Needless to say, 5G is the hype of the moment, not only among operators but also among big tech companies, industries, and governmental organizations. To the large audience, 5G is a Formula 1 car with the most advanced technological innovations. It is a precious stone of the highest quality. Yet, 5G clearly hasn’t achieved what it is meant to. The car we are comparing has some set-up problems to solve, and the precious stone needs some severe polishing before reflecting its actual value.
The expectations from this new standard are truly overwhelming given the revolutionary changes it is meant to bring to a plethora of sectors, whether in industry, agriculture, retail, healthcare, etc. It is precisely these projected gains that resulted in a rather hasty deployment of 5G networks around the world. Operators have even raced to claim the number one spot in the 5G network deployment speed. Smartphone manufacturers have added the 5G moniker to the phones to increase their market shares and dominate the new 5G landscape. Regardless of all the hype around, 5G remains an immature innovation with many necessary tuning in different domains.
An Identity Crisis?
If you pick a sample from each specialized sector and ask them to define 5G, you will rarely find a standard and unique definition, and this is mainly the central issue with this standard.
Traditionally, previous generations in wireless communications were defined based on the set of technical specifications mandated by the third generation partnership protocol (3GPP). The architecture, performance targets, and some of the use cases were even clearly described.
While this is still partially correct for the latest generation, otherwise, deployment difficulties would arise; the general view towards 5G goes into categorizing it as a brand, a niche sellable commodity that is expected to attract considerable and sizable investments. The new 5G architecture and flexibility have unlocked previously unseen potential that most companies would want to jump into.
When monitoring the operation of the big tech giants, a new recurring pattern can be identified. Lately, an increasing number of acquisitions have been completed among big tech companies to create new business opportunities in the telecom sector.
The main driver is to eventually act as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), selling private 5G networks to their customers. This couldn’t have happened without the new 5G design philosophy of creating inter-related functions that could be easily implemented on the cloud. So basically, a large chunk of the 5G network can be moved to the cloud, thus simplifying the deployment, integration, management, and optimization processes.
Therefore, the big companies can rely on long-term expertise in cloud/edge computing solutions to break into this somewhat virgin market. Among others, standout acquisitions include the case of Microsoft, which acquired Metaswitch Networks, a UK-based private company specialized in telecommunications software; and the big Japanese company Rakuten which acquired Altiostar, a telecom equipment vendor, and Rubio.io, a US-based cloud technology company. Finally, Oracle, the computer tech company, is shaping up the telecom market with its 5G cloud-based network core and its latest acquisition of Federos, a provider of AI-based network analytics.
Another talking point in the 5G community relates to Open RAN and the promise that hasn’t been concretized yet. In 2018, an alliance was created to transcend wireless networks from a closed vendor-specific proprietary design paradigm to a more open design philosophy with additional interoperability among different vendors.
Four years later, the created alliance has significantly increased in size, including most of the frontrunners in the telecom industry. Although notable progress has been made earlier towards achieving the openness goals, the interest in this philosophy surprisingly diminishes with a lot of resistance from vendors. At the end of the day, guaranteeing higher profits and keeping their customer portfolio is much more important than reaching a common open and modular implementation in the context of beyond 5G networks.
This being said, communications, computing, networking, business use cases, and openness are a few among several themes that need to be clearly defined to have a proper identity of the famed 5G.
Winning the Spectrum War
With any (re)volution in wireless communications comes the drive to exploit new bands in the radio frequency spectrum to unlock additional bandwidth and reach the predefined performance targets. However, 5G is not the only player in the wireless market, competing with other numerous wireless standards and applications for these highly precious spectral resources.
A couple of months ago, several airlines, such as Emirates and British Airways, halted their flights to the US. The shocking headlines had nothing with politics. For once, telecom has stolen the spotlight as the troublemaker for such drastic measures. The main reason for all the trouble was that telecom operators started using the C-band for their 5G networks. The airlines claimed that the newly operated 5G network could eventually interfere with aviation altimeters which use another part of the same band.
The interference would lead to erroneous readings and potentially fatal incidents, especially since precise altitude measurements are essential for automated landings, particularly in bad weather conditions. To make things worse, the next iteration of the WiFi standard, dubbed WiFi 7, is also expected to use the already crowded fabled C-band for its operation, creating an additional interoperability hassle.
While for technical experts, the concurrent use of the band can be done with proper management of the resources and strict regulatory measures, the aforementioned incidents, which may raise some eyebrows regarding the new 5G generation, clearly indicate that the aggressive deployment strategy should be done more systematically to avoid future problems especially that the spectrum is not only reserved for cellular connectivity.
Does 5G Cater to Our Health? The Environment?
