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5G Technology

5G is the fifth generation of mobile communications technology. 5G is the fifth generation of mobile communications technology. Currently it is the newest internationally standardized mobile communications technology, having been launched in the second half of 2018 in some countries, and expected to become the dominant technology in global mobile communications by 2025.

5G will improve existing services and foster the development of new services (as mobile applications witnessed a tremendous leap forward with the take-up of 4G services).

Source: ANCOM

1G technology, implemented with the first mobile phones, was introduced in the mid-1980s and allowed voice calls over certain distances, using wireless terminals with analogue radio signal.

2G technology was introduced in the early 1990s and allowed, in addition to voice calls, the transmission of short text messages (SMS), national roaming or call hold using digital radio signal and CDMA or GSM standards. 2G enhancement also allowed the first web-based mobile data transmissions.

The early 2000s saw the rise of the third generation (3G) mobile technology, which allowed new features – such as accessing the Internet and e-mail from mobile phones, as well as video calls – and brought about the release of the first smartphones and the emergence of the UMTS standard.

The introduction of 4G technology in 2009 enabled high-speed mobile internet access, which triggered the emergence of ever smarter terminals and the use of LTE and WiMAX standards.

Briefly, 5G means higher speeds for data transmission, the ability to simultaneously connect a higher number of devices, which can instantaneously react to instructions.

Source: ANCOM

In a first stage of development, 5G can offermuch higher transfer speeds compared to previous generations. For example, if in 4G the average (download)speed is ~ 30 Mbps and the maximum speed ~ 90 Mbps, the average speeds expected from 5G range between 130 – 240 Mbps, with maximum speeds of over 1 Gbps.

Technology Download speeds (Mbps) Download time for a full HD movie
average maximum
3G 8 20 > 24 h
4G 36,4 100 >7 minutes
4G+ 42 300 2,5 minutes
5G 100 – 200 1 – 10 Gbps (theoretically) 4 – 40 seconds

Link sursă – Article What is 5G? (section 3.1 Superior speeds)

Much lower latency (the time elapsed between the moment of giving an instruction to a device to perform an action and the moment when the device actually performs that action) – it means that the network responds better, the data transmission is instantaneous. For example, there will be no more delays in interactive online games. At a later stage of development, 5G will also allow “professional” applications to rely on such low latencies (e.g. telemedicine, self-driving cars – which require a latency of 1 millisecond).

The biggest step forward expected with the spread of 5G isThe Internet of Things. 5G technology will facilitate the simultaneous connection of a very large number of devices (e.g. telephones, smart appliances, sensors, cars, etc.). Smart homes, smart cars, smart factories and smart cities will develop by using a growing number of smart, connected objects that exchange information with each other. According to Statistaestimates, by 2030 the number of devices connected to the Internet worldwide will be 50 billion.

The 5G network will facilitate superior user experience, namely the perception of unlimited internet or of infinite network capacity, which means that there will always be enough capacity available for any requested data transfer.

According to ITU-R Recommendation M.2083-0 – IMT Vision – General framework and main objectives for the future development of IMT for 2020 and beyond (pages 13-14), 5G comes with superior performance compared to 4G, as shown, for example, in the figure below. Keep in mind that 5G technology will evolve with the new solutions developed to provide for the implementation of all standards.

  • maximum speeds approximately 20 times higher than those allowed by 4G networks, as 5G peak data speeds can reach tens of Gbit/s;
  • a considerably higher data processing speed, correlated with lower latency, which drives to a substantially faster device response to data transfer commands, from 10 milliseconds for 4G to one millisecond for 5G, considering the best performance of the two technologies;
  • network energy consumption up to 100 times lower;
  • 10 times higher density of connections that can be maintained simultaneously (at least 1 million devices/km 2).
imagine 4_performante-ITU_en

Source: ANCOM

However, it will not be possible to cumulate performance (e.g. 1 million users per 1 km 2, all connected simultaneously at 1 Gbps with a latency of 1 millisecond).

More details are available here: Recommendation ITU-R M.2083-0 – IMT Vision – Framework and overall objectives of the future development of IMT for 2020 and beyond.

What can we use such performance for? For providing more advanced services or new services. In the short run, it can be used for high-quality mobile internet, close to the fixed internet usage experience In the longer run, with maturing technology, 5G will enable benefiting from new services and advantages, such as:

  • Smart cities, smart transport systems and smart homes interconnected on a large scale
  • Advanced applications in artificial intelligence, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), sports or creative industries
  • Large-scale use of drones in otherwise inaccessible areas (conflict areas, oil rigs, areas affected by natural disasters, etc.)
  • Accuracy, speed and cost reduction in agriculture, irrigation, mining, logistics, medicine, etc.
  • Spectacular automation of industry, manufacturing flows, logistics operations
  • Improving the quality of public emergency response services, based on data collected by traffic management
  • Autonomous vehicles (self-driving, interconnected, using AI algorithms).

