Getting excited about the 5G roll-out - or not?

It seems everyday someone is talking about how 5G is going to roll-out a mobile communications revolution with, higher speeds, huge bandwidth, faster response time and access for billions of "IoT" (Internet of Things) devices from fridges to tractors with blistering fast communications.

Or not? Who will benefit from the 5G roll-out and when / where are w liable to see this? To answer these questions we better look at the underlying technology.

Our 4G communications use frequencies (in Australia) between 700Mhz and 2600Mhz.

The lower frequencies were used by analogue television and were freed up when this was shut down. Telcos are using the lower frequencies to provide 4G in rural environments where it distance really matters. The lower frequencies are MUCH better at penetrating obstructions like buildings, foliage and all sorts of "obstacles". The down side of this is lower frequencies can't carry so much "information", meaning, despite a large coverage area the available lower bandwidth is shared across many users. To get round this Telcos use higher frequencies.

Telcos are using higher frequencies in metropolitan and larger regional centres. This way they can service many more users in a more densely packed environment. So whilst there are more users there is more bandwidth to share because of the higher frequencies in use. Down side is that these higher frequencies are not as effective in providing long range or getting through/into objects like buildings etc.

So what's the technology behind 5G? 5G uses essentially 2 bands, the "sub-6" band and millimetre bands.

Firstly the sub-6 band, it will have frequencies between 3 and 6 Ghz (or presented another way 3000 MHz - 6000Mhz) as you can see these frequencies are up to 8 times the frequency of some 4G bands. They'll be great at delivering huge bandwidth to lots of users but won't travel very far.

The millimetre wave bands are in the 20 - 90Ghz frequencies (20,000Mhz - 90,000Mhz). So up to 120 x higher frequency than presently used!! This means MASSIVE bandwidth and capacity/speeds BUT VERY poor ability to get in to objects, even weather can have a significant impact at these frequencies.

So the long and short of it is - if your're a city slicker, expect fantastic speeds and capacity. If your a bushie don't hold your breath, this technology is not designed for roll-out in out of the way, sparsely populated areas. 4G will be the tool in the bush for a long time to come.

Implications? Apart from the health concerns (some people refer to 5G as "Wi-Fry") about these extremely high frequencies being used in densely populated areas it kind of looks like the digital divide between bush and city is only going to get wider for some time to come.

Lots of small "cells" rather than towers. Expect these everywhere!

Will we see boosters and repeaters for 5G soon? Not likely, by the nature of the roll-out you'll see lots of very small cell towers servicing smaller areas. Watch out for them in the streets, car parks, shopping centres, sports venues and other places that often struggle with capacity.


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