When it comes to the evolution of mobile technology, the picture is not always rosy. The 5G silhouette of a beautiful person is often accompanied by a dark shadow, one caused by the adverse effects it brings on the environment and the users’ health in general.
While these effects can be alleviated, the lack of proper regulation allows network designers and telecom operators to overlook that dangerous aspect.
The role of 5G in decarbonizing the environment is two-sided. The first and most important aspect is reducing CO2 emissions in deployed 5G networks by resorting to clean renewable energy sources. On the other side, 5G has a key role in reducing carbon emissions in other sectors by providing the means for automation and remote monitoring and management. The digitization and softwarization in the operation of 5G networks is another way of reducing the resulting carbon footprint.
Another severe foreseeable risk comes from the future operation of 5G networks in higher frequency bands, known as millimeter wave (mmWave), which is the next planned step if the ambitious data rate and delay targets are to be met. The wireless properties at those bands mandate a significant increase in the number of transmission entities to guarantee proper coverage in the network. A direct consequence, not seen to the naked eye, is the surge in the radiations, which has a significant effect on the wellbeing of people, whether they are subscribers or not.
There is a mere schism among scientists regarding the level of damage (or its absence) from these emanating radiations, mainly due to their non-ionizing nature. The discordance extends to regulatory commissions, which have diverged in determining proper safety thresholds regarding the allowed power levels one can be safely exposed to. Most of them rather permit an exposure level that is relatively high, mainly to allow some cost-effective design of wireless networks with a lower number of antennas transmitting with a higher power (Yes! politics exist in telecom as well). This leaves people as prey for these harmful emissions.
5G is significantly different from previous generations, and problems will only get worse with future iterations of this standard. Therefore, it is essential to devise new measures for the safe operations of communication systems at higher frequencies. Whether the danger is real or not, additional effort should be made to harmonize the safety threshold among regulatory agencies and, most importantly, enforce them for all deployed and planned 5G networks. 5G had nothing to do with COVID-19, but incurable illnesses could undoubtedly be linked to wireless networks in the future.
5G vs. Wi-Fi: Harmony or Competition?
The evolution of wireless technologies has been going at a steady pace. Two technologies have been dominating the market for more than two decades. The advent of GSM or 2G as it is widely known, has allowed true mobile communications that culminated with the latest 5G evolution, while the Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) standard has brought mobile internet connectivity to the premises. In the technical circles, 2G and its subsequent evolutions are classified as a wide area network (WAN) technologies while Wi-Fi is a wireless local area network (WLAN) technology. The differentiation comes from the coverage range of each. The latest 5G standard has brought versatility to cellular technologies. People have been asking whether Wi-Fi should still exist with the increasing 5G availability. In the battle of 5G vs. Wi-Fi, are these technologies considered as friends or foes?
What are the Differences Between 5G and Wi-Fi?
Although they share many similarities, notably in terms of performance, 5G and Wi-Fi are basically two separate worlds. The philosophy surrounding their implementation and deployment is largely different.
5G vs. Wi-Fi: Installation and Ease of Use
The difficulty in deploying these two technologies is where the difference is actually the largest in the 5G vs. Wi-Fi battle. Akin to other previous cellular technologies, the deployment of 5G networks goes through a meticulous process including the optimized planning of the network, and deployment of the planned cell-sites and other associated components. The resulting capital expenditures are significant due to the cost of purchasing the components and erecting the different cell-sites. The subsequent maintenance and upgrade costs add to the existing bill. To compensate for the costs, operators work on paid subscriptions, and other attractive services to keep their profits on the positive side.
On the other hand, Wi-Fi requires a much lower cost to deploy. All what is needed is to decide where access points are to be installed and how many of those are needed. Once acquired, the Wi-Fi network can be connected to the Internet backbone to establish end-to-end connectivity. It is worth noting that the cost of wireless access point is significantly cheaper than that an erected cell-site.
5G vs. Wi-Fi: Frequency of Operation
This is another large difference between the two technologies. 5G networks normally operate on licensed spectrum, with the exception of the CBRS band which has been recently used in the USA for private networks. This means that network operators need to go through auctions to acquire expensive licenses to run their network. The licenses fees also depend on the band of operation for the 5G network.
Wi-Fi however uses unlicensed spectrum for operation, namely in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. From a wireless propagation perspective, the 2.4 GHz allows a wider range of operation at the expense of much lower speeds. The new Wi-Fi 6E standard should allow additional bandwidth in the 6 GHz band which should boost the perceived performance from Wi-Fi transmission.
5G vs. Wi-Fi: Range and Performance
5G clearly stand out in terms of the range of operation. The use of hundreds of geographically distributed cell-sites and the flexibility in selecting several bands of operations allow 5G networks to be accurately dimensioned for certain coverage targets. Wi-Fi networks on another side are limited to several hundreds of meters in range, depending on the frequency of operation (lower band) and transmission power (higher).