Source:European Commission’s article “5G” (ANCOM translation)

For more information, see the website of the European Commission, which provides answers toFAQ on 5G(answers to questions 2, 5, 6, 7, 9) or the article “5G Explained – How 5G Works”, section “What will 5G enable?

5G and radio waves

Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic waves – they are referred to in terms of wavelength (expressed in meters) and frequency (expressed in hertz). Frequency is the number of oscillations that pass a fixed point per second. The two physical quantities are inversely proportional to each other: the higher the frequency, the shorter the wavelength and vice versa. An electromagnetic wave has the shape of a sinusoid whose wavelength is the distance between two consecutive peaks of the sinusoid (kilometres, meters, nanometres, micrometres, etc.).

Electromagnetic waves travel at the speed of light i.e. 300,000 km/s. For example, consider an FM radio station that broadcasts at 100 MHz: therefore, the wavelength is 3 meters. If we “counted” the waves emitted by this station that “pass” us by, the result would be exactly 100 million waves per second.

The electromagnetic spectrum is made of all the electromagnetic waves in the Universe. The Earth, the Sun, the lightning in the atmosphere, cosmic phenomena, in fact any matter with a temperature above absolute zero, is a natural source of electromagnetic fields.

With the development of civilization and the use of electricity, humans began to produce artificial sources of electromagnetic fields. Virtually any object that is powered by electricity is an artificial source of electromagnetic field, for example: refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, TV or car remote controls, lamp bulbs, radios, television sets, computers, the power supply network or the railway power supply network.

We are surrounded by a wide variety of electromagnetic field sources, which differ in frequency, wavelength, power, propagation characteristics, etc.

Why does wavelength/frequency matter in the debate on radiation?

Electromagnetic waves are used both in radiocommunications and in radiography (using X-rays). Such different uses rely on the completely different nature of the “radiation” these waves emit, due to the energy they carry. Based on this energy, electromagnetic waves may be either ionizingor non-ionizing.

From a certain frequency (3 PHz or 3,000 THz or 3,000,000 GHz) upwards, respectively from a certain wavelength (100 nm) downwards, EMF radiation becomes ionizing, as it alters cellular structure. This category includes X-rays orGamma rays.

EMF radiation with frequencies below 3000 THz and wavelengths above 100 nm are considered non-ionizing radiation because they do not have the capacity to cause changes in atomic structure by disintegrating it. Thus, the category of non-ionizing radiation includes ultraviolet (UV) radiation (wavelengths between 100 nm – 400 nm), visible light (wavelengths between 400 nm – 700 nm), infrared radiation(wavelengths between 780 nm – 1 mm), radio frequency electromagnetic fields (frequencies between 100 kHz – 300 GHz), low frequencies (between 1 Hz – 100 kHz) or static magnetic and electric fields (0 Hz).

Image source – Adaptation of the figure presented in Article “5G, human exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) and health”

The negative health effects of ionizing radiation are well known which is why, for example, excessive sun exposure is not recommended or there is a medical protocol specifying the number and type of radiographs allowed annually. All these harmful waves (“rays”) have a very short length and a very high frequency, but even in this case the effects on the human body are extremely different depending on the duration of exposure and the intensity of exposure: we can be exposed, if necessary, for a few seconds to an X-ray every few months. However, exposure to ultraviolet solar light is a matter of personal choice.

Non-ionizing radiation does not alter cell structure, the only proven effects that are universally accepted in theory and in practice are thermal effects (tissue heating, due to the transfer of energy by absorption from the radiation source to the human body). Electromagnetic waves used by mobile communications (including 5G technology) belong to this category of non-ionizing radiation, being characterized by much longer wavelengths than ionizing electromagnetic radiation. . .

. . . More details are available on theWorld Health Organisation website, in the section dedicated to electromagnetic fields.

In Romania and in Europe, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2600 MHz and 3500 MHz frequency bands (the latter being also known as the 3400 – 3800 MHz band) are used for mobile communications.

In Romania, the 700 MHz and the 1500 MHz bands will be also used in the short run, as well as the 26 GHz band – in the medium run.

Electromagnetic waves with frequencies in “low” bands i.e. below 1 GHz (700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz) are adequate for providing coverage on wide areas, over long distances, they propagate well inside buildings, but the data transmission speed they can ensure is limited. On the other hand, waves with frequencies in “medium” bands (2600 MHz, 3400-3800 MHz) propagate over shorter distances and feature limited penetration inside buildings but allow a high data transmission speed.

