411 on 5G

November 1, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

For the past few years, the world of technology has been abuzz with talk about the 5th generation mobile wireless (5G), and with full-scale rollouts set to begin next year, all that buzz can be expected to become a swarm. For example, when wireless networks transitioned from 3G to 4G, there were incremental improvements in technology and performance, but the upgrade from 4G to 5G is expected to be a complete revolution of wireless and connectivity. To make sure you’re prepared to take part in the revolution, here’s the 411 to get you up to speed on 5G.

 

The goal of the 5G network is to create a platform that makes it possible to deliver global connection. This means being able to connect everyone and everything, everywhere around the globe. In addition to that, 5G systems are slated to deliver data rates that far surpass 4G in a wider coverage area, while being more power efficient and reliable, presenting lower latency, supporting faster moving equipment and the influx of communication stemming from the Internet of Things (IoT). Plus, 5G will not only support mobile wireless users, it will also include enhanced wireless connectivity technology for use in applications such as automotive, smart homes, augmented and virtual reality.

 

In order to cross into all of those markets, the specifications for 5G performance have been debated and defined. The finalized specifications were set to be released by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) in 2020. Though mobile operators and service providers are urging the standardization organizations to accelerate that timetable.

 

With so much uncertainty still looming over the finalization of the standard, early releases are not shaping up exactly as planned. In the meantime, the non-standalone 5G new radio (NSA 5G NR) is the interim 5G specification and will help ease the transition from 4G to 5G. The NSA 5G NR supports many aspects of 5G including the sub-6 GHz spectrum, frequency bands, carrier aggregation and MIMO. With the new 5G frequency bands, NSA 5G NR is capable of 5G-like performance while utilizing existing technologies and infrastructure. This interim specification will provide the groundwork for future trials and deployments and allow for the technology to be better understood for the full 5G rollout.

 

With the excitement of early 5G availability, there have also been new application opportunities emerging that include fixed wireless (FWS) to the home. This development would use 5G wireless technology to provide last mile data services including television, home internet and voice-over-IP (VoIP) phone calling. As the launch of early 5G gets closer, there are bound to be additional new and existing applications to arise that would benefit from 5G’s lower latency, increased data rates and enhanced reliability. Until then, we will have to wait with great anticipation for the arrival of 5G.

 

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5G – A New Frontier

February 2, 2017 at 8:00 AM

 

A new frontier of wireless technology is under exploration. Though we are still in the initial phases of defining everything the fifth generation (5G) wireless network will offer, we do have a glimpse into what technological wonders await. Like the generations that came before it, 5G is shaping up to be an exciting new frontier in wireless communication. Here is a look at what is in store.

 

Of course 5G is slated to be faster than 4G, but instead of faster peak connection speeds, the goal of 5G is a higher capacity of 20 Gbps speeds and 1 millisecond (ms) latency which would allow more users per area unit and higher consumption of unlimited data. This would make it possible for more people to stream high-definition media on mobile devices for long periods of time without a Wi-Fi connection. 5G will use OFDM encoding, which is similar to the LTE coding used by 4G but with more flexibility and lower latency. 5G may also integrate Wi-Fi as part of a cellular network, or use LTE Unlicensed which transmits LTE-encoded data over Wi-Fi frequencies.

 

Rather than huge towers covering long distances, 5G networks are likely to consist of small cells, some as small as home routers. This is partly because of the characteristics of the frequencies 5G will use, but mostly it is to allow for greater network expansion capacity. Using numerous smaller cells means that 5G will also have to be much more intuitive than previous generations in order to juggle all of the cells and keep up as they change size and shape. These small cells may also have more autonomy and be able to choose how and where to route data, which can significantly lower latency. Even with smaller cells, it is expected that 5G will still be able to increase capacity by four times over 4G networks by utilizing advanced antenna technologies and wider bandwidths.

 

The first steps for 5G will mostly like be home internet applications but with a much wider availability than closely related millimeter-wave fixed wireless IPs. For some providers, 5G may replace DSL to allow the company to offer a package deal that includes 5G home internet, satellite TV, wireless phone and home phone together.

 

Driverless cars may be another application that could greatly benefit from 5G. For now, driverless cars are self-contained, but in the future there are plans for them to communicate with other cars and smart roads to improve traffic and safety. In order for cars to successfully communicate with one another and road sensors while driving, there need to be instant data exchanges with minimal latency. The 1 ms latency rate of 5G could be critical to data exchanges and safety in these driverless car scenarios.

 

Unlike 4G networks, 5G will allow the use of small, inexpensive, low-power devices. This will open up options for IoT devices by allowing many more devices and entire cities to connect to the Internet. The low latency and high-powered speeds of 5G will also allow for phones to transform into virtual and augmented reality devices. The small cell design of the network will also help in-building coverage by allowing every home router to become a mini cell tower.

 

Before you start making plans to upgrade, take a deep breath, there aren’t any 5G devices on the market yet. And while your 4G devices won’t work on the 5G network, 4G LTE and Wi-Fi aren’t going away; they will be key factors in the 5G strategy and will actually perform better with the advances that will come with 5G. Wireless carriers are starting to work on the technology and there will be some pre-5G debuts taking place in 2017, but these won’t have all of the capabilities of a true 5G network. Plans for 5G are all still in the development process and the network is estimated to roll-out between 2018 and 2020.  No matter when it officially comes to market, 5G will certainly be an exciting new frontier for wireless communication.

 

A Closer Look at PIM

January 14, 2016 at 8:00 AM

 

We’re not talking about a Personal Information Manager (PIM), or Product Information Management (PIM) or the delicious gin-based British beverage – that’s Pimm’s. The PIM we’re talking about is Passive Intermodulation, which may sound imposing, but here we’ll break it down for you.

 

What it is:

Passive Intermodulation (PIM) is a type of signal interference in a wireless system. PIM can be a problem in almost any wireless network but it can really wreak havoc on distributed antenna system (DAS) and LTE networks. DAS networks are used to distribute cellular and Wi-Fi signals throughout a building or area, and LTE networks support high-speed wireless access for mobile phones, tablets and other mobile wireless devices. With both of these technologies supporting many of our wireless devices, it has become increasingly important to detect and lessen PIM’s effects.

 

Why it happens:

PIM is caused by nonlinearities in the passive mechanical components of a wireless system such as antennas, cables and connectors, especially in places where two different metals come together. As nonlinearities increase, so do PIM signals. PIM in the transmission path degrades the quality of the wireless communication system. Damaged RF equipment or even nearby metal objects such as guy wires and anchors, roof flashing and pipes can also be sources of PIM.

 

Additionally, PIM can be caused by two or more carriers sharing the same downlink path in a wireless network. This practice is becoming more common as wireless networks become increasingly complex with multiple technologies and technology generations at a single site. When two signals combine, it causes signal interference and can significantly impact the performance of DAS and LTE networks.

 

How it's measured:

PIM is measured in decibels relative to the carrier (dBc) or decibel-milliwatts (dBm).  Levels near -100 dBm or less are generally considered good, but the lower the better.  Tests have shown that when PIM levels were increased from -125 dBm to -105 dBm there was an 18% drop in download speeds, even though 105 dBm can be considered an acceptable PIM level.


How to protect your network:

Individual components are often tested for PIM during the design and production processes to make sure that they aren’t significant PIM sources once they’re installed. In the case of a DAS, sometimes the entire system is tested for PIM as well as the individual components. Installation also plays a critical role because proper connections are necessary to keep PIM levels to a minimum.

 

PIM is also assessed during the cellular site placement process. Ideally, this happens before the cell site and antennas are positioned as well as during the installation process.

 

Plus, an increasing amount of test companies are offering specialized equipment to detect, pinpoint and address PIM sources. There are also low-PIM rated products now available to help keep PIM at bay. 

 

PIM-certified equipment is becoming more common. For example, antennas may be PIM-certified to a level of -140 dBm and those requirements are becoming increasingly strict.

With so many devices dependent on strong wireless signals, PIM could definitely throw a wrench in the system.  Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to identify and prevent the adverse effects of PIM. 

 

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