5g. you’ve been hearing about it for years, and now it’s just about here — or, at least, the beginning is just about here. sure, widespread use is still a few years away, but before handset manufacturers, embedded devices for industrial applications, connected cars, and the like begin to take hold, some infrastructure needs to be in place.
5g consists of many parts, the most significant being what’s called 5g new radio (5g nr). 5g is coming in stages, mostly following releases of 3gpp standards. initially, 5g will combine with lte to form what’s called the “non-standalone” implementation wherein lte handles the control and 5g nr handles the data. over time and as millimeter-wave (mmwave) frequencies come online, 5g will migrate to a standalone version without the need for lte.
while most of 3gpp release 15 is complete, there will be some “drops” any day now, said analog devices’ thomas cameron in “5g: where is it and where is it going?” “don’t expect to see anything else regarding base station radios in release 15. late drops will likely have more to do with the higher network layers and protocols.” that’s because having a working 5g nr is just the beginning. network edges and cores will need upgrades before we see the full 5g implementation.
testing and test equipment have closely followed 5g developments. indeed, with the inclusion of mmwave frequencies, researchers and now designers have been developing phased-array antennas that, thanks to the short wavelengths, can be quite small and will fit into handsets and industrial devices. test equipment and techniques have begun adding mmwave measurements. in “5g test gears up,” we see testing moving out of the lab and into production and network tests. two well-known ate companies have added 5g capabilities to their equipment. another company known for its portable rf test equipment has engineers and technicians using its equipment in early deployments.
another test technology for 5g is emerging: an optical standard called optical data interface (odi) is poised to connect modular instruments at data rates up to 80 gbytes/s. that’s even fast enough for 5g, larry desjardin reports in “optical interfaces to address 5g test.”
while news comes out every day about 5g deployments, remember that the short range of mmwave signals means the addition of millions of new base stations, commonly called “small cells.” the short range of those small cells means that many more of them will be needed than are needed for today’s sub-6-ghz base stations. that means a potential windfall for local governments in the form of license fees from wireless carriers, which will ultimately be paid by consumers through subscriptions. larry desjardin looks at the cost structure and how it could limit deployment in “could local fees kill 5g?”
not only could fees hinder deployment, but deployment itself could be harder than you think. brian santo discusses the issues in “5g buildout will be more involved than we’ve been led to believe.” “in contrast to deploying 3g and 4g, deploying 5g will require distinct indoor and outdoor strategies,” writes santo.
today, most of the 5g effort is focused on building the infrastructure. the billions of parts that will be needed for industrial and especially consumer devices will come on its heels. but where will these parts come from? there’s more to 5g than the already-hyped modems. devices will need other active and passive components. hailey mckeefry reports on the 5g supply chain in “building the early supply chain path to 5g.”
technicians will have to install millions of mmwave small cells and upgrade existing base stations. that will take some time and effort. rick merritt looks at the toll that 5g rollouts have on installation and maintenance crews in “5g networks under construction.”