2020 will be the year when all popular flagship and mid-range phones will be 5G ready, even if all they actually offer are bragging rights. Eventually, the 5th generation of mobile communication technology is going to open up a lot of new, exciting horizons for humans to explore. With this new generation of devices, we will be able to realize things that couldn’t have possibly crossed our minds a couple of decades ago.

What is 5G NR? Is it the same as 5G?

Mobile networking started in 1980 with the inception of the first handheld mobile which supported voice calling. Over the next three generations, we saw phones evolving to offer texting support, web browsing, and high-speed internet for meeting our day-to-day needs.

Now with the fifth generation of mobile connectivity, 5G, we are set to experience lots of unprecedented features that have the capability to completely transform the way we currently live.

Basically, when you think of 5G, you can hope for two improvements

  1. Faster speeds
  2. More network reliability (useful for critical 5G applications like self-driving cars, Industrial IoT)

5G NR or 5G New Radio is the 5G standard that the entire industry has adopted moving forward, and for all practical purposes, it’s now synonymous with 5G. 5G NR supports sub-6GHz and mmWave (24-100GHz) frequency bands and has two deployment models:

NSA or non-Standalone access 5G

NSA 5G is what we will mostly see for the next few years. NSA 5G will require Telecom service providers to improve and build upon the existing advanced 4G LTE networks for better speeds, but only moderate improvements in reliability. Most countries, including India, are preparing for sub-6GHz NSA 5G NR. Some countries, including USA, have Sub 6GHz and mmWave based NSA 5G NR.

Standalone 5G

Standalone 5G will use core 5G networks for low latency connectivity, or in other words, this will be the deployment that shall deliver the promised 5G reliability. For now, only SK Telecom in South Korea is the only network operator to have deployed Standalone 5G NR network. We will see Standalone 5G in enterprise-related projects like smart cities in the near future. 

With 5G we are going to experience data transfer rates which are at least 10X greater than the earlier generation of networks. They are touted to have very low latency rates and bring in higher reliability to our networks. Let us see what these features might mean to us in a real-world situation.

Evolution of Wireless Technology – 5G NR vs 4G vs 3G vs 2G

Generation Theoretical Speed Technology Features
2G 9.6/14.4Kbps TDMA, CDMA 2G technology allowed us to make two-way calls and transferring data.
3G 3.1Mbps CDMA 2000(1XRTT, EVDO, UMST, EDGE) 3G made the internet on the go possible. It introduced stable data browsing on a mobile device. With 3G we were able to do video conferencing.
3.5G 14.4Mbps HSPA Even faster data transfer.
4G 100-300Mbps WiMaxLTE Incredibly fast download speeds paved the way for HD Streaming.
5G NR 10-30Gbps Developing Ultra-fast internet, low-latency and improved reliability.

5G NR Technology: How does it work?

Up until now, we used to rely on the spectrum band of range 3GHz to 6GHz for all our communication across each and every electronic device, this leads to a lot of congestion as there are too many devices occupying the limited space we have (Including 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi and 2.45GHz Bluetooth). So, the next obvious step for us is to open up new spectrum band for communication. Now, 5G communication will span from 3GHz to 300GHz leaving a lot more space for housing all sorts of connected devices.

Opening up this new frequency band means that we will be utilizing the shorter wavelength millimeter waves for the transmission of data. These millimeter waves will help us in getting high data transfer rates as they have a very high frequency. Moreover, since we have a large bandwidth spectrum also at play, we can aggregate multiple carriers to boost the speeds to at least 10X times earlier.

But one main issue with this millimeter-wave is that they are highly prone to obstacles. Because of their high frequency, they get attenuated real quick making it difficult to penetrate through buildings, trees or even your hand. For tackling this, researches have come up with small cell networks that act as repeaters to the main network and keep the user connected to the network at all times.

The other new innovation involved in realizing 5G NR networks is Beamforming. As we have multiple base stations streaming data from all sides, resorting to the traditional multi-direction signal transmission will only cause a lot of interference resulting in poor connectivity. With beamforming, instead of transmitting signals in all directions, a focused stream of data is sent to each specific user thereby reducing interference and improving connectivity.

