What Is 5G?
Incredible progress has been made in wireless technology in just 40 years. In fact, we are on the verge of moving to the fifth generation of wireless communications: 5G. The Communications Research Center (CRC), the Government of Canada’s main research laboratory specializing in advanced telecommunications, is doing everything it can to deploy 5G in Canada, so that Canadians can benefit from the systems, technologies and most modern applications in the field of telecommunications.
In the early 1980s, the first generation of wireless technology, 1G, gave us access to cordless phones (mobile communications). These devices were used only for talking, and their data transmission capacity was almost zero. They were alongside other wireless technologies, but there was no connection between these various technologies, which could not “communicate” with each other.
With 2G, the second generation launched in the early 1990s, the sound quality as well as the security and capacity of our mobile phones have increased significantly. This kicked off mobile email and text messaging services. Consumers began to replace their pagers with mobile phones because they could now send text messages directly to people.
3G networks have allowed us to benefit from high speed transmissions, multimedia access and global roaming. In other words, wireless phones allowed us to stay connected to the network in more places and to communicate over longer distances.
Thanks to faster connectivity and lower cost to the Internet, 4G has encouraged the launch of new applications and new services. It made it possible to send data, browse the Internet, watch, and broadcast and send videos, listen to music streaming in addition to having access to social media and many other applications on our smartphones.
5G will profoundly transform wireless telecommunications, paving the way for the network of future generations that will include more devices and allow faster communications and higher speeds.
“Imagine it is Canada Day,” said Doris Camire, director of research at CRC. “A huge crowd has gathered for the festivities on Parliament Hill, and everyone wants to use their cell phones to send photos or videos and communicate with FaceTime with their parents and friends. This represents a huge amount of data. Everyone is trying to connect at the same time, but it is impossible to get a signal because the network capacity is insufficient. “
5G will solve the problem with breakthroughs in three key areas: connectivity, latency and bandwidth.
Connectivity relates to the number of devices that can communicate with each other, and there are already more than five billion. In short, we are more connected than ever, but by 2020, their number should reach 50 to 100 billion worldwide. These days, people use these devices, such as smartphones, primarily to communicate with other people. With the advent of 5G, devices and machines will increasingly be able to communicate directly with each other. This is called the Internet of Things, which is the connection of objects to the Internet and to each other. This already exists: let’s take for example the thermostat connected to Wifi, which allows you to regulate the heating or the air conditioning of your house or your chalet, even when you are elsewhere.
Latency, or response time, is the amount of time it takes a device to send and receive data, that is, the time it takes to transmit a set of data over the network. Given to another person. With 4G, the latency is around 50 milliseconds. To know how fast this is, a wink takes 0.1-0.4 seconds, or 100-400 milliseconds. For wireless data transmission with 5G, it will take even less time, about one millisecond, or one thousandth of a second.
To understand its importance, consider driverless cars. As short a response time as it will take to make decisions in less than a fraction of a second. For example, imagine you are driving on the highway in your driverless car and an accident is happening right in front of you. The 5G sensors along the road would instantly transmit this information to your car, which would communicate it to the car behind you and so on, alerting each car to danger and potentially preventing another accident or pileup.
Greater bandwidth for 5G will allow very high download speeds for new applications, such as 360-degree and 3D video streaming. The classroom experience will be transformed: it will be more realistic, immersive and interactive because the headsets will be mobile and not connected to a computer. Learning a new language can be done by engaging in conversation with other students in virtual environments. We can study history by walking virtually through the streets of ancient civilizations.
5G will be a completely new and versatile network, providing an interface with all current and evolving generations of wireless technologies to come. Faster and more flexible, it will allow billions of new devices to connect to each other. CRC’s Major Challenges research projects, aimed at understanding the principles of spectrum use, finding better and innovative ways to leverage existing spectrum resources, and increasing our wireless communications capacity, will help Canada to be a world leader in 5G.
Contact us to learn more about our 5G research activities, as well as our other research projects focused on CRC’s Great Challenges and opportunities for collaboration.