the space between fiction and reality. The Hype Cycle storm the 5G is generating is awesome.

The fiction is quickly climbing up the slope to the Peak of Inflated Expectations. Then it will slide down to the Trough of Disillusionment until it it begins to climb the Slope of Enlightenment and becomes reality.

Wi-Fi Generations

5G is the very fast wireless speed your smartphone may one day connects to the Internet. This graphic show the G generations tree.

5G is not just an upgrade from 4G. 5G require new phone hardware and software, new towers with new hardware, and big changes to current phone and network designs. The core of new technologies are industry standards. It seems that 5G standards are in a state of flux. Already, some early 5G deployments need a makeover because of standards changing.
5g speedometer blue shadow
Figure 1. Wi-Fi Generations

First generation of broadband cellular network technology
1982 - 2.4 Kilobits Per Second (kbps)
2,400 bits per second


1992 - 64 kbps
64,000 bits per second


1998 - 2 Megabits (Mbps)
2,000,000 bits per second


2011 - 100 Megabits (Mbps)
100,000,000 bits per second


2020? - 20? Gigabits Per Second (Gbps)
20,000,000,000 bits per second
5G is not just an upgrade from 4G

A 5G Quick Start

Watch these two YouTube videos to quickly get aquatinted with 5G.

5G Field Test

This YouTube - 5G: Field Test video is by Marques Brownlee. He buys a 5G Smartphone from the limited selection in the marketplace, goes to one of the few cities that have some 5G access points, and demonstrates some of the 5G realities of where 5G technology is in late 2019.

5G for Non-Techies

Watch this YouTube video. It’s about the best 5G technology presentation I’ve seen for non-techies. If you curious about the technologies in the video, read the article.

Here is a brief summary:

This YouTube - Everything You Need to Know About 5G video is for non-techie. It will quickly get up to speed on why 5G and some 5G realities.

If all goes well, telecommunications companies hope to debut the first commercial 5G networks in the early 2020s. Right now,though, 5G is still in the planning stages, and companies and industry groups are working together to figure out exactly what it will be. But they all agree on one matter: As the number of mobile users and their demand for data rises, 5G must handle far more traffic at much higher speeds than the base stations that make up today’s cellular networks.

With these and other 5G technologies, engineers hope to build the wireless network that future smartphone users, VR gamers, and autonomous cars will rely on every day. Already, researchers and companies have set high expectations for 5G by promising ultra-low latency and record-breaking data speeds for consumers. If they can solve the remaining challenges, and figure out how to make all these systems work together, ultra-fast 5G service could reach consumers in the next five years.

There is one major drawback to millimeter waves, though—they can’t easily travel through buildings or obstacles and they can be absorbed by foliage and rain

Blog Snippets

While 1G provided us with mobile telephony, 2G expanded on that and addressed some of its predecessor’s shortcomings. 3G and 4G did the same with mobile data.

Yes, deployment still seems a long way away and yes, sizeable challenges remain such as infrastructure demands and spectrum capacity. However, with existing mobile technologies likely unable to meet market demands beyond 2020, 5G is inevitable and its impact will unarguably be transformational, for businesses and consumers across the globe.

As former FCC Chairman Michael Powell recently said, expressing skepticism over wireless industry’s hype, “5G is 25 percent technology, 75 percent marketing.” Though Powell now represents and speaks on behalf of a major cable industry group, which has its own motivations for challenging the veracity of the wireless industry’s claims about 5G, his underlying point is well taken.

The WIRED Guide to 5G Millimeter wave access points could wind up being as small as smoke detectors, but they’ll need to be practically everywhere. Carriers may need 15- or 20-millimeter wave access points to cover an urban area currently covered by only two or three modern cell phone towers, according to a McKinsey report. Just like your Wi-Fi router at home, those access points will need to be connected to wired networks. Deploying all these extra access points and connecting them to the internet will be expensive and time consuming.

Thermal throttling is a fact of life for smartphones. SoCs generate a lot of heat, and when this heat can’t be dissipated, processors react by slowing down and thereby generating less heat.

Early adopters for 5G will have to accept all manner of tradeoffs. And when there might not even be 5G reception in your area, it might be better to just wait the whole thing out for a year or two.

We dive into the many ways first-gen 5G hardware will (temporarily?) ruin phone design.

2019 is going to be the year of 5G—at least, that’s what the cellular industry keeps saying.

