5G Wireless Technology
Cellular networks provide wireless coverage for mobile devices without any discontinuity in the radio connection.
Service providers, such as Verizon and AT&T, make use of their cellular networks to provide wireless service to their customers almost anywhere in the country. Cellphones have more powerful computer chips and bigger antennas than most household wireless devices, allowing them to process different data streams such as voice, photos and video. To communicate information over long distances, cell towers (or base stations) collect and send data from cell phones to the Internet through a cellular core network. Cellular data moves to the core network on cables called the backhaul. The core network then delivers data from hundreds of cell towers to the appropriate location and user.
Fifth generation – or 5G – is the next evolution of cellular technology that promises transformational change to current networks. This includes improvements in phones and computers, as well as the infrastructure and capabilities supporting mobile broadband communication.
Two major differences are faster connection time and significantly higher data speeds. With these improvements, just about every electronic device will incorporate wireless communication functionality, and many will utilize 5G to communicate.
A spectrum shortage decreases the reliability of wireless communication leading to dropped, delayed or blocked signals, bad video streaming and lack of connectivity.
This is particularly concerning for wireless systems that require constant connectivity such as navigation systems, drones or emergency communication systems. Due to the ever-evolving nature of technology and a possible spectrum shortage, the wireless industry has continually evolved the capabilities of wireless devices to more efficiently send and receive information. This is where 5G comes into play.
5G devices will use millimeter wave technology that allows for significantly smaller components and antennas. The cell towers will be much smaller too.
These smaller cell sites and smaller antennas will augment existing large cell towers and help alleviate cellular congestion in crowded areas like office buildings, sports stadiums or during special events where large groups of people gather and use many simultaneously connected devices.
The proliferation of new wireless-connected devices is often called the Internet of Things (IoT). Because cellular connectivity already exists virtually everywhere, 5G’s speed and reliability improvements will also enable the use of wireless systems in places where cable internet service or WiFi isn’t always feasible, like inside autonomous vehicles, drones, at remote telemedicine locations, or to administer distance learning programs in rural America.
The biggest difference is that 5G is a cellular technology that supports mobility using licensed bands, ensuring wireless connectivity nationwide. While WiFi relies on unlicensed spectrum available to anyone for wireless coverage within a limited area.
Numerous studies have been conducted on the health effects of radio frequency transmission. Most scientists reject claims that frequency waves emitted from wireless technology lead to long-term consequences.
Early projections put the total cost of standing up global 5G infrastructure at close to $3 trillion. Over several years, it’s likely that billions will be spent in the U.S. alone.
Initial security testing of 5G devices will begin in June 2020, and the initial, non-standalone, 5G external range capability will be operational in November 2020. INL plans to add new 5G technology as it becomes available.