By now everyone on the planet has heard the buzz about future fifth-generation wireless networks (so-called 5G). By moving carrier frequencies up to millimeter-wave and employing more complex modulation schemes, you can expect to see improved data rates as high as 10 Gb/s (compared to today’s 1 Gb/s), better latency (sub 1 ms) and full duplex communications so you can finally argue properly on a cell phone call. If you are a student in the RF arts or seasoned engineer looking for the Next Big Thing, this wide-open field represents 10 years of steady employment with a budget that can’t be cut by Congress. There’s no question Uber drivers will soon be replaced with robots, but no robot is going to replace you as you develop the Internet of Things that will enable safer self-driving cars using 5G technology.
As of 2016, 5G is still developing as an industry standard. Current technology stops at ~2.7 GHz with 1 Gb/s maximum data rate. 5G might extend up to 60 GHz, and will provide up to 10Gb/s. It seems like every generation takes longer to come on-line, and 5G is no exception with current projections out at 2020. The carrots on the stick are blazing data transfer, with multiple co-located users that don't crowd each other out. Massive MIMO is an exciting area of 5G wireless research and promises significant gains that offer the ability to accommodate more users at higher data rates. For more on MIMO, go to our MIMO page.
First, a little context. Below is an Ericsson commercial from 1982 that will take you back in time to the first generation (1G) of wireless data.
Today, 4G equipment makers are hitting a sales slump as the 4G build-out slows down while telecoms wait for 5G. When was the last time you looked at your phone and didn't see the 4G (or LTE) icon lit up? One CEO has seemingly lost his job while waiting for the future.
Ready to start to consider the skills you'll need in order to master 5G? Here's a video from Keysight's Dr. Shin on "How to Understand 5G: Waveforms". In the video, he explores new 5G carrier waveforms, investigates multi-carrier waveform quality, and shows you how to model end-to-end link performance using Keysight's System Vue. Enjoy!
Having a bit of trouble keeping up with all the 5G acronyms? We've got you covered - check out our Acronym pages (also available from the Acronyms link at the top of every page). If you notice any missing acronyms, let us know and we will update our database.
New for November 2016! Dr. Shin has more details on 5G, this time with a video on how to understand 5G beamforming. Beamforming is a method of using multiple antennas and shifting phase and amplitude of each one to focus the signal exactly where you want it to go while ignoring signals that are interfering with your channel. The video explores advanced architectures for channel estimation, equalization and interference cancellation. Three beamformers are compared: digital (baseband), analog, and a hybrid approach of the two which provides the best of both worlds. Note: when Dr. Shin is talking about UE and BS, it's probably not what you think - he is talking about user equipment and base stations. Dr. Shin's behavioral system model is built up in SystemVue, an ESL (electronic system-level) environment by Keysight.
Note to readers of this page: if you find it a challenge understanding all the nuances of 5G communications, you are not alone. The first step in mastering new technology is to get exposure to work going on in the industry, such as watching these and other videos, or attending professional conferences. The second step is to recognize what you don't know. The third step and the close-out is to continue your education, targeting aspects of the technology that you are weak on. Unless you stay current in technology, you will soon find your career settling for the various boring (but bill-paying) off-ramps of engineering, such as quality control, product assurance, purchasing, manufacturer's rep, sales and marketing and management... don't let this happen to you, become and stay a microwave nerd!
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