Quick Summary of 5G Tech (3 More Frequently Asked Questions Answered)
- What’s the Difference Between mmWave and sub-6 GHz Spectrum?
- What are Mission-Critical Applications?
- What is Fixed Wireless Access?
What’s the Difference Between mmWave and sub-6 GHz Spectrum?
To answer this question, the first thing is to explain spectrums.
What is a Spectrum?
“…the radio frequencies allocated to the mobile industry and other sectors for communication over the airwaves.” – gsma.com
Data and sound travel around from one device to another somehow, right? The way they do this is through electromagnetic radio frequencies. These ERFs serve as roads that connect one data point with another. And these ERFs come in specific shapes and sizes, called bands. Certain bands can only function between specific frequency points, called a range. And a spectrum is a group of bands and ranges wherein a particular industry is allowed to operate.
The mobile industry has its own designated spectrum where its electromagnetic radio frequencies are utilized. This organized system of traveling signals is extremely helpful to us as consumers of mobile tech. When you use your phone, it’s not transmitting signals aimlessly through random spectrums. Every action you perform on your device sends EMFs on a deliberate trajectory using distinct frequency bands. The bands are like pipes that the EMFs travel through.
In truth, this is all a bit more complicated than what we’ve explained here. But this is a simplified explanation of how spectrums work.
What Do the Terms mmWave and sub-6 GHz Mean?
mmWave stands for millimeter-wave. Any radio frequency spectrum 24 Ghz or higher is usually categorized as mmWave. But where 5G tech is concerned, the numbers are a little different. For 5G, 6 GHz is the threshold for mmWave. Anything below that number is referred to as sub-6 Ghz and anything higher is referred to as mmWave.
Depending on area, carrier, and a few other factors, 5G on your personal devices may operate on either mmWave or sub-6 GHz.
Remember that GHz stands for gigahertz. This is the unit of measurement used to measure electromagnetic wave frequencies.
This can get pretty technical, so we’ll explain it simply. Spectrums that operate on lower frequencies (sub-6 GHz) are durable, have broad coverage, and have the ability to travel farther than those on high frequencies. Higher spectrum frequencies (mmWave), on the other hand, are more sensitive and have smaller coverage areas. They have a hard time penetrating the walls of buildings and other solid objects.
However, despite some of its limitations, mmWave spectrum usually has faster data speeds than sub-6 GHz. Especially in crowded indoor locations (concerts, airports, sporting events) and urban areas that are densely populated.
But Here’s the Thing!
Both mmWave and sub-6 GHz spectrums are faster then the LTE we’re all using now. So no matter what, 5G is guaranteed to be a major upgrade to what you’re used to. More specifically, it’s expected that mmWave technology will offer speeds of 5 Gbps! And maybe even faster!
How fast is that? Well, your new iPhone operates at a speed between 100-200 Mbps. Remember: 1 Gb is equal to 1,000 Mb. In other words, 5 Gbps is lightning fast. The reason 5G tech is so much faster than LTE is that at a higher frequency, there’s more available bandwidth.
“The term bandwidth refers to the transmission capacity of a connection and is an important factor when determining the quality and speed of a network or the internet connection” – paessler.com
The final thing to mention about the difference between mmWave and sub-6 GHz is this. Sub-6 GHz spectrum, though still significantly faster than LTE, has limited bandwidth compared to mmWave because mmWave operates at a higher frequency. As a result, 5G operating on mmWave has the potential for faster speeds than sub-6 GHz. However, sub-6 GHz is still very fast and offers a broader range of coverage than mmWave.
So far among the areas in the US undergoing 5G tests, three of The Big Four were operating using mmWave spectrum. Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T. Sprint is the only network operating 5G using sub-6 GHz spectrum.
Should It Really Matter To You What 5G Spectrum You End Up With?
Probably not. Research thus far shows that 5G, no matter what, is so much faster than LTE that the difference may be negligible. We can’t say with 100% accuracy that this will be the case, but it appears likely. We all will be experiencing a radical upgrade to what we’re used to.
What Are Mission-Critical Applications?
The definition of a mission-critical application is as you would expect:
“…a software program or suite of related programs that must function continuously in order for a business or segment of a business to be successful.” – searchitoperations.techtarget.com
(You can substitute the word business with the word device.)
These applications cannot ever experience downtime, error, or failure. Otherwise, everything falls apart. The reason the term mission-critical may seem a bit extreme is that, initially, it applied to situations and industries where failure literally resulted in life or death. Power systems, emergency response, healthcare, things like that.
In the world of 5G, MCAs (that’s not an official acronym – we’re just using it here) are still extremely important. Take something like autonomous vehicles or remote surgery, for example. Even milliseconds matter in order for the tasks involved to be performed safely and correctly. And what about other 5G-influenced industries like public safety, smart cities, or manufacturing? All of these involve MCAs.
For networks with mission-critical applications, their infrastructures have to include ultra-low latency, solid security, expansive coverage, strong reliability, and excellent capacity.
