5G technology is starting to appear in a few cities and on a few consumer devices, and the phrase itself is stirring up excitement across consumers and industries. It’s also generating some popular concerns around safety issues. What exactly is 5G and how and where will it impact our daily lives?
Most people understand that 5G means a faster internet connection, and that’s true – you’ll be able to download an HD movie in seconds, rather than the minutes or more that it takes with current top cellular data speeds. However, 5G is much more than just convenient Internet for the individual user – it has the potential to dramatically change the world we live in.
5G is the next step in mobile broadband. At first, it will complement existing 4G technology, using similar frequency bands, but with higher data rates, greater reliability and lower latency or lag. Later, carriers and device manufacturers will be able to use frequency bands that haven’t been used in cellular communications before, but are commonly used in aerospace and radar applications. These bands, along with new beam steering technology, will offer a major increase in network capacity. This will mean an increase in the number of devices that can be simultaneously connected including consumer devices, vehicles and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) devices. Due to the “line of sight” nature of these new bands, the top applications are likely to be in dense environments, such as cities, stadiums, freeways and manufacturing, with multiple base stations being used to provide continuous coverage. However, multipath effects, where signals can be bounced from buildings, for example, can be used to both increase the coverage and capacity.
5G will be able to support the the rapidly growing number of connected and smart devices in both the consumer context (IoT) and industry (IIoT). The research company Gartner predicts that there will be 20.4 billion connected devices in the world by 2020. The data capacity, reliability, latency and density features of 5G will support this growth and allow many new applications across different industries. On the consumer side, users will experience reliable and fast communication and new real time applications such as virtual or augmented reality and highly responsive gaming. Vehicles and their sensors will be constantly connected to both each other (V2V) and also to local infrastructure (V2I) enabling efficient, safer and autonomous driving. In manufacturing the ultra low network latency – lower than WiFi, will enable new precision manufacturing techniques lowering rework costs.
In life science, the ultra reliability and low latency will allow effective tele-surgery, where a surgeon is located thousands of miles from a patient. One area where all of the features of 5G and the above applications coalesce is the smart city. Singapore and Harrisburg, PA have both been active in this area and are looking at how 5G can be used to bring together sensor data and react and adapt in real time to ensure dependent systems function at peak performance. For example monitoring transportation, air quality, water, power demand and weather and adapting transportation, deliveries, lighting and waste management.
As the full potential of 5G is realized, the development of effective and safe 5G products and infrastructure will be key to the technology’s adoption and acceptance. Device manufactures will have to develop new 5G products or be left behind with inferior technology and due to 5G’s complexity and distinct frequency bands, there are many challenges. These challenges include adding 5G while still supporting legacy cellular, typically this will require a complete redesign. Material characteristics become significant at the higher bands and cover design will need to be carefully considered. Data speeds will be higher and internal and external interference effects will need to be mitigated. Blockage effects of the hand or head for mobile devices will be a major issue and moreover, the safety of the mobile device as well as the network infrastructure will have to be considered and meet new regulatory requirements. Finally, the robustness and resilience of the design will have to be considered to ensure sensitive components function correctly after a drop, or multiple drops.
To achieve all this in the typically short development cycle required for consumer devices and to be competitive in the emerging automotive and industrial sectors, manufactures will need to use highly virtual software prototyping tools. These tools will allow them to explore multi-variable design spaces and consider all of the electromagnetic and structural physics to achieve the overall optimal design in the shortest time possible.
The 5G vision is exciting and compelling, but there are many challenges ahead. Software tools such as those from Dassault Systemes SIMULIA can greatly ease the path to a robust and effective product. For more information take a look at our webinar here or contact us for more information.
Want to learn more? Register for this on-demand eSeminar: 5G – Meeting Design Goals and Product Timelines through Simulation and Design Exploration