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Faster, Better, Longer.

25.07.2017

Why 5G will change everything – but not by 2020

The abbreviation 5G not only makes technical hearts beat faster, but also makes all those happy who no longer want to stream their favourite series with just a landline in their back pocket. The fifth generation of the mobile network should make this possible in the future. Thanks to greater capacity, higher bandwidth, and reliable connectivity, 5G will not only offer optimal conditions for Filmstream to run, but above all also benefit the nationwide Internet of Things, as promised by providers already for 2020. However, Terence Böhme, Senior Consultant at Tallence AG, suspects that they are promising a bit too much with this.

A good 20 years ago the era of digital networking began with the mobile phone standard 2G (GSM). Today we can only smile at the bandwidths of that time. Even the third generation 3G (UMTS) looks rather pale since the introduction of 4G (LTE). LTE is currently bringing bandwidths of up to 1 GBit/s onto the road. This means that the mobile network already puts the possibilities of a conventional DSL connection in the shade.

Nevertheless, mobile phone providers are already announcing the next generation 5G for 2020. 5G promises even greater network availability with data rates of up to 10 GBit/s and considerably lower latency times (down to less than 1 ms). Thanks to improved mobility characteristics, the network should remain usable even at speeds of up to 500 km/h. This would also benefit connectivity and communication between machines and devices. The Internet of Things is therefore becoming considerably more relevant. In addition, 5G saves energy resources – friends of mobile film streaming will not only get their money’s worth in terms of network speed but can also look forward to sufficient battery life.

Yet is it realistic that 5G will bring the cinema experience into our pockets? Terence Böhme knows the Achilles’ heel of this theory: “At the moment, you still need the classic broadband/DSL connection to stream videos. Financially, you can hardly afford to watch such a film via LTE, because the data volume is still very limited.”

It seems unrealistic that mobile phone providers will drastically change their offer in the next three years. For manufacturers and operators of mobile phone networks, the changeover is a mammoth project anyway. To manage this, they have combined forces as the Next Generation Network Management Alliance to jointly promote network security, stability, and interaction between the networks. The NGNM project investigates how intelligent network management with smart software can lead to a uniform standard. According to the current state of the art, several logical networks are to be operated via virtual network sections (“network slices”) on one hardware. This makes it possible to efficiently meet different requirements. While real-time systems require a reaction time in the millisecond range, a high data throughput must be ensured elsewhere due to the data volumes to be transported. Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) provide the necessary controllable flexibility in the fifth-generation network.

The innovations in the network infrastructure field are indispensable for effectively intermeshing a wide variety of devices. It is already becoming apparent that the capabilities of existing networks are not sufficient to cover the broad networking of devices and machines – in other words, to realise the “Internet of Things”. For the use of brake assistants in vehicles up to unmanned driving, for example, low latencies in the communication between environment and vehicle are indispensable. With these and similar Internet-based functions, billions of status messages will be exchanged between machines and sensors in the future. However, intelligent, scalable networks will have to be increasingly provided for this purpose. In other words, with the advent of 5G, the Internet of Things will become a reality across the board.

“But the announcements for the fifth generation are very sporty,” says Terence. On the one hand, critics consider latency times of less than 1 ms to be technically impossible. On the other hand, new frequency ranges must be used for the technical realisation of bandwidths up to 10 GBit/s. This will incur costs of several billion euros. The 2020 target therefore seems very optimistic, both technically and financially.

We at Tallence AG are watching the developments with great interest. The only thing certain is that the classic fixed network will lose importance even before the DSL connection. Telephony is already carried out by many exclusively via mobile phone. “At the moment you still have a fixed network because it is integrated in the package with the DSL connection”, jokes Terence. In his everyday work, 5G has already found its way into his life, at least in theory. Within Tallence AG he supports a long-standing customer in setting up the laboratory infrastructure and testing new access and voice technologies.

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