The significance of the coming generation of mobile telecommunications goes far beyond the mere speeding-up of bandwidths. 5G will enable completely new solutions, and it will be the driving force behind major steps in industrial development.

Many IT professionals can still remember the first mobile phones. In the nineteen-eighties, these relatively bulky devices were mainly used for analogue voice transmission. The first generation of mobile c telecommunications was based on almost forgotten technologies like AMPS, NMT and TACS. GSM ushered in the second generation in the nineties. Not only did it introduce new transmission methods such as sending and receiving text messages, it was also digital. The third generation, WCDMA, followed at the beginning of the new millennium before the current transmission standards – LTE and LTE Advanced, also known as 4G – finally came along.

Full speed ahead into the mobile future

We are now standing at the beginning of a new era in mobile data transmission. Since 2016, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a global cooperation comprising several technical committees and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), has been developing the fifth generation of mobile telecommunications, or 5G for short.

But 5G is far more than “just” a new generation of mobile telecommunications. The standard specified in last year’s Standalone Release 15 (SA 15) is not only intended to be faster than its predecessors. 5G will enable – in theory at least – latencies of up to 1 ms. Previously, this was only possible with wired fibre optic connections. These extremely low latencies are a prerequisite for all kinds of real-time application and can also bring a significant boost to virtual reality and augmented reality.

These technical advances are made possible in part by a broader frequency spectrum, which, thanks to an improvement in spectral efficiency, can be utilised to much better effect. Furthermore, 5G will significantly increase the number of mobile telecommunication cells so that fewer users are serviced per “small cell”. This increases the available bandwidth. And then there are modern technologies such as MIMO (Multiple Input/Multiple Output), Massive MIMO and beamforming. These not only enable the use of more transmission channels but also much more dynamic control of the propagation of radio waves to the user.

Key technology for Germany as an industrial nation

But not only that. 5G is also regarded as an “IoT enabler” for the future of communication. The Internet of Things is spreading rapidly. According to a current Vodafone study entitled “IoT Barometer 2019”, 34 percent of those enterprises polled already use the Internet of Things. In transport, manufacturing and finance, the figure is even higher. 60 percent of respondents also assume that IoT will completely transform their business sector in the coming five years. But this can only be achieved with fast, reliable connections such as those that 5G will provide. That is why 52 percent of the enterprises polled by Vodafone want to switch to the new mobile communications technology as quickly as possible or as soon as it is available.

The Bitkom Association has also taken a closer look at the topic of 5G. Bitkom president Achim Berg has already described the new telecommunications technology as the “key technology for Germany as an industrial nation”. He went on to say: “Very high speeds and ultra-short response times are the basis for the smart factory.” In his opinion, 5G will give German industry an enormous boost but he also believes that many companies have yet to recognise its relevance. He also stated that 5G provision was still not on the agenda for 55 percent of industrial companies. His stark warning: “Those who fail to tackle the issue of 5G today, risk losing business tomorrow.”

A further benefit of the new technology is that it enables much more precise localisation. Scientists are currently researching into accuracy to nearer than one metre. That, for example, enables positioning far superior to that currently achieved by GPS. Besides greater precision, 5G also boasts enhanced reliability, lower energy consumption and a higher level of scalability. That also enables time-critical applications in industrial processes for which so-called “earables” are required.

5G will unleash the capability of controlling large fleets of robots as well as of establishing an Internet connection for remote locations or industrial machines that were previously hard to reach. Integration into sectors such as production and storage will unlock further benefits such as increased product and process quality and lower costs. But before we reach this point, we first have to create the underlying infrastructure.

Fibre optic cable is the backbone of the new generation of mobile telecommunications

The three-month auction for awarding 5G frequencies ended in the middle of June this year. Now it is up to the providers to act. By the end of 2022, the aim is to cover 98 percent of households in each German state with a transmission rate of at least 100 MBit/s in download to the mobile network. The end of 2022 is also the target date for the 100 MBit/s connection of all rail networks with over 2,000 passengers a day as well as that of all national motorways and major trunk roads. Use of all remaining rail routes with up to 50 MBit/s is planned for the end of 2024.

To achieve these ambitious aims, it will be necessary to put into service around 1,000 new base stations in the 3.6 GHz range by the end of 2022. Due to the bandwidths required, each base station will have to be connected by fibre optic cable. The cascades sometimes used in stations connected by directional radio will only appear in exceptional cases.

The construction of the 5G network will therefore impact the spread of fibre optic networks. On the one hand, as already mentioned, new capacity will be required to supply the transmission systems. On the other hand, some connections that go directly to subscribers (Fibre To The Home/Fibre To The Building) will become superfluous as they can be covered wirelessly. This will bring many customers a price advantage. So they benefit twice: on the one hand from the new technology and its concrete advantages in terms of extremely low latency and larger bandwidths and on the other from growing competition and falling costs.

HCD Consulting supports you in connection with FTTH and of course with 5G

The small cell networks required for 5G need a solid infrastructure based and tried-and-trusted fibre optics. The bandwidths not only have to be able reach the individual antennas but also to be conducted by them. Here is a practical example: a congress centre no longer needs one large antenna on the roof but between 20 and 50 small cells, depending on the situation. Some of them can be installed on the various floors of the building.

For your 5G and FTTH projects, you not only need high-performance network hardware such as PoE-enabled switches but also a competent partner like HCD Consulting GmbH. We have the necessary experts, take on project management and consulting, and supply intelligent, cost-efficient hardware solutions. Moreover, we can count on strong partners from our FTTH network.