How Does 5G Tech Benefit From Mission-Critical Applications?
The 3 benefits listed here don’t just apply to mobile devices. They apply to a large range of industries, sectors, technology, etc.
Systems with MCAs discover problems faster because of their great accuracy. This leads to faster resolution and increased productivity. Translation? Operational cost savings.
MCAs can almost always be found in machine learning and artificial intelligence, resulting in predictive and real-time analytics. By gathering info on real-time conditions and historic data, issues are quickly flagged. Not only that, but future system breakdowns can be more accurately predicted.
MCAs are usually accompanied by strategically-placed connected devices and sensing equipment. This allows systems analysts to quickly make themselves aware of status changes, including data anomalies. This is called real-time monitoring.
In order for 5G technology to truly reap the benefits of mission-critical applications, certain benchmarks have to be met first. We not only need very low latency but we also need latency to be extremely reliable. Right now, it’s expected that we’re between 5 and 10 years out from when the 5G infrastructure will be stable enough to meet these demands.
What is Fixed Wireless Access?
Fixed wireless access (FWA) is an alternative way to achieve a high-speed broadband internet connection. Instead of using traditional fiber like many of us are used to, FWA uses 5G tech. It does this via antennas. These antennas are installed at or near the office or home (or wherever the service location is). The signal communication via these antennas is very fast. They connect with the base stations nearby via internal transceivers. From there, fixed wireless access still uses the help of routers just like traditional internet.
This type of internet utilizes 5G. And it’s very, very fast. Many gigs of speed are delivered significantly faster than the internet we’re used to today.
Advantages of Fixed Wireless Access
Aside from the fact that it’s way faster than the broadband or fiber internet currently available, it’s also cheaper for the consumer. Not only that, but it doesn’t take as much time, effort, and money to maintain. This will be desirable in highly-populated urban areas with lots of internet traffic. It will also be extremely convenient for people who live “out in the boonies”, in large open spaces. The infrastructure required for FWA is minimal, it’s fast, and it’s reliable. If you live in an area that gets little or no cell signal and internet, your life will change with 5G-powered fixed wireless access.
With FWA comes very low latency. Little-to-no lag will upgrade your streaming, gaming, video message quality, live sports, and so much more.
FWA uses very little energy. Connecting transceivers to antennas and transmitting data requires a fraction of the energy compared to cable connections.
When 5G tech is widely available, so will fixed wireless access. We can assume that nearly every internet provider will jump on the opportunity to offer it to their customers. This will increase provider competition. For people who live in areas that have only one internet provider to choose from, this will likely change. The increased reliability of providers, in general, will bring more options to the table in many areas.
Disadvantages of Fixed Wireless Access
Most of the disadvantages are related to FWA deployment. Meaning how will the official roll-out of this technology be accomplished.
The Configuration Issue
There’s an ongoing debate concerning how FWA should be configured in certain areas. Particularly areas with uneven terrain and suburban areas that have drastically varying building heights. This is because line-of-sight presents a challenge.
Direct line-of-sight is required by many forms of FWA. And for the FWA configurations that don’t require it, almost all of those have a more limited spectrum availability and a somewhat truncated scan range.
The Upfront Cost Issue
We mentioned earlier that fixed wireless access will be less expensive than most current home and office internet. That’s not case where upfront costs are concerned. By upfront costs, we’re talking about costs associated with building and installing FWA-specific hardware. That includes equipment inside and outside the service location, where necessary.
What has to be done to make all these things happen is going to cost a pretty penny, at least at the beginning. Like any new technological development, when it first makes its way into the homes of consumers, it’s pricey. After some time passes, the price goes down. Because of this inevitability, some companies are holding off on taking the FWA plunge. They’re waiting for the hardware and the tech to mature before making the investment.
All that being said, there’s something that these companies shouldn’t overlook, in our opinion. Those who make the investment first will be the ones who reach untapped markets. Those who seize that opportunity, including immediately being able to offer lighting-fast speeds to existing customers, will be sitting pretty.
The Eyesore Issue
The 5G towers and transceiver antennas necessary for fixed wireless access are big. Bigger than LTE towers that you’ve seen around where you live. There are grumblings concerning what an eyesore this equipment will be. How will they co-exist with utility poles, street lamps, etc?
From our perspective, this won’t be quite the problem as some are making it out to be. Many of these transceivers will be added on or mounted on towers that already exist. Not only that, but the antennas in questions are not that much bigger than the standard satellite dish you have on your roof. It’s unlikely that these new pieces of equipment will be any more of an eyesore than what we’re already used to.
5G Tech (3 More Frequently Asked Questions Answered) – Conclusion
In reality, 5G tech and everything that accompanies it will increase the quality of our lives so much that any perceived downsides will seem inconsequential. It’s gaining lots of traction. Companies and consumers are getting excited about it. And so should you!
Contact us or visit our site for more information on the exciting developments of 5G tech!