Figure 2. 5G Spectrum

The industry has settled on calling this new 5G spectrum "mmWave" (millimeter wave), and it’s going to require new hardware in your phone, new hardware on the towers, and big changes to current phone and network designs.

We’re used to these "G" network upgrades coming with a compelling sales pitch about how much better everything is going to be, but the move to 5G mmWave is not a slam-dunk argument. Since mmWave runs at a significantly higher frequency than LTE, that means it comes with no shortage of tradeoffs. MmWave has worse range and worse penetration compared to LTE. A mmWave signal can be blocked by buildings, trees, and even your hand. MmWave doesn’t work well in the rain or fog, and the ~60GHz chunk of this spectrum can actually be absorbed by oxygen. That’s right—a slice of mmWave spectrum can be blocked by the air.

With so many issues to overcome, mmWave sounds like a terrible chunk of spectrum to build a mobile network in until you consider two key points: the higher-frequency means mmWave has plenty of bandwidth and low latency if you can get it, and most of all, the spectrum is available. MmWave isn’t being used for much right now because it is such a pain in the butt to work with. So if you can figure out all the implementation problems, you suddenly have a vast amount of airspace to work with. That’s actually the first thing these companies talk about when they bring up mmWave. It’s all going to be really, really hard and complicated, they say, but it’s going to be worth it.

5G mmWave is going to require a lot more hardware than 4G, which brings up all of these battery size and device-complexity concerns.

For 5G mmWave in 2019, we’re going to get thicker, hotter, more complicated phones that use more energy and cost more money. With no commercial devices to look at, the exact extent of all of these downgrades is still up in the air, but it’s undeniable that first-gen 5G hardware is going to be inferior to more mature 4G designs. With 5G networks only in their infancy and a supposed $200-$300 premium for 5G-compatible phones, this really doesn’t seem worth it for consumers.

Figure 3. Tip of the 5G Iceberg

_5g will change the ways we live, work, learn and play,” said Nicola Palmer,Verizon’s chief network engineer and head of wireless networks. “It will touch nearly every industry sector,impact our economy in a profound way and dramatically improve our global society.

Industry leaders and federal regulators are convinced 5G will radically transform the internet and the economy, but is the hype getting ahead of the tech?

One of the areas where 5G speeds are creating the most excitement — and arguably has the most potential — is autonomous vehicles (AVs).

5g will enable autonomous vehicles to directly share their perception of the road, road conditions and surroundings, with each other and with road infrastructure in an efficient manner,” Qualcomm said in a blog post. “Autonomous vehicles rely on several different kinds of sensors to be able to detect and infer their surroundings and road conditions. While sensors such as radar, and camera systems are essential, these sensors are limited by their line-of-sight (LOS) operation. [5G] direct communication complements the capabilities of these sensors by providing 360-degree non-LOS (NLOS) awareness, extending a vehicle’s ability to detect farther down the road — even at blind intersections or in poor weather conditions.

Projected speeds of new wireless rollouts are rarely match reality. The peak rate of wireless users are usually only 15 percent of the projected peak rate, according to industry experts, and Wi-Fi routers in homes often only offer one third to half of the advertised speed.

Self-driving cars can’t “self-drive” beyond the range of the network, as Motherboard reported in a recent article.

The current geographical disparities in internet access mean it’s probably not going to happen for at least another 15–20 years, they conclude.

According to a report from ZDNet, the key with 5G is reliability. It doesn’t matter how much faster the 5G speeds are, if they aren’t consistent and reliable, AVs and other 5G-empowered industry advancements won’t get far.

Then there’s the issue of actually processing the data 5G-connected sensors on cars will provide. It’s one thing to have a super-connected car, and quite another to know how to have the processing bandwidth to handle what it is providing.

Some industry analysts are skeptical 5G will be anything more than a “mobile upgrade:” Barclays analysts doubt, for example, that 5G will replace broadband internet in homes and businesses without a dramatic increase in investment.

It’s temping for industry innovators to oversell the promises of a new technology like 5G. Based on the current data, the right word to describe its impact is likely “evolution” rather than “revolution.” But if comes close to living up to the hype, it will make a major impact on our economy,our workplaces and our daily lives.

5G Hype

The Hype Cycle storm the 5th generation of broadband cellular network technology is generating is awesome. It is quickly climbing to the Peak of Inflated Expectations
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