With the latest Wi-Fi 6/6E release and the nearing Wi-Fi 7 announcement, the performance of Wi-Fi is on par with 5G networks, if not better in some cases. The fact that the Wi-Fi network is connected through fiber optics to the backbone with the users normally very close to the access point, allows consistently high-performance guarantees. 5G networks from the other side suffer from the classical cellular connectivity problems. As the subscribers get farther from the cell-site, the performance drops due to the signal attenuation resulting from the increasing distance and user mobility.
Wi-Fi 6 vs. Private 5G Networks
The emerging topic of private 5G networks has pushed many to question the need for Wi-Fi networks. With private networks, enterprises and other small institutions can have a secure environment where high quality connectivity is guaranteed, and several additional use cases can even be created. The cheaper Wi-Fi network can theoretically be used to achieve the same task, expect for the lack of a seamless connection to the external networks.
In a sense, private networks have been a competitor in Wi-Fi’s territory as it was the first 5G local area network (LAN) solution, invading a category where Wi-Fi has long been the undisputable leader.
Towards Tighter Cooperation?
5G and Wi-Fi shouldn’t be seen as enemies or foes, but rather as complementary technologies. The benefits of employing both technologies at the same time are numerous. Traffic offloading is one important application for a concurrent technology use. As data services are pricey on cellular 5G networks, offloading tasks when a Wi-Fi connection is available could save the subscriber a lot of money. The existence of a Wi-Fi network provides load balancing opportunities as the processing can be shared between the 5G and Wi-Fi networks. For instance, in the context of private LANs, local processing could be done through the Wi-Fi network while the 5G link can be used to connect different entities within the premises and maintain a connection with the external public 5G network.
Remember the Samsung Galaxy S5 from 2014? It featured a download booster feature that combines LTE connections with the local Wi-Fi connection to boost the download speed. The impressive 5G and Wi-Fi performance guarantees can even make the user experience even better.
5G and Wi-Fi are two technologies that are so different than each other, yet they complement one another perfectly well. Looking at them as competitors is undermining to their inherent properties as each has been conceived to achieve specific goals which do not necessarily align. The controversy stirred by the emergence of private networks is certainly not enough to question the role played by Wi-Fi network. The prospective advent of Wi-Fi 7 will foster the role played by the LAN technology in synergy with the wider range 5G networks.
“Inside Telecom provides you with an extensive list of content covering all aspects of the tech industry. Keep an eye on our 5G, Telecoms, and Technology space to stay informed and up-to-date with our daily articles.”
5G Use Cases in Education: Breaking the Barriers in Online Leaning
The recent coronavirus pandemic has been a big challenge for different sectors worldwide. The health industry has been put to the limelight due the large number of casualties and the inability of healthcare systems to ramp up their resources to face the rapidly escalating situation. In the background, the pandemic tested the readiness of various sectors in facing a sudden event. The evident answer was that no one was even close to being prepared for the unforeseen disastrous results of the sanitary events. Instead, the period has been governed by experimenting, learning, upgrading, and innovating, a cycle that has been ongoing, even when the repercussions of the pandemic subsided.
The pandemic was in particular severely testing for the educational sector. Millions of students suddenly found themselves away from the classroom, with no proper plan on how to proceed with their curricula. The first and obvious resort was technology and over the top (OTT) applications such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, and Google Meet. Online learning platforms alleviated the burden on the educational system but at the same time highlighted the inadequacy of the existing telecom infrastructure to support a large surge in the number of users while satisfying minimum quality of service requirements. While operators worked heavily on upgrading their infrastructure, even in the middle of the pandemic, 5G use cases have emerged as lifesavers for the education sector. Not only this, but the pandemic also coincided with a worldly drive to deploy the latest technology on top of the existing 4G network.
Why 5G Can Be the Difference-Maker in Education?
Three main keywords favor the ranking of 5G as a difference-maker in the education sector: bandwidth, latency, and security. The new wireless standard has been conceived for flexibility in terms of the deployment strategy (non-standalone vs. standalone), bands of operations, and customization in terms of the implemented virtualized functions. On top of that, security policies have been notably enforced with the latest generation in mobile communications. As the role of telecommunications is primordial in education, 5G can be the solution to iron out some of the hiccups in educational content delivery. As a simple example, low 5G bands can be used to ensure proper coverage and guarantee education for most students, higher bands can be used in some places to enrich the digital experience bringing education as close as possible to the physical one.
What Are Applications Of 5G Technology in Education?
While 5G could secure the proper infrastructure for an adequate education experience, the applications of 5G in education go beyond communication service provision. The combination of advanced transmission capabilities, improved security and increasing edge computing availability unlocks different possibilities to enrich the learning experience.