Mobile communications licences in Romania (and in Europe) are technologically neutral – operators can use any available technology (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, etc.), as long as they comply with the technical conditions of the licenses. Thus, 5G technology uses frequencies that have been serving 2G, 3G or 4G technologies for decades, while millimetre bands, such as the 26 GHz band, expected to be used for 5G in the medium term – around 2025 – have already been used in specific fields. Thus, millimetre bands have been used for decades, including in Romania, for point-to-point wireless links, deployed to backhaul mobile communications traffic from base stations to the management and control nodes of mobile networks.

The microwave oven uses the frequency of 2.45 GHz, which is close to frequencies licenced for 4G mobile communications (the 2.6 GHz band), preparing food within seconds. How is this possible?

In plain language, it is perfectly possible, because there is a huge difference in power density between the microwave oven and a 4G base station:

  • in a microwave oven, a power of 1 kW is distributed within a volume of 20 litres (the oven volume), as in a Faraday cage;
  • in mobile communications, the effective radiated power typical of a base station operating in the 2.6 GHz band (~ 2 kW), dissipates on an area of about 3 million square meters.

The power density (energy/power radiated per unit area) decreases with increasing distance from the radiation source, being inversely proportional to the square of the distance. Also, the intensities of the electric field and of the magnetic field (components of the electromagnetic field) decrease as the distance increases (they are inversely proportional to the distance) – an attenuation phenomenon which means that the signal loses strength as it travels through free space (see figure below).

In the case of propagation through real environments, the attenuation of the electromagnetic field strength with distance is greater than the attenuation in free space, due to the presence of obstacles along the radio wave propagation path (hills, mountains, buildings, vegetation, metal structures, etc.).

Sursă imagine: Source: The book “Human Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields: From Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) to Radiofrequency”,Chapter 1 (Figure 1.13. Decrease of the electric field, the magnetic field and the power density with the distance from the source, page 19))

Mobile electronic communications networks

A terminal/telephone set operating at the limit of a large cell coverage, for example in a rural area, transmits close to its maximum power to enable the base station to receive its signal, but the emission power of the telephone diminishes as it approaches the antenna. In cities, the cell density makes it possible for the terminal/phone to connect to several cells simultaneously and automatically choose the one with the best signal, so that, by default, the phone minimizes its transmission power. Basically, the radiation emitted by the user’s mobile phone prevails in any given location i.e. around the user the telephone antenna radiation is higher than the radiation from the base station.

Source: Publication of the Polish Government “Electromagnetic field and people. About physics, biology, medicine, standards and the 5G network ”- Figure 5. The effect of distance from the base station on the transmission power of a mobile phone, author: Paweł Woźniak, page 44 (ANCOM translation). (ANCOM translation).

Moreover, digital mobile systems currently use energy control mechanisms whose primary function is to keep radio signal emissions at the minimum necessary and sufficient levels to ensure the quality of services. That is, mobile phones “work” at the lowest possible powerrequired to ensure proper quality. In GSM networks, a command for changing or maintaining the phone’s signal level is given twice a second, so that as the phone approaches the antenna, it reduces its transmission power. The main reason for this mechanism is efficiency (lower probability of interference, along with lower energy consumption), which triggers a significant indirect effect – the reduction of radiation exposure. Technological progress brings about advanced, more sophisticated power control techniques – for example in 3G/UMTS technology, the power between the base station and the phone is adjusted 1500 times per second.

The effects of technological progress are also seen in the maximum power of phones. Thus, from one generation to another, the power levels of terminals have been drastically reduced:

  • 1G 6 – 15 W
  • 2G 1-2 W
  • 3G, 4G 0,25 – 0,2 W

Source link: A publication of the Government of Poland “The electromagnetic field and people. On physics, biology, medicine, standards and the 5G network.”, page 44

Regardless of technology, any mobile communications network develops in two phases: first, an certain coverage is achieved by installing macro-cells. Then, based on the traffic increase observed (internet, telephony, etc.), capacity is supplemented in certain areas (for example, in localities, shopping malls, etc.) by densifying lower power cells and using additional frequencies.

Therefore, in dense areas, with a lot of traffic, there will be more base stations, which use more frequencies but also comparatively lower emission powers (radiation) – compared to macro-cells. A shorter distance between the base stations and the phones also requires less power and implicitly means less cumulative radiation (generated by both the base stations and the user terminals).

For the purpose of introducing 5G, having regard to investment efficiency reasons, network operators may use existing base station locations. However, they may also develop new base station locations.

5G will also require the installation of low-power base stations, the so-called “small cells”, comparable to wi-fi transmitters, especially in crowded places such as stadiums, airports, or shopping malls.

Finally, some companies may be interested in equipping their industrial areas with private 5G networks, according to installation rules specific to their own needs and constraints, with or without the help of public network operators.