Mobile World Conference enamored with wireless 5G

March 6, 2017
by Mark Ollig

The city of Barcelona, located in the autonomous region of Catalonia, Spain, was host of this year’s 12th Mobile World Conference (MWC).

MWC 2017 venders and manufacturers presented all the expected bells and whistle gadgets: robots, drones, autonomous cars, virtual reality visors, IoT (Internet of Things) devices, and of course, mobile phones.

However, the main theme I took away from this year’s conference, was the excitement and anticipation about the next mobile cellular network generation, called 5G.

We are still a few years away from the official 5G cellular data transmission industry standard, such as 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution).

The industry 5G network standards will be established by the technical standards-setting International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a branch of the United Nations, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Two weeks ago, the ITU agreed on important performance standards for a 5G International Mobile Telecommunication system (IMT) by 2020.

“IMT-2020 will be the global cornerstone for all activities related to broadband communications and the Internet of Things for the future – enriching lives in ways yet to be imagined,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, as quoted on the ITU website.

We are on the cusp of turning the page to the next chapter of wireless mobile networking technologies needed for future devices and services.

Eventually, we will be a single network, handling anything from low bandwidth usage for small IoT devices, to the huge bandwidth requirements for a remote-robotic surgery being performed by a doctor on a patient located a thousand miles away.

Future wireless and fiber-optic high-speed, high-capacity data networks for mission critical services - without interruption is at hand.

It’s been said, 5G will “fill in the gaps” of the current 4G network.

One gap is speed. 5G will be 40 times faster than 4G under optimal conditions, so look for data speed claims of 100 Mbps – and maybe higher – from future 5G carriers.

Everything we do now using our 4G smartphones; from downloading web pages and video, to messaging and running apps, will take place at blazingly-fast speeds with a 5G equipped (chipped) smartphone.

It was less than a year ago, when the FCC unanimously voted to open up approximately 11 GHz of high-frequency spectrum to be used for 5G.

The new 5G will be using frequency bands of spectrum above the 24GHz range.

“By becoming the first nation to identify high band spectrum, the United States is ushering in the 5G era of high-capacity, high-speed, low latency wireless networks,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in 2016.

Last week, the new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai spoke during the MWC2017’s 5G Economy keynote address, saying; “The torch at the FCC has been passed to a new generation, dedicated to renewal as well as change.”

“The 5G future will require “densified” networks with millions of small cells, many more miles of fiber for backhaul . . . Building 5G networks will require huge capital expenditures,” Pai tweeted last week from his Twitter account.

5G will be used for providing the bandwidth and area coverage needed for current and future IoT devices, autonomous cars and drones, virtual reality streams, robotics, and the artificially intelligent and autonomous devices we haven’t even thought of yet.

Cellular modems, IoT devices’ data, communications, and whatever goes into and out of the cloud; all of these things will eventually be using the 5G network.

One MWC speaker boasted how with 5G on our smartphones, we will be able to present “a professional video broadcast from our phone.”

Within the next four years, we’ll be sending ultra-high definition 3-D video from our 5G smartphones.

According to an FCC press release, major wireless carriers have already begun testing 5G technologies using the 28, 37, and 39 GHz spectrum.

Just as “wired” telephone service to the home moved from galvanized (zinc coated) iron wire to copper cable, and then to fiber optics; future services to the home will be served over wireless networks.

5G networks may become part of a service provider’s transport facility offerings; in addition to their existing fiber optic networks.

A 5G network could make a suitable back-up network to haul voice and data in the case of a local fiber cut or service interruption.

Today, Internet services are provided via “best effort,” meaning, your uninterruptable use of the Internet is not guaranteed by a service provider.

Future 5G wireless networks will provide nearly uninterruptable service, reliability, redundancy, and enough broadband speed and data bandwidth for quickly transporting huge amounts of data over a large geographical area.

Companies and countries around the world are currently racing to build and demonstrate their own technical “flavors” of 5G.

South Korea will showcase its brand of 5G technologies to the world when it hosts the 2018 Winter Olympics.

They are also overseeing the first trial of 5G being used for wirelessly networking vehicles on a test track.

China has plans for using 5G in their IoT devices, and inside their industrial development centers.

Car maker BMW already has autonomously driven vehicles, which will eventually connect to 5G networks via cellular modems.

While our autonomously driven automobile takes us to work, we will want to sit back, relax, and watch high-definition movies from Netflix, or catch-up on real-time news broadcasts from YouTube TV, sent over 5G networks.

The official industry standards for 5G will be finalized and ready for implementation by 2020.

So, when will your humble columnist be writing about 6G?

Probably in a 2028 column; hopefully, I’ll still be lucid enough to intelligently converse about it.

The Twitter hashtag for the 2017 Mobile World Conference is #MWC2017.

Be sure to follow yours truly on Twitter at @bitsandbytes.

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