Probably the most thought of feature is the inclusion of artificial intelligence (AI) and extended reality in the learning process. AI in education brings schools to the digital age enabling smart content, tailored learning experiences, and improved class management. The use of speech recognition can further enrich the learning process.
The incorporation of extended reality, including virtual and augmented reality is key to address of the main limitations of distant learning, practical work. While most of the learning outcomes can be met through appropriate content delivery, practical work such a laboratory experiments and in-class projects is hard to deliver as the needed equipment and resources are only available in the school premises. Augmented reality can help the student manipulate equipment and interact with elements of the class in a way they could not achieve with traditional online learning platforms.
Extended reality also provides the student with an immersive learning experience. Instead of suffering from the psychological effects of sitting alone for long hours behind a computer screen, the student can be submerged in a real classroom experience where he can interact with his classmates, school/university instructor, and other elements in the classroom.
Challenges And Warnings for The Use Of 5G In Education
The typical cybersecurity threats that jeopardize any online service apply as well to 5G-based educational systems. During the latest pandemic, a large number of attacks, notably ransomware have been reported on different institutions around the world. These attacks are certainly not inherent to 5G systems but are important factors that should be catered for. The emergent usage of 5G private networking could be one solution where institutions can deploy their networks with customized reliability and security policies.
The proliferation of 5G-based education can also have an adverse effect in deepening the inequalities between countries. The quality of the education would then depend on the availability or not of 5G services in a given country.
Finally, educational methods relying on 5G shouldn’t be considered as the norm. What applies to a country and to an educational institution therein does not necessarily apply in another context?
The pandemic taught use the hard way that disruptions in any sector can be very costly, and even harder to fix. The educational sector suffered considerably from the effects of the pandemic, notably in terms of the availability and quality of education. At the same time, 5G networks were slowly expanding throughput the world. What has been damaged by the pandemic can partly be fixed using 5G systems. The technologies accompanying 5G systems provide several use cases for education, notably through the use of extended reality to provide an immersive educational experience. As with any technology, new learning paradigms shouldn’t be considered as a standard, thus emphasizing inequalities among countries.
“Inside Telecom provides you with an extensive list of content covering all aspects of the tech industry. Keep an eye on our Telecoms, 5G, and Technology news space to stay informed and up-to-date with our daily articles.”
What Does 5G UC Mean on Android?
5G is the hype of the moment, not only among operators but also among big tech companies, industries, and governmental organizations. The sign displayed on any device lets users know that they are on T-Mobile’s 5G UC network instead of the regular 5G network.
Last year, T-Mobile rolled out its 5G UC network aiming to cover more than 200 million people in the U.S. as part of its plans to deliver faster cellular connectivity to more Americans. 5G UC android is available to iPhone and Android users on the T-Mobile network and can be determined by a ‘5G UC’ sign in the status bar on smartphones.
Earlier this year, T-Mobile USA announced a 5G milestone as they’ve reached 200 million people with their “5G Ultra Capacity” service.
This is T-Mobile’s fastest-available 5G coverage, and it’s effectively unique to this carrier.
A few years back, the fifth-generation technology was deployed in the U.S. With some of the biggest carriers in the market with 5G networks covering most of the country’s population. While it was limited to select metropolitan areas in the initial phase, it mostly covers various parts of the country.
A few months after its appearance on iPhones early 2021, the 5G UC icon appears on many Android phones.
5G UC Android Meaning
5G UC refers to customers connected to a 5G network, which is only shown on Android phones with 5G support with smartphones or iPhones, like iPhones 12 and 13. This means that 5G UC users are connected to mid-band or millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G; for T-Mobile, it is more likely related to mid-band, as this drives up the majority of telecom operators’ faster 5G network.
When it comes to the network’s mmWave, it is perceived as the fastest 5G band commercially available, but it’s found in a few locations, and uses a higher frequency than prior cellular networks and allows blazing-fast connections.
This new network will only appear if you are a T-Mobile customer and notice a new “5G UC” icon in people’s Androids phones status bar. The 5G UC icon is shown when a customer is connected to T-Mobile’s Ultra Capacity 5G network. The president of technology at T-Mobile, Neville Ray, said the carrier’s customers will sometimes see “5G UC,” which means they are in an area with fast speeds with “Ultra Capacity 5G.”
As telcos roll out more extensive improvements that bring meaningful speed and latency increases, they’re caught in a crossfire: regular “5G” is too weak of a brand to impact. Nowadays, telecom operators are competing to get the best fifth generation technology on their phones to serve clients as efficiently as possible.
Inside Telecom provides you with an extensive list of content covering all aspects of the tech industry. Keep an eye on our Telecom section to stay informed and up-to-date with our daily articles.