ALSO READ: 10+ Best 5G Phones to buy in 2019

5G NR: The Reality

While all these claims appear lofty, the major development in 5G NR space will be restricted to 3GHz to 6GHz for the next few years – at least in India. This is because it will be simpler to scale existing infrastructure for this bandwidth rather than for broader high-frequency mm Waves spectrum. And with the sub-6GHz bands, it will be simpler to extend coverage easily to relatively remote areas.

The Sub 6GHz spectrum will also allow OEMs to keep the Antenna’s slim and small, and thus retaining slim and svelte flagships.

Also check: Dual-mode 5G is not the same as Dual SIM 5G

5G NR Network Speeds

5G NR network is going to provide speeds of the order of 20 Gigabits per second owing to its multi-network connectivity. The new X50 modem of Snapdragon is designed to handle speeds up to 5Gbps. With 5G, you can experience broadband-like data speeds wirelessly on your mobile phones.

5G also brings us 60GHz WiFi which is basically similar to the WiFi we currently use but with multi-gigabit speeds and high responsiveness. What’s more interesting to note is that this is highly power-efficient as well.  So going forward we might not see cables around our houses for broadband connections as we will be greeted with more polished wireless connectivity that offers higher speeds with lower latency.

How will 5G NR affect our lives in the Future?

5G will make our internet more reliable, thus facilitating critical internet applications. Let’s list some of these possibilities that are already under development.

Cloud Computing

With the level of speeds that 5G offers, users can easily download huge files within seconds. This paves way for more and more users to depend on the cloud for storing their data. As a result, we might see a surge in PCs featuring low storage SSDs as most of the data will already be securely stored in the cloud and will be easily accessible with almost no delay on the 5G network.

Massive IoT

One of the primary areas which will benefit from the 5G network is the Internet of Things. Internet of Things is basically a network of devices which are connected to the internet to perform a specific task. These could be your smart fridge, smart juicer, Smart bulb, and the likes.

Each of these devices will have their own computational power and hence require their own communication channels to relay the information. In a network-based solution like IoT which involves several hundreds of individual nodes, the communication band should be sufficiently large to ensure smooth movement of packets without interference.

As we discussed earlier since 5G spans from 3GHz to 100 GHz this huge width of communication band will help us in bringing an innumerable number of low powered devices into the spectrum to support IoT.

 Connected Vehicles

One interesting technology which can be realized with 5G is the concept of Connected Vehicles. As we already discussed that the vast spectrum of 5G allows in bringing in a lot of new low powered devices into the network, we could install these low powered devices in automobiles to create a network of cars which track themselves in real-time.

It leaves us with a lot of possibilities to explore, like driverless cars, better traffic routing in cities, support to ambulance and healthcare services where we can transmit a distress signal to all the nearby cars from an ambulance. This technology will eventually help us in curbing vehicular accidents as the vehicles are already connected and they will be able to warn us in time from any mishap.

Industrial IoT

The next big thing that IoT is expected to revolutionize is our manufacturing Industries. With 5G added to IoT, we have access to high-speed data transfer with minimum latency which gives us extremely high reliability to use this network for Industrial purposes. Unlike, the usual 5G networks, IoT for industries will have their specified private band for communication which reduces the chance for any interference. We can employ this to help us in manufacturing processes, agriculture, drone-based delivery system, shipping & travel industry, mining industry, etc.

 XR ( Cross Reality)

Another major breakthrough we are going to experience with the inception of 5G is XR( Cross Reality). XR is a mix of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. XR brings us a lot of new features like real-time video chat, 360-degree audio and VR based gaming. Imagine putting on your VR headsets and playing a game like PUBG with your friends where you can feel like you are actually inside the game. Or imagine being present right in front of your favorite artists at a concert directly from your home using a VR headset. All these insane possibilities could be feasible with 5G coupled XR.

When will we see 5G NR phones?

 

These are some of the many possibilities that 5G NR brings us. There are several other unexplored horizons that 5G will slowly uncover and we just need to patiently wait till we get there.

Numerous 5G phones were launched in 2019, but 5G will be particularly hard to miss in 2020.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865, a chipset that we will see in almost all flagships next year, is a mandatorily 5G chipset. In other words, almost all high-end phones in 2020 will be 5G ready.

In fact, mid-range chipsets like Exynos 880 and Snapdragon 765-series have integrated 5G Modem. So, yeah, we will see 5G NR aggressively marketed for phones in 2020.

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