Everyone is talking about 5G. We are promised something extraordinary, an incredible technological future. But at a time when 4G is not yet deployed absolutely everywhere, it’s hard to imagine what a connected world in 5G could be. To see more clearly, we tell you everything you need to know about the network of tomorrow.
Part of 5G is based on millimeter waves. These waves are currently used by the military in France, but the frequencies will be reallocated to operators during an auction, expected in September 2020. Most operators should integrate their 4G and 5G networks for the most seamless experience possible. The goal of 5G being, in addition to increasing throughput, reducing latency as much as possible, the infrastructure will have to rely on a fiber network and cache servers as close as possible to users.
Read also: it will take a colossal number of antennas to deploy the 5G network in France
The radio part of the network will rely on a variety of devices similar to those used for 4G networks. With one difference: it becomes possible to install a multitude of small mmWave cells in dense areas. These small cells will rely on millimeter waves to provide a very localized network – at short range. These small cells will obviously be installed as soon as saturation is detected in part of the network. To ensure the continuity of the connection, larger antennas based on MIMO technology will be installed on high points. Their size and form factor is difficult to discern from that of current cellular antennas.
5G: latency reduced to the maximum
The central issue around 5G is latency: reducing it to less than a millisecond revolutionizes wireless use. For example, it becomes possible to use a virtual reality headset of the future, wireless, which sends a 4K image to each eye, with a smooth and pleasant experience. The latency makes navigation more responsive, and contributes to the increase in speeds.
Minimal energy consumption
The other issue around 5G is that it will have to connect everything. Including a large number of low-consumption connected objects, smartphones and always connected PCs – which require particularly economical modules to avoid too great an impact on the battery. The first 5G modems, the Qualcomm X50 and the Balong 5000, have yet to achieve this goal quite yet. These are components that heat up, and therefore still waste a little too much energy to imagine, for example, in a weather station on battery. But that’s the direction of research and development efforts.
A reliable and secure network
If today a loss of network does not cause much drama, in the future a failure of 5G could cause very serious car accidents for example. And in big cities, with millions of connected objects concentrated in a very small area, failures can happen quickly. Several solutions are therefore envisaged to meet this constraint. The first, the Small Cells about which we spoke to you above. The operation is simple: a large 5G antenna far from urban centers distributes a signal to several smaller antennas located in the city center as we explained above.
The protocol behind 5G is also very important
Finally, and this is arguably the most important thing, 5G will put an end to the neutral network. Now, whether you connect with a smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch, apps are handled the same over the network. Tomorrow, with 5G, there will be a system of priorities depending on the applications. There won’t be one, but several 5Gs. Each application must use the most suitable radio frequencies and protocols. No need to connect to the fastest frequencies for an application giving the weather forecast for example.
What frequencies are used by 5G
Here is the list of frequencies used for 5G. As you can see, some are the same as those used until now by 4G LTE:
- n78: 3.5 GHz (sub-6)
- n256: 26 GHz (mmWave)
- n1: 2100 MHz (4G LTE)
- n3: 1800 MHz (4G LTE)
- n7: 2600 MHz (4G LTE)
- n20: 800 MHz (4G LTE)
- n28: 700 Mhz (4G LTE)
It is in practice that we will realize the power of 5G. For Qualcomm, 5G will be as important as the internal combustion engine or electricity. In the future we will be over-equipped, but also perfectly connected. Manufacturers have not really approached 4G as they should have: too late, too slowly. No question of missing a second time.
Thus, for the user, 5G should represent a real revolution. The theoretical speeds may be mind-blowing, but on average we will be entitled to 1 Gbit / s for the download and 500 Mbit / s for the upload. However, the difference with 4G is that at its lowest, 5G will offer a speed of 50 Mbit / s at a speed between 0 and 120 km / h. When traveling by plane, your smartphone will in theory be able to connect in 5G with a speed of around 10 Mbit / s. And all this 95% of the time and 95% of the places.
For the user, this opens doors that are barely imaginable today. Of course, the uses we know today will get even better. For example we can continue to stream our videos, but in more places, with better quality. VR games in the cloud will be a reality. The cars will communicate with each other and will be completely autonomous. Augmented reality will come into our lives. The GPS will be more precise thanks to the triangulation of the 5G which makes it possible to give a position with a margin of error of less than one meter.
5G: compatible smartphones
As seen above, the usefulness of the 5G mobile network goes far beyond smartphones. But these will of course be among the main beneficiaries of this technology. Currently, there are several possibilities to make a smartphone 5G compatible. The first is to use a Snapdragon 855, 855+ or 865/865 + SoC, coupled with a Qualcomm X50 or X55 modem, the most popular solution. The second is a solution developed by Huawei on its devices with SoC Kirin 980, 990, 1000 and Balong 5000 modem. The latter would also be more efficient than its competitor, but it is still early to test this in real conditions. Finally, Samsung has developed its own solution to accompany its range of Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Note 20 phones, which are equipped with a Exynos 990 and a 5123 modem.
Note also that Qualcomm is also announcing a Snapdragon X60, which promises to break all records, including 7.5 Gb / s of speed. Find below the list of 5G compatible smartphones announced:
You can find all the details on these different models in our article dedicated to the first 5G compatible smartphones.
5G: when can we benefit from it in France?
According to Arcep, the first 5G packages will arrive in France at the end of this year 2020. But it will be progressive, and the full potential of real 5G will be available from 2025 only, with the promise of exceptional speeds and extremely low latency. .
To get there, operators and manufacturers in the sector still have a lot of work to do. France is already a year behind on 5G, Orange alert. Obviously, large cities will be covered first and not everyone will need a 5G subscription this year. The first operators to offer it will likely be Orange, Bouygues and SFR. More discreet, Free Mobile is also preparing for the arrival of 5G. “More than 90% of sites in dense areas are connected by fiber, an essential element for the launch of our 5G offers”, explained Iliad.
Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus crisis has delayed the deployment of 5G in France. Faced with containment measures, Arcep was forced to postpone 5G auctions for the allocation of frequencies by several months. Nevertheless, the government is committed to rolling out 5G as soon as possible despite Bouygues’s advice. The FAI believes that 5G is not a priority in the face of the health crisis. Finally, the 5G auctions will take place on September 29, 2020.
5G: at what price?
Operators do not yet offer an offer, and it is difficult to say to what extent, in France, the latter will offer 5G packages more expensive than others. But it is clear that the war of operators has raged and that they could (we insist on the conditional) take advantage of the first 5G offers to increase their prices. A study shows, for example, that the French would be willing to pay their subscription 9 euros more expensive to take advantage of the technology.
To this must be added a premium on the first 5G compatible smartphones. Due in particular to new SoCs incorporating a modem and an adapted energy dissipation solution. Mediatek could nevertheless very quickly cut prices and democratize compatible devices.
Does 5G pose a health risk?
In France, we have been ironic for some time about the horizon on which the technology will eventually become available. But in Switzerland or Belgium, for example, the arrival of 5G worries. Conferences, petitions, votes and other actions are multiplying, locally, to prevent the installation of antennas. The fear is that 5G waves will be added to those emitted by 3G, 4G, EDGE / GPRS and GSM antennas. Without there being a 100% proven effect on the health of these frequencies, studies, often contradictory, do suggest a risk for a number of years.
Even if nothing currently allows a clear conclusion to be drawn on the subject, the legislator has ended up requiring manufacturers to measure the waves emitted by their devices and indicate, for general public devices, the quantity of waves. absorbed by the body, as measured at the head and / or waistband. A principle of precaution. However, so far, with each new network, different studies over the years show that the increase in volts per meter has increased only marginally. And there is no indication that the arrival of 5G bodes well for anything else.
More surprisingly – 5G technology could even lead to the exact opposite as it is adopted: some antennas, especially those in the 3.5 GHz band, can indeed direct the signal to devices that need it. , much like a flashlight – this is called beamforming. This is to prevent the energy emitted by this equipment from being absorbed by people, walls, and other unnecessary obstacles. And this is precisely the key to its supposed effectiveness in areas where networks tend to be overused such as train stations, stadiums, and other high-traffic places.
Finally, it should be noted that the fact that the WHO classifies the electromagnetic fields emitted by the antennas of telecommunications networks as “possible carcinogens” does not mean that these waves cause cancer. The category in which these waves are classified implies that the risk, if it exists, is low, that it has not been scientifically proven by any study, without being totally excluded. Anecdotally, pickles, for example, are classified in the same category. Coffee was until recently.
As a result, there appears to be no cause for concern at this time, which does not mean that studies should not be carried out throughout the deployment to verify, in the long term, that this is remains the case. Especially since the antennas are subject as a precaution to power limits that operators are not allowed to exceed. Finally, last important point: here and there we see alarmist news around the subject, but we should not forget too quickly that we are living in the age of the internet and fake news, where unverified information and amalgamations on sensitive topics like this can spread.
Also read: DAS – list of smartphones with the best and worst specific absorption rate
Consequently, while it is healthy to question the harmlessness to health of 5G network waves, it is therefore just as healthy to question the relevance of the most alarmist speeches on the subject.
5G: The jargon to understand
- Frequencies below 6 GHz (or ” Sub-6GHz »): These are the frequencies that are currently used by operators. As with 4G, they will gradually be converted into a 5G network. There are two types: very low frequencies (such as the 800 MHz gold band) and high frequencies, such as the 2100 MHz band.
- Millimeter waves (or ” mmWave »): These are waves whose frequency is greater than 6 GHz. They are the ones that offer speeds equivalent to those of optical fiber. They’re dedicated to 5G and they don’t have a big reach. They will therefore be used mainly in town.
- HER and NSA (acronyms of Standalone and Non-Standalone): these are two types of 5G network. The first is a network where 5G works alone and does not depend on the 4G network, while the second depends on it. You are therefore connected in 5G, but you continue to transit on a 4G core network. Ultimately, all operators will offer an SA network.
- DSS (acronym of Dynamic Spectrum Sharing): this is a function that allows 4G and 5G technologies to coexist on the same frequency bands. Initially, operators will decide to dedicate certain frequencies to 5G.
- Carrier aggregation : it is the network’s ability to serve a single customer with more than one connection (upload or download) simultaneously. This capacity can operate on conventional frequencies, below 6 GHz, and / or on millimeter waves.