Samsung announced Monday that it has made a breakthrough in developing technology for a fifth-generation mobile network. It has found a way to use higher frequency millimeter-wave Ka bands, allowing massive amounts of data to be transmitted at faster speeds.
Samsung has developed the world’s first adaptive array transceiver technology operating in the Ka bands, it claimed.
Many mobile smartphone users are still making the transition from 3G to 4G, but the news doesn’t mean the next leap is around the corner. It will likely take several years to bring 5G networks online.
A Long Time Coming
Samsung expects to commercialize 5G technology by 2020, which puts it on the same timetable as targets recently set by the European Union.
The EU previously announced a plan to invest 50 million euros in research to enable 5G mobile technology by the end of the decade.
When it is actually available to the masses, 5G technology will allow users to download an ultra high-definition movie file in just seconds, for example.
“This is mainly Samsung capturing the imagination,” said telecommunications analyst Jeff Kagan. “While 5G will come next, it’s still years away. We still have pockets of 2G, and 3G is everywhere. Now 4G is being installed to replace 3G, but we are still in the early years of this transformation.”
Samsung did not respond to our request for further details.
Big Data News
5G is the obvious next step after 4G — or long-term evolution — network technology. However, details are sketchy, at best, regarding how Samsung intends to resolve some obvious problems.
“The reports are so hazy around what Samsung has found that it makes it kind of a non-event,” said Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics.
“A breakthrough that allows near unlimited throughput at high frequencies; well, the other two dimensions to that equation are not mentioned: power and range,” he pointed out.
“Physical laws cannot be cheated,” Entner told TechNewsWorld. “When you go up in frequency and modulation, you need to add power to keep the same range. Adding power breaks all kinds of regulation about maximum power output of cell sites and devices.”
If power can’t be added, the range drops quickly, he said.
“In the 1990s, I once heard of a test program that was able to do 128 QAM with gigabit throughput — 100 times the speed of what was common those days,” said Entner. “The only problem was that the range was about a foot. Oh well.”
Its new adaptive array transceiver technology transmits data in the millimeter-wave band at a frequency of 28 GHz at a speed of up to 1.056 Gbps to a distance of up to 2 kilometers, Samsung said.
Employing 64 antenna elements, the adaptive array transceiver technology can be a viable solution for overcoming radio propagation loss at millimeter-wave bands, the company explained, which is much higher than the conventional frequency bands, ranging from several hundred MHz to several GHz.
The Next Generation
There will always be a next generation for mobile network — in theory, at least.
“5G is undefined at this point, except that it’s whatever the next big step up from 4G will be,” said Stephen Blum, telecommunications analyst and president of Tellus Venture Associates.
“Samsung’s announcement is an interesting piece of the technology puzzle — they’ve apparently found a way to make some other extremely high-frequency spectrum useful for mobile purposes,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“5G is likely to involve much smaller cell sizes, including in-home femto cells and distributed small cells outdoors,” Blum added — “plus WiFi offload.”
A Whole New Spectrum of Problems
The greatest issues facing the mobile industry today are spectrum allocation and the demand for more, as people increasingly use data to send texts and emails, engage in video messaging through services like Facetime and Skype, and utilize streaming entertaiment services. It’s not clear there is enough bandwidth for 4G, let alone 5G.
“We don’t yet know the standards that 5G will have to meet. That has not been established yet,” said Kagan.
“Spectrum shortage is always a looming crisis and we have to deal with that before it bites us in the rear end — and it will if we don’t address it,” he emphasized.
“Every wireless carrier needs more spectrum, small companies and large,” Kagan said. “If we can’t create more spectrum, we have to count on improving technology to more efficiently use the spectrum we currently have. That will work as part of the answer. It always has — but only as part of the answer.”
Here is where size may matter most.
“If you make the cell sizes smaller, you can use spectrum more intensively,” noted Blum.
“Samsung’s technology fits well with that; higher frequencies tend to be more useful at shorter distances,” he pointed out.
“5G, whatever it turns out to be, will be important because mobile traffic keeps going up, and the amount of spectrum available is finite. Making use of other bands, like Samsung is doing, is part of the solution,” Blum said. “5G will be a range of technologies — not just a single solution or upgrade.”
Beyond the Next Next
While 5G will offer the promise of faster speeds, users will quickly become accustomed to its capabilities, and demand no doubt will rise to transmit data even faster.
“This is the way the industry works,” said Kagan.
“It started as analog, then in the 1990s switched to digital, and the race was on. First-generation digital services, then a few years later 2G, then 3G — and we are now rushing to install 4G,” he said.
“5G is next, but the very early stages of 5G are still years away,” Kagan noted.
Nevertheless, said Blum, “I’m sure somewhere someone is working on 6G.”