5G, everyone is talking about it. We are promised something extraordinary, an incredible technological future. But at a time when 4G is not yet deployed everywhere, it is hard to imagine what could be a world connected in 5G. To see more clearly, we tell you everything you need to know about the network of tomorrow.
What is 5G?
The 5th generation of standards for mobile telephony is a key technology that should eventually allow mobile internet speeds of several gigabits per second, light years away from current networks. All with minimal latency, and a host of technologies to improve the signal, including in environments where networks are overused. 4G and 3G were designed to respond as quickly as possible to a need for speed on the mobile internet.
5G is part of a larger project. Everything can be connected: smartphones, tablets, PC, but also your objects, connected cars, VR headsets or residential internet access. This type of network should promote cloud computing, integration, and interoperability of smart devices and smart grids and other smart grids, in a domotisé environment and a “smart city”. In other words, the 5G is also the technical modality that will accompany the development of a future even more connected than today.
How 5G technology work?
The 5G should rest partly on millimeter waves. These waves are currently used by the army in France, but the frequencies should be re-attributed to the operators in auctions. Most operators should integrate their 4G and 5G networks for the most continuous experience possible. The goal of the 5G is, in addition to increase the speed, to reduce the latency as much as possible, the infrastructure will have to rely on a fiber network and cache servers closer to users.
The radio part of the network will rely on a variety of devices similar to those used for 4G networks. With one difference: it becomes possible to install a multitude of small mmWave cells in dense areas. These small cells will rely on millimeter waves to provide a highly localized network – at short range. These small cells will obviously be installed as soon as saturation is detected in a part of the network. To ensure the continuity of the connection, larger antennas based on MIMO technology will be installed on high points. Their size and form factor is hardly discernible from that of current cellular antennas.
5G: minimized latency
The central issue around the 5G is the latency: achieving to reduce it to less than a milli-second can revolutionize wireless use. For example, it becomes possible to use a future wireless virtual reality headset, which sends a 4K image to each eye, with a fluid and pleasant experience. The latency time makes the navigation more reactive and contributes to the increase in flows.
Minimal energy consumption
The other challenge around the 5G is that it will have to connect everything. Including a large number of low-power connected devices, smartphones and PCs always connected – which need particularly economical modules to avoid too much impact on the battery. The first 5G modems, the Qualcomm X50 and the Balong 5000 have not quite achieved this goal yet. These are components that heat up, and so waste a little too much energy to imagine, for example, in a battery weather station. But that’s the direction that research and development is taking.
A reliable and secure network
If today a loss of network does not cause much of dramatic, in the future a failure of the 5G can cause accidents of very serious cars for example. And in large cities, with these millions of connected objects concentrated in a very small area, failures can quickly occur. Several solutions are therefore envisaged to respond to this constraint. The first, the Small Cells we talked about above. The operation is simple: a large 5G antenna far from urban centers distributes a signal to several smaller antennas located in the city center as explained above.
The protocol behind 5G is also very important
Finally, and this is probably the most important thing, the 5G will end the neutral network. Today, whether you’re connecting to a smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch, apps are managed in the same way by the network. Tomorrow, with 5G, there will be a system of priorities depending on the applications. There will not be one but several 5Gs. Each application should use the most suitable frequencies and radio protocols. No need to connect to the fastest frequencies for an application giving the weather for example.
What are the uses of 5G?
It is in use that we will realize the power of the 5G. For Qualcomm, the 5G will be as important as the internal combustion engine or the electricity . In the future we will be over-equipped but also perfectly connected. Industrialists have not really approached 4G as they should have: too late, too slowly. No way to miss a second time.
Thus, for the user, the 5G will have to represent a real revolution . The theoretical rates may be mind-blowing, we will be entitled to an average of 1 Gbit / s for download and 500 Mbit / s for upload. On the other hand, the difference with 4G is that at the bottom, the 5G will propose a flow of 50 Mbit / s at a speed between 0 and 120 km / h. During a trip by plane, your smartphone can theoretically connect in 5G with a flow of about 10 Mbit / s. And all this in 95% of the time and 95% of the places.
For the user, this opens doors barely imaginable today. Of course the uses that we know today will still improve. For example we can continue to watch our videos in streaming but in more places, with better quality. VR games in the cloud will be a reality. The cars will communicate with each other and will be totally autonomous. Augmented reality will be inviting in our lives. GPS will be more accurate thanks to the triangulation of the 5G which allows to give a position with a margin of error of less than one meter.
What are 5G compatible smartphones?
As seen previously, the usefulness of the 5G mobile network goes far beyond smartphones. But these will of course be among the main beneficiaries of this technology. Currently, there are two possibilities for making a smartphone 5G compatible. The first is to use a Snapdragon 855 SoC coupled to a Qualcomm X50 modem, the most popular solution. The second is a solution developed by Huawei on its devices with SoC Kirin 980 and modem Balong 5000. The latter would be more efficient than its competitor, but it is still early to test this in real conditions. Find below the list of compatible 5G smartphones announced:
- Huawei Mate X
- Galaxy Fold
- Galaxy S10 5G
- LG V50 ThinQ
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G
- Oppo Rhine 5G
- OnePlus 5G
All compatible smartphones will not be marketed in France at the moment. We only know that the Galaxy S10 5G will be available in the medium term in France at Orange. The Oppo Reno 5G will be booked initially at the Swiss market. As for the OnePlus 5G, it will be available shortly via the British operator EE.
When will we be able to benefit 5G?
According to Arcep, the first 5G packages arrive in France in 2020. But it will be progressive, and the full potential of the real 5G will be available from 2025 only, with a promise of exceptional speeds and extremely low latency.
But to get there, the operators and industrialists of the sector still have a lot of work to do. France is already one year behind the Orange Alert 5G. Of course, the big cities will be covered in the first place and not everyone will use a 5G subscription this year.
The first operators to offer it will likely be Orange, Bouygues, and SFR. More discreet, Free Mobile is also preparing the arrival of the 5G. “More than 90% of sites in dense areas are fiber-connected, which is critical for launching our 5G offerings, ” Iliad said.
Does 5G pose a health risk?
In France, we have been ironing for some time on the horizon at which the technology will eventually be available. But in Switzerland or Belgium, for example, the arrival of 5G worries. Conferences, petitions, votes and other actions are multiplying, locally, to prevent the installation of antennas. The fear is that the 5G waves are superimposed on those emitted by 3G, 4G, EDGE / GPRS, and GSM antennas. Although there is no 100% effect on the health of these frequencies, studies, often contradictory, evoke a certain number of years a risk.
Even if there is no way in the state to draw a clear conclusion on the subject, the legislator ended up imposing on manufacturers that they measure the waves emitted by their devices and indicate, for consumer devices, the number of waves absorbed by the body as measured at the head and/or waist. A precautionary principle. However, so far, with each new network, different studies over the years show that the increase in volts per meter has increased only marginally. And nothing indicates that the arrival of the 5G augurs anything else.
More surprising – the 5G technology could even lead to the opposite, as it is adopted: some of the antennas, especially those of the 3.5 GHz band, can indeed direct the signal to the devices that need it, a bit like a flashlight – it’s called beamforming. What to avoid that the energy emitted by this equipment is absorbed by people, walls, and other unnecessary obstacles. And this is precisely the key to its supposed effectiveness in areas where networks tend to be overused such as railway stations, stadiums, and other high-traffic venues.
Finally, it should be emphasized that the fact that the WHO classifies the electromagnetic fields emitted by the antennas of the telecommunications networks as “possible carcinogens” does not mean that these waves cause cancers. The category in which these waves are classified implies that the risk, if it exists, is low, that it is not scientifically proven by any study, without being totally excluded. For the record, gherkins, for example, are classified in the same category. The coffee was until recently.
As a result, there seems to be no reason for concern at the moment, which does not mean that studies should not be conducted during the deployment to verify, in the long run, that this remains the case. Especially since the antennas are subject as a precaution to power limits that operators are not allowed to exceed. Finally, last important point: we see here and there alarmist news around the subject, but we should not forget too quickly that we live in the era of internet and fake news, where unverified information and amalgam on sensitive topics like this one can spread.
As a result, while it is healthy to question the health safety of 5G networks, it is equally healthy to question the relevance of the most alarmist discourses on the subject.