Benefits of 5g Network
In fact, in a cruel paradox, the more devices that have come online, the slower the network has become, making advertised speeds unreachable. Secondarily, much of the new infrastructure required to bring noticeable improvements in speed comes with the deployment of LTE-Advanced Pro.
LTE-A Pro began with release 13 and is the final phase of fourth-generation mobile networks. It will be what carries us into the fifth generation, bringing major noticeable improvements in the coming years.
Release 13 standards began in 2015 and ended in mid-2016, it builds upon the technologies in releases 10 through 12 and takes the concept of carrier aggregation to the next level. Carrier aggregation in simple terms is taking multiple channels of bandwidth and stitching them together to make the bandwidth much larger, think of it like a single line highway getting an expansion, allowing for more traffic to flow through.
Now as I stated earlier, 4G LTE networks have struggled to keep up with the demand for mobile data because they have been limited in capacity to just a single licensed channel.
Now licensed spectrums are what carriers provide and as such, most commercial mobile data flows through licensed spectrums as they offer everyone seamless mobility and predictable performance. Carriers often have to bid wars to obtain more spectrum space for licensed use, and up to this point, we’ve essentially used up the sub-4 gigahertz spectrum space.
Much of the unlicensed spectrum resides in the 5 gigahertz range, where technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth reside as well. LTE-A allows for carrier aggregation of 5 licensed channels, which improved speeds and latency but is still not noticeably enough due to an exponentially growing demand for more bandwidth.
LTE-A Pro will support carrier aggregation of up to 32 channels in the licensed and unlicensed spectrum which will significantly increase bandwidth and allow us to use the sub-6 gigahertz spectrum much more efficiently due to the introduction of the unlicensed spectrum space.
This will also significantly reduce the bandwidth congestion we often deal with today, with licensed spectrums covering broad areas and unlicensed spectrums and Wi-Fi coexisting together providing more location-specific connections with the use of small cell technology.
Moving towards release 14 which started in 2016 and ended just this month, June 2017, 3GPP has essentially ended the bulk of fourth-generation mobile discussions, gearing into full-scale 5G NR standardization. Many technologies that fifth-generation mobile networks will expand upon further in the future will begin to be deployed including massive MIMO up to 64 antennas, beamforming, and increasing the number of small cells.
All in combination with carrier aggregation to ensure a high speed, low latency 4G LTE-A Pro connection. In reality, LTE-Advanced networks provide high-speed access to anywhere in the country – unlike highways which can only access certain destinations.
What may appear? Simple is actually complex when considering carrier aggregation on a multi-layer network. To serve the increasing number of users at more and more locations, the number and variety of radio cells in the network must grow. When an individual LTE-Advanced user is on the move this involves the aggregation of an ever-growing range of cells.
Continued network growth leads to further aggregation options including small cells, as a result, the network always dynamically selects the best cells for aggregation at any location and for all users. I like to think of LTE as 3.75G, LTE-A as 4G, and LTE-A Pro as 4G+, the transition to 5G.
However, mobile networks have been in a limbo state for the last few years, not really improving much, keeping us stuck at what I like to call 3.99G. This is because standards for LTE-A Pro were still being completed, and the beginnings of true 4G infrastructure were in the process of deployment. Even though standardization for LTE-A finished in 2015, the rollout just completed the year, 2017.
Due to this reason, speeds and latency have not even reached close to what was advertised and all the same time we’ve been paying for unreasonable data caps. Yes, I agree there are probably some monopolistic reasons for this but a huge factor is accumulating cash flow to significantly expand our mobile network in the coming years with LTE-A Pro and 5G infrastructure.
As you can see, as 5G is garnering more attention, carriers are scrambling to buy more spectrum space and beginning to roll out more infrastructure as fast as possible. The dark days of mobile networks it appears are coming to an end. Also as a side note before we continue, be cautious of deceptive advertising like AT&T branding LTE-A Pro as 5G Evolution.
They might as well call it 6G Eventual or 7G probable because they mean the same thing and are using the title to lure customers in. Back on topic, over the course of this year leading into 2019. We’ll begin to see the major speed and latency improvements. LTE-A Pro states that speeds of 1 to 3 gigabits per second and a latency of around 2 milliseconds are achievable.
Now we probably won’t see those speeds until 2020 when 5G starts becoming more commercially prevalent, but what we will see is significant speed and latency improvements every few months, on the way there. Currently with the state of LTE-A infrastructure speeds average out for the majority around 50 to 100 megabits per second.
This means we finally reached the speeds that 4G promised in 2011, and it also means we have a lot of room to grow. By 2019, at a conservative rate of growth of small cell deployments, massive MIMO arrays, and other technologies – speed should average in the 500 megabits per second to 1 gigabit per second range with latencies to the sub-25 millisecond range.
For the average mobile data consumer, these speeds will be more than enough for a very long time, and the bandwidth should be large enough to support all the new devices that come to market by 2020. In other words, LTE-A Pro will fill the gap while waiting for 5G standards to become more concrete.
Standards for 5G NR are just beginning to evolve into a form of their own with 3GPP releases 15 and 16. Release 15, the first phase of 5G standardization, began just this month, June 2017, and will progress onwards until mid-2018, at which point, release 16, the second phase of 5G standardization will begin and go on until the end of 2019.
Keeping those dates in mind, 5G infrastructure is expected to start being deployed in late 2019 or early 2020, however, there have been talks about an accelerated deployment schedule to start as early as, early 2019.
Up until then, LTE-Advanced Pro infrastructure will see a rapid increase in deployment, further easing the transition to 5G. As seen in this mobile network adoption graph, 4G adoption is starting to pick up traction and will continue to exponentially increase, right on cue with the deployment of LTE-A Pro while 5G standards are finalized.
It is also important to notice when previous mobile generations have peaked in the past. For 2G it took nearly 20 years from its deployment in 1991 to peak in 2011, and 3G recently peaked just last year in 2016, 15 years from its original deployment. 4G is expected to peak in mobile subscriptions by 2024, 15 years from its original deployment.
However, what differentiates it from other mobile generations is its rate of growth, as 2G and 3G networks’ rate of decline increases. Whereas by 2019 you can see 2G, 3G, and 4G distribution will be roughly 37.5%, 37.5%, and 25% respectively, by 2024 the majority of the world will have moved to 4G, with it covering 60% plus of network space.
This is due to increasing demand for data faster, more devices, and various global initiatives to increase connectivity around the planet that we’ll discuss in future articles. Another reason for the massive adoption of 4G will be its backward compatibility in the future to help transition users to 5G.
New mobile chips released this year will allow 4G, 5G, and Wi-Fi to work together in unison to provide consistent connectivity wherever you are. If for example, 5G beam forming loses line-of-sight connection with your device due to some unforeseen obstacle.
Your device will be able to switch to a 4G network and back again when the connection with the 5G small cell is re-established, without any noticeable drop-in service. As you can see, 4G, more specifically LTE-A Pro is an integral part of the seamless transition to 5G.
With the improvements in bandwidth and energy consumption that LTE-A Pro introduces and 5G will expand upon, more wireless subscribers coming online, as well as various other reasons we’ve discussed throughout this article.
we will see more competitive rates for larger data plans as well as the eventual comeback of the unlimited data plan while we transition but 5G. This will once again increase the rate of adoption of 4G in the coming years and 5G when it starts becoming commercially available in 2020.
These gigabit level speeds, low latencies, and low costs will open up many use cases for 5G and LTE-A Pro, such as home routers with comparable speeds to Wi-Fi, seamlessly integrated augmented reality devices, and much more which we’ll explore